Thursday's forecast called for several days of cold, wind and rain to come, so I figured we'd better get another ride in - bareback again. :)
For this ride I focused on straightness - both moving on a straight line as well as keeping ourselves straight - Val's neck mainly. It occurred to me, while making the many minor corrections necessary, that straightness is just a series of tiny little turns, with the inside leg / outside rein changing depending on the correction. And further, that circles are just a series of straight lines + turns on the forehand. Seems counter-intuitive, but true, if you're not popping shoulders / haunches out or falling in... being truly straight. I believe my trainer has mentioned this numerous times, but apparently it is just now sinking in. :)
Then I had another thought - that riding straightness is a similar dynamic to what you need for successful trailer backing. An awareness of where you are to begin with, breaking the movement down into a series of small turns and corrections, and avoiding over-correction which may lead to starting all over again. Ideally with both tasks, you should get to the point where the corrections - if any - are so minor as to be undetectable.
We also incorporated cone work... same idea with leg yielding through the cones - the inside leg / outside rein flip flops. We did some respectable circles, (approaching round), figure eights, some very nice work on the buckle, and had a better overall energy level.
There are many small improvements, but what I'm most pleased about is that in our last few rides I have begun to feel an integration of the aids. Reins, seat and legs working as a unit. While it's far from being second nature yet, I'm hopeful that muscle memory will eventually kick in. Super happy with this ride :)
A conversation overheard at the barn this morning...
Me: "Val, I'm tired of picking all this hay up off of the floor. It's wasteful. Starving horses in China would love to have this hay! I have to work really hard to pay for this hay. I have to spend a whole day driving to pick this hay up. Who do you think unloads this hay and stacks it in the hay barn?" I slowly fill the wheelbarrow with forkfuls of discarded hay.
Val: "Well, let the starving Chinese horses have it then. But don't pick it back up, put it in the hay bag, and expect me to eat it. Because I'll just yank it out and throw it on the floor again. I like my hay fresh!!!" Val stops beside the wheelbarrow, now layered with piles of yesterday's manure and the discarded hay. He buries his nose in the mixture and starts munching...
After discovering the hay needle damage in Val's mouth last month, I went back to using the large holed hay bags, thinking he'd be more comfortable while he healed up. I didn't want him to lose any weight, considering how (insert curse word here) cold it's been. Now that he has gone back to his wasteful ways, I guess it's time to bring back the Nibblenet :)