At the beginning of my lesson on with Sarah on Wednesday she said “let’s try this one handed”. Once again it took her all of 2 seconds to zero in on exactly what we needed to work on. That is why she is the trainer! Within a few strides I started picking at my horse, Grace was leaning out her left shoulder and I kept trying to get it back with my hand. Sarah told me to stop and roll Grace over her hocks. She explained that I didn’t have to be mean about it, but I had to make the point clear and get what I wanted. For the rest of the lesson we worked on correcting Grace and then letting her be when she got it right. When she was correct it was such a nice ride that I almost didn’t know what to do with myself. It allowed me to get into my body and focus on staying relaxed and keeping my back soft. My horse was able to carry herself which meant less work for me. Throughout the week each ride was better; Grace could be left alone for longer periods at the jog and her lope transitions were starting to come together.
On Saturday we headed to a schooling show, Sarah was also bringing students from the barn and Nina and Milo came to play too! Sarah reminded me to correct Grace in the warm up; to get 75% in the practice pen so I could ask for 25% in the show ring. Our first two classes were trail and Grace was an absolute pleasure to ride! She was slow in between obstacles and wasn’t anticipating the next gait change. Any mistakes that were made were mine and she didn’t get excited about them. It was so nice not to have to spend my ride anticipating my horse’s anticipation. At one point she broke from the jog to the walk and I said out loud “Who are you??” Penny passed on a saying to Sarah “When you are pushing you’re winning, when you’re pulling you are losing”. Yesterday was the first time I had to “push” Grace in the show pen. The walk jog rail classes went well, I got tense at the lope in a 3 gait class and it started to fall apart. I was glad to have Sarah there who gave me a good visual for keeping my shoulders soft in the next lope class, which went much better.
I added the 3 gait Advanced Western Pleasure class to fill it with Nina. I may have to ride in that class from now on. I had no idea what the judge was going to ask for so neither Grace nor I could anticipate. At one point we had to lope without our stirrups and crazy enough I rode better! I see a lack of stirrups in my immediate future. The last class of the day was the 3 gait pattern class; it was the same pattern as last month. This time I rode the entire pattern one handed. We still have to clean up some technical aspects that were sloppy, but I was really pleased with how well the pattern went. Once again I had a judge comment on Grace’s lead changes. I think they are a little surprised by what we can do on a pattern considering how bad the lope can look in a rail class. I know I am! We are now one week closer to the AQHA Rookie show in June. I am started to feel less and less like I will embarrass myself there and I am starting to believe that I may actually have a good time.