Friday, May 20, 2011

lessons in riding, 6

Tonight's lesson: how much I learn when I ride a different horse! It's been awhile since I rode our 8-year old QH, Cody. He's 15.3, not built like a tank, and in almost every way he's a different ride than Keil.

Cody is infinitely more sensitive to every aid. Keil is not what I would call insensitive, but with Keil there are a few different settings. One is what I call slug setting, where he just plods around and doesn't really do anything special at all. Another is "I know all the right ways to look so here you go" setting - which is actually quite masterful if you think about it. He knows how to torque his body to LOOK like he's doing what he thinks you want him to look like. But he's still stiff and and not straight, and thus things feel a bit clunky and unbalanced. And Keil has a setting which is brilliance in motion. It's not all that difficult to activate this setting - it took me awhile because I simply wasn't ready for it, but once I was, and I asked instead of demanded, he gave it to me. Part of my work with Keil Bay has been me learning that I never need to demand anything from him. And that in fact, doing so gets the slug or the fake-out. He saves his brilliance for when I focus on myself, get into balance, and ask.

With Cody there is mostly one setting. He came to us tense, using tiny strides as he had been taught to do as a very young Western Pleasure horse. He was fully trained under saddle at age TWO. We thought he was almost four when we bought him, and then the papers arrived. TWO YEARS OLD! We backed off rigorous riding and encouraged him to stretch out and really use his body. Now, at age eight, he is still anxious to please, and still defaults to tense, but I think now that is more due to the fact that we believe he has PSSM. With a balanced, low carb diet, regular exercise, and acetyl l-carnitine, he does very well, but we have adjusted our goals for him. He won't be the Pony Club horse for my daughter, as that requires hauling, lots of jumping, and I am not willing to give him a job he might not be able to do well. He cares too much about doing a good job.

Cody is a wonderful tag team teacher for me. Riding Keil Bay is like closing my eyes and just feeling for the magic. With Cody, I need to tune in to every part of my body. I always feel like I have more control of my legs when I ride Cody, which I think allows me more finesse in applying the aids. I suspect most of this is due to the fact that he simply isn't as broad-backed as Keil is - my pelvis doesn't have to open as wide, and it's just easier to use my legs well.

On the other hand, Keil's strides are longer and more fluid, so in that sense he's an easier horse to sit, which in some ways makes it easier to cue things. There's a longer beat in there in which I can ask. Going from Keil Bay to Cody is like inserting a fast forward button - everything goes faster on Cody, almost like I'm in a time lapse and I have to work hard to catch up to myself.

Tonight we rode after dark and instead of Keil Bay's high alert mode, I enjoyed Cody's laid back demeanor about things like dark corners, the short side by the forest, the diving of bats, and the hooting of owls.

I also discovered that Cody knows shoulder-in. I honestly can't remember how much I've worked with him on this exercise - but tonight we did it effortlessly in both directions.

We had an audience. When Keil Bay realized I was in the barn, he came in from the front field. And when he realized I was riding Cody, he met me at the arena gate and stuck his head over, pushing to come in. "You get the night off," I told him, so he went to the barn and stood in one stall, Salina stood in the one next door to him, and the donkey boys stood in the paddock, and watched us ride.

My daughter rode the pony and named all the bird calls. And tonight is the first night I heard the whippoorwill calling.

Just now, typing this, I heard something, a soft, muted sound, outside my window. I opened it up and was answered instantly - the soft, relaxed snorting of a horse. I don't know which one, and it doesn't even matter. Tonight's real lesson is this: even when the rides are wonderful, the real wonder is when they know we know they're there.


Anonymous said...

I love riding different horses - each one has something different to teach me and it always improves my riding.

If you're interested, there's now a hair DNA test available from the U. Minnesota vet lab for the most common gene that causes PSSM in QHs - I just sent Pie's hair off to be tested - it costs $65 and the turnaround time is 7 to 10 days.

billie said...

Yes- I think I just posted that in a comment on YOUR blog wrt Pie!

I've been aware of the DNA test for several years. I had planned to do it earlier on as a matter of course, but since we're already doing the protocol (I had actually been doing 3/4 of the current protocol before the vets were involved, having done my own reading and research) and it works, there would be no real information gained by doing the test.

Grey Horse Matters said...

I find that riding different horses is a great way to become a better rider. Each horse has something to teach us if we'll listen and not treat each one the same way.

Keil Bay reminds me a lot of my Erik and Cody reminds me of Dusty. She had that little short western jog and still reverts to it when she's tense. Blue rides more like a warmblood than a QH. He reminds me a lot of Erik too. Sounds like you had fun with Cody and I wonder if the big bay might have been a little jealous when he saw you with someone else.

ponymaid said...

billie, I'm glad you received Keil Bay's permission to ride Cody. And I'm so pleased you and Cody enjoyed each other's company. He is a fortunate lad to have found his way to you.

Máire said...

I know just what you mean when you say Keil Bay goes best when you focus on yourself, rather than demand something of him.

Nice to read of your ride on Cody, very interesting how different he is - and the attunement of your equines generally to what you are doing.

billie said...

Arlene, I agree about riding different horses and learning. I was thinking about Erik and Dusty - and Keil Bay and Cody. Nice pairings to learn on in both cases!

billie said...

Sheaffer, we are very happy we have Cody here with us. He's a teddy bear.

billie said...

Maire, it is pretty incredible to me on a daily basis how attuned this herd is to our family and to everything going on around them. It's easy for me to imagine the first person approaching the first horse, and the allure each has for the other.

Michelle said...

So beautiful. You are absolutely right, you get something new and different and equally wonderful with each horse you ride. I think that's one of the things I miss the most about "the old days" - the constant challenge of adapting myself and my intuition to each personality. I adore Tiny and there is something to be said for two beings being so in tune, but I miss that constant challenge.

billie said...

Thanks, Michelle. I feel lucky to have two who are so very different and provide me with such a range of lessons!