Friday, December 23, 2011

Straight Strong Sound Slow

3 months after not going to the Washington State Horseman Finals show I am able to stand back and really appreciate my decision. Grace and I have progressed by leaps and bounds during that time frame. In my last two rides I was able to get a very clear picture of what it was we were missing and why I was sitting on a runaway freight train in the show pen.

In all of our recent lessons the focus has been on straight, I quickly learned that before I could ask Grace to be straight I had to find straight in my own body. All of her crookedness is a compensation for my imbalances. As soon as I found straight I could finally feel just how crooked my horse was. Straight in my body is still something I have to work towards daily. I’ve allowed myself to get distracted by life and work over the last few months and have put my exercise program on the back burner. I started to lose the feel that I only had when I was straight. I put me back on top of the priority list; I have no intention of backsliding.

An amazing thing started to happen when Grace and I found straight, she started to get strong. Her hind end looks better than ever, I’ve caught myself standing back and admiring her butt like only a horseperson can. Her neck is taking on that beautiful swan shape, strong topline and a relaxed bottom line, the short fat angry resistor muscles are no longer front and center. From strong and straight soundness appeared. When I ride from straightness Grace’s step behind is even at all 3 gaits. I not only feel this but I can now see it in the mirror at the indoor arena. At 14 years old I do believe that this is the most sound this horse has ever been. At this time I have her working 6+ days in a row before giving her a day off, she comes off a day of rest ready to go and never misses a step.

Grace’s gaits have taken on a steady rhythm that I have never felt before. There is a level of consistency that I can only now associate with this horse. What at first were only a few strides became a whole circle and is now becoming the entire arena. The stronger she gets the easier it is for her to maintain her rhythm. More and more Grace is asking for a lower headset, gone are the day of constantly resetting her head position. When she does lift her head I only have to add leg to get her to lower it. Within the rhythm of her gait I am starting to feel the potential for her to slow down. All I have to do is slow my rhythm down and she slows her beat to meet mine. I can see where this will require more strength and balance on my part before I can ask it consistently of her, but for the first time I believe I have an understanding of where slow comes from. Straight, strong and sound are beginning to look like the foundation of slow.

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