I don’t take lessons often. This isn’t because I think I know all there is to know about riding and training horses. Mostly, it’s because I typically feel like I’m doing alright on my own. When I have a question, I can generally find an article online or a YouTube video to help explain a concept or offer a solution to a problem. I am also very familiar with Moe and Gina. Their quirks, my problems, the issues we have together- I’m aware of most of them. That makes riding them simpler than riding something new.
Candy is still fairly new to me. I’ve been riding her off and on for about a year, but she always takes the backseat when one of the other horses has something going on (like hunting season or dressage shows). She and I do not understand each other well, though we both try. This summer seemed like the perfect time to buckle down and start riding Candy in earnest. It has been hit-and-miss. Mostly miss. After a few particularly awful rides over the last couple of weeks, I decided it was time to get professional help in the form of regular (or semi-regular, depending on my travel schedule and budget) riding lessons.
I had my first lesson on Candy yesterday with the trainer I rode Gina with earlier this year. I like her style- calm and encouraging, with a focus on biomechanics. I was fully prepared for it to be terrible, but Candy was on her best behavior and tried very hard to do the right things.
Trainer kept us at a walk for most of the ride, encouraging me to swing my hips more by imagining I was missing my lower leg and walking on my knees. She commented that while I am not stiff in my hips or seat, I am very still. The stillness makes it difficult for my horse to loosen over its back. I could tell a difference in Candy’s walk when I let my hips move more- she immediately stretched her head and neck down and her stride lengthened. Trainer also pointed out that I tend to lean to the left because my left side is stronger than my right side. Candy is the opposite- her right side is stronger than her left. Those are things I already knew (or guessed) but it was nice to have confirmation. The major position adjustment Trainer made was moving my heel back- she admonished me for riding as if I were preparing to land off a bank: heels way down, lower leg forward, leaning back. Keeping my heels slightly behind the girth was a mental challenge for me; I had to consistently think of keeping my heels back or else they’d slip right back to where they were most comfortable.
We did a little trotting. With my position better, Candy was much less counterbent than usual and she was willing to stretch forward and down. Trainer had us do some of the same exercises she’d had Gina and I do- the drunken line and the bowtie exercise. We played with the drunken line at the trot, and Candy alternated between totally nailing it and getting anxious because she was off-balance. Candy had one minor panicky moment where she careened off into the canter, but it was quickly resolved with a circle.
Overall, I was very happy with how the lesson went. I got some insights about my riding and my horse and was reminded of exercises and tools I already know that will help. Trainer had positive things to say about Candy, too- she noted that in addition to having a great shoulder, Candy also has a good hip.
I’m planning to lesson again this month- I’ll probably stick with a lesson every other week for now. That’s affordable and will give me enough time between lessons to practice and understand the concepts I’m being taught!