I barely have time to be writing this post, and I don't have any fabulous pictures to put in it, but I want to capture my morning at the barn, and my lesson on Champ, before I forget it all. If you aren't a horse person, and you aren't following with interest my trials on the road to horsemanship, I won't blame you if you skip this. But as for my ride today...
I went to my lesson this morning with absolutely NO expectations at all. I didn't expect a fight, but I also didn't expect him to do anything easily, either. I was tired and I was thinking that maybe just an easy time of sitting and walking and maybe some trotting would be fine. Whatever he was going to do, I was fine with that.
Compared to the past month and a half of struggle, today was a ridiculous delight. The weather was calm with a bit of a breeze, and darkly overcast, and slightly cool (low 70's) in advance of the oncoming tropical storm remnants. Champ was quiet and pleasant in the cross-ties while I groomed him. I took extra care for fly spray and ointment on some small wounds, and I gave him treats. We tacked up and although he did his usual "horse statue" maneuver in the driveway up to the ring, we did get there after our lesson buddies walked past him.
In the ring, I could tell he was not best pleased, but he wasn't annoying and he did go ahead and walk and trot. There were two other horses and riders in the ring, after all, so he wasn't alone. We worked on shoulder-in and trotted around the ring and did circles in all the corners. He dirt-biked a lot of the circles, but in keeping with my lack of expectations, I didn't get too upset about it, and only corrected him when it was really crummy.
We galloped. A lot. Multiple turns around my trainer's huge ring. It was exciting and thrilling and FAST. That pony can get up and go when he really wants to.
After that, surprisingly, he was a LOT more attentive and slightly more responsive to my leg.We practiced the weenie World's Most Boring Dressage test (Intro test B), and actually did ok with it. No, the 20m circles weren't as round as I would have liked, no, his bend was not as bendy as it should have been, but his free walk was better, and the last tight turn up the centerline was actually kind of nice, maybe a 6. He halted square, too, but slightly short of X. I'll take it, though.
Then we galloped some more. Around and around the ring, and I even let go of the reins briefly, and then galloped him with my fingers just on the buckle of the reins. He was FAST. I imagined galloping cross-country and letting him jump all those jumps in Intro Novice. There were a couple of moments where I started getting nervous because he was just blasting around the ring, dirt-biking the corners, but he was clearly enjoying himself. My trainer was yelling at me to let go, let go, let him go, and so I did....it was awesome! I galloped with my fingers barely holding onto the reins and with him whipping around the ring like his ass was on fire. I had a few split seconds where I was starting to freak out and get anxious "OMG what if he trips and falls? I'll die at this speed!"....but then I imagined riding cross-country like that, just whipping along and jumping all the fences...and I think just at that moment, I started to trust him.
I have horse trust issues.
I worry that he won't jump, that he'll trip and fall over, that he'll run away with me. He won't. I can handle his speed, whereas one of the little girls who also rides him needs the slow-twist snaffle because with *her*, he will go blasting off, and she can't stay with him.
But I can.
We jumped, five fences on the outside line of the ring, hunter-style. Easy turns and lines, but still something to give me some confidence and some practice, and some focus on my position, letting him get to the fences and jump them himself. It was great. He took a long spot in the two, three-stride fences because I wasn't sitting in the saddle when I should have been, to get him closer to the base of the fence, but I kept my balance, stayed with him, and did not smack him in the mouth or flop on his neck or whatever, as he went over and landed. I found myself thinking I could have my fences a little higher and I'd be ok. Shocking!
Could I really be making progress? Is it possible that I am actually getting better, even though I haven't done what I would consider "sufficient practice" to really improve?
I wish it were easier for me to trust my horse, but maybe I am on the path.