This was a glorious week in that I got to ride two times. The sun was shining, the puddles shrank to invisibility, and a warm wind started to blow. I am sooo glad that spring is coming!
During my lesson I told Debbie that I did not think I would be able to get stable enough to start jumping this winter. Her reaction? She slapped my lower leg and said we would work on getting my legs stronger, and also work on getting Mia strong enough to canter so that when I got strong enough to jump Mia would be ready too. So us two little old ladies (Mia and I) will continue puttering around the ring, each of us getting a little stronger every week. Maybe by next fall we both can start jumping.
Each time I ride now I spend at least a little time on the three speeds of the trot, and each time I ride I try to get more push from Mia's hind end every time I speed up the trot. I can't do this too much as her hind legs are still weak and she still has some arthritis issues, but I am finally getting a stronger push into the faster trot. Mia is also starting show suspension in the trot with a lot less urging from me. So far I have not been able to think of another way to build up the muscles in her hind legs so that they will be strong enough to push into a canter. Oh, I wish I had a hill available! The other problem is endurance, both Mia and I don't have much. Since Mia is an Arab all we need is work, the endurance will come. Too bad that does not work for me.
Mia is progressing, and I feel like I am losing ground. My new shoulder position puts my upper body in a new place and my proprioceptive sense has not updated itself. I am afraid that during my lesson that my balance was not that great and that I was irritating Mia with my shifting weight. When I concentrated on my upper body I lost awareness of my lower legs and feet and if I did not have the flex stirrups I am sure that my heels would have flown up and my position become even less secure. On Friday Mia seemed less irritated with me at least, but I am getting a cramp up high on my back between the shoulders, so I cannot keep my proper position all the time. Hopefully with more riding my muscles will get stronger and decide that the new reality is not so bad after all.
Mia and I did do a decent figure-8 though, with Mia changing the lateral flexion much better than ever before. When I first started riding Mia she felt as stiff as a log whenever I tried to turn her. I have been concentrating on turning her using my outside leg at the girth when her inside leg comes forward, and by advancing the outside rein while keeping the inside rein still. I've been doing this to stretch her body on the outside of the curve, and to get her outside legs to both reach further and move a little faster than her inside legs. After turning her this way for 18 months I am pleased to observe that Mia just feels a little stiff when turning (instead of like a log,) and that she is starting to relax into her turns. On Friday I used my inside leg instead, and Mia flexed some. During my next lesson I am going to ask Debbie's permission to start work on bringing Mia's inside hind leg further under her body during the turn to put some more weight on it so I can get it stronger (by using my inside leg.) Then I would have two exercises to strengthen her hind legs. Luckily, with Debbie watching, I have someone to tell me if A) its not working, or B) I am doing it too much for Mia's condition. I am still advancing the outside rein, Mia still takes just about any excuse to slow down and if I use the inside rein I will both slow down her stride on the inside and discourage her hind leg coming forward.
I just love having a riding teacher critique my training methods and telling me when I am doing something wrong. This will save me so much work in the long run, I don't persist in doing anything wrong, I get told when I do something right, and I know that Debbie will never let me abuse her mare. When I was training on my own (all my riding life until I started with Debbie) I had to learn from the horse when I did something wrong. My first horse Hat Tricks would sort of look back at me and sort of say--ha, ha, ha, I think I know what you want but you sure won't get it until you ask for it correctly. My crazy mare Suzi would just cart me across the field real fast until I got myself together. My Paso Fino filly would be pretty good--if I rode at the top of my game. It is so much easier to have a human coach just tell me what I am doing wrong, I can understand her easily and the horse does not get as upset with me. Good riding teachers are just wonderful.
All this time I have been encouraging Mia's hidden personality to express itself. I think she is finally starting to come out of her shell. Last week, when Debbie went to catch her Mia walked up to her and did not fuss when Debbie got up on her bareback. Every once in a while Mia is starting to ignore my aids, she knows that I will just reapply them gently (if a little firmer.) This mare is also showing her disapproval a little more vigorously. When I first started working with Mia she was scared of everything new, scared of people though she cooperated, scared of expressing her opinions, and looked out at the world with deep suspicion. She definitely did not feel confident enough to show minor rebellions! I have a suspicion that Mia may not be a really sweet mare, I am detecting some bossiness, impatience, and physical sensitivity. Rather I should say that Mia, right now, does not show sweetness, I think that her sweetness is buried deep down and that it will take several more months of good handling and good riding before she even dares to be sweet. Mia is not a lady who rushes into anything.
Next week it will rain and get colder. Thankfully Mia has yet to start shedding, I think it is better for her to have her winter coat on when the temperature drops down into the 20's (F). At least the rain will fall when it is still warm and the cold air will bring in dry air so we will just have to deal with more mud and not freezing precipitation. SOMEDAY spring will come. It is so beautiful in NC during spring time, the trees, bushes and herbs flower, the fresh green of the young leaves misting on the bare branches of the trees and the crops sprouting in the fields. I can't think of anything closer to heaven than riding in the springtime in NC.
Have a great ride.