Grace and I are as ready as we going to be for the show this weekend. We leave on Friday to overnight at the show grounds so we can particiapate in the clinics on Saturday. I ended each ride this week with a big smile on my face while repeating the words “that’s a really nice horse!” The mare continues to impress me by how cool and collected she is each ride, this is as level headed as I ever remember her being. Oh wait – maybe I’m the one who finally settled down. Either way it’s working.
Tonight I brought the Liberty Neck Ring with me with plans to reward the two of us with some bridleless work. There were two other riders in the arena finishing up a jumping session, which is a rare treat for us as we usually have the place to ourselves. Grace and I behaved ourselves and kept our tack on while the other riders jumped an oxer in the center of the arena. I stayed out closer to the rail and was pleased by how steady Grace remained when we started loping. She never once got excited or tense about what the other horses were doing, but then again neither did I. It gives me hope that one day we may be able to handle a pleasure class at the lope in an arena full of traffic.
I kept Graces bridle on when I slipped the neck ring over her head. The other riders were finished, but still needed to move out their jumps. I tied the reins to the horn, with no intention of actually using them. I always tune Grace up a little with my spur stop when I go to the neck ring, I’m sure it’s not the same methods that other people use, but for me it establishes my emergency break and ensures that I will not have to go to my hand. As we jogged off I felt Grace drift out with her right shoulder. With no rein to pick at her with I stopped her and made her do a 360 to the left with my body. I was thrilled with how she stayed in the ground and didn’t step out in the turn. She jogged off straight on my cue and made it halfway around the circle before I had to correct her with another 360. When we changed direction she dropped her right shoulder in so I stopped and did another 360 turn to the left. With each correction she held her shoulders up longer. That is the exercise that I am supposed to be doing in the bridle, but I still find myself making small corrections with my hand. Without the bridle I feel the change in her shoulder much sooner and I have no choice but to stop and fix it or things will go downhill quick.
We moved up to the lope and Grace was as quiet and relaxed as she had been with the bridle. Her transitions were much smoother as my hand wasn’t there to get in the way. I used my body to control the pace, following Grace’s rhythm. We worked around the people moving jumps out of the arena with Grace never missing a beat. Just for fun I threw in a few flying changes and was once again left in awe of how relaxed and rock steady Grace was. We ended the ride with a nice smooth stop followed by lots of big pets and lots of praise for the “really nice horse” I was sitting on. As excited as I am about this weekend I know that we’ve already won at home.