Thursday, August 11, 2011

A picture is worth 1,000 rides

I’ve wanted someone to take pictures of Grace and I at horse shows for years. I’m often frustrated as I haul down the road myself, camera in tow, but have no one to hand it off to when I get there. Sarah has a wonderful young student who is a talented photographer. She also takes video and will show it to you right after you ride. I love that she is willing to take the time to do this. At first I only wanted to see the “good” pictures, the ones where I am riding my best and my horse is perfect. Unfortunately at the last show those types of pictures of Grace and I were a rare find. I took a deep breath and looked at the shots of Grace and I in various degrees of tension, determined to learn from them. I shelved them for the most part and decided to focus on improving things before the next show. Then this picture showed up today:

This must have been from the trail practice class because I am riding 2 handed, I rode one handed in the judged classes. It kills me to see how bad I am riding in this picture. These 3 poles were lope overs and I had not yet wrapped my mind around how they were set. I was also a bit psyched out since I had only been loping over one pole at a time at home. Sarah showed me the angel I had to take to get in and out of them. It made more sense to me for the class, but the ride did not look much better. When this picture appeared on Facebook this morning it reminded me – I needed to set some poles up at home.

Tonight we had a wonderful warm up; mostly because of the Connected Groundwork that Grace and I did yesterday. We worked on walking the 2 handed S exercise from both her left and right sides. I quickly saw just how much my body influenced my horse’s way of going. I was able to turn her on the ground just by rotating my torso. The two hands on the line brought the outside rein into play, later when I put Grace out on the line and could see how it improved her stride. Tonight it was easier to influence Grace with my body in the saddle, I rode the entire ride one handed and could see a glimpse of what it might look like in the show ring one day.

Before my ride tonight I pulled out two sets of poles, two poles set parallel for lope overs, and a fan of 3 poles that could be walked, jogged or loped over depending on the line. After our warm up I put Grace into a right lead lope and headed to the two poles set for the lope. Grace sped up a few stride out, I sat against her but left her face alone, wanting for her to figure it out on her own. She surprised me by jumping both poles in one long stride. I circled back around, this time she jumped in and hopped out. Our next attempt wasn’t much better and now her lope was falling apart. I put her in a circle to get her back to me and said out loud “Grace, they are only poles on the ground, it’s no big deal, it is the same ride”. Then I had one of those light bulb moments and said out loud “MELISSA, they are only poles on the ground, it is no big deal, it is the same ride!” I got Grace back to the nice lope we had in our warm up and as I came around corner to the line for the poles I thought “Just pretend they are not there, ride every stride.” We hit the poles perfectly and Grace loped over them – like it was no big deal. We loped them a few more times and once again she just loped over them.

After letting Grace catch her breath, we moved on to the fan poles. We had walked and jogged over them earlier in the ride, so we both had an idea of how they were set. I again decided to just ride the line and forget about the pole, and once again Grace just loped over them. We did it two more times before I decided to call it a night in fear that I might screw it up if I started thinking again. I plan to keep working over poles before the next show in the hope that they will continue to ride to them like they are no big deal and I will remember to just ride the line. Maybe I need to take a look at more of those pictures to see what else I can fix.

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