On Sunday I had a lesson with SJ, the last one since she is leaving this week (which I am still really sad about). Unfortunately there is zero media from this lesson but it was a good one!
Our lesson started with some remedial mounting block work as Naia tried to knock me off the block to start by scratching her face on me, and then tried to walk away. I can line her up nicely with the mounting block when she is wearing a rope halter, but the sending and yielding signals still aren't so great with the bridle. She likes to line herself up so her shoulder is beside the block instead of the stirrup, and getting her to just take a single step forward without leaving entirely is surprisingly difficult. SJ showed me some techniques to use but this is going to take a lot more practice to get reliable.
However once I was actually on board, our lesson felt surprisingly advanced. Here's what we worked on:
Initially Naia was a little too eager to go forward so I did a number of halt transitions. SJ had me fine tune my halts by timing my breathing with the aid. When I breathed into the halt our halt was faster and more balanced and happened mostly off my seat. I also practiced shifting my weight, swinging my legs, and taking my feet in and out of the stirrups while standing so that Naia would wait for me to actually cue her before she started walking forward again, rather than doing it the second I shifted in any way.
|No riding photos so enjoy this dramatic sky over the barn one evening|
To up the difficulty and get Naia's brain engaged, SJ had me do shallow serpentines on the long sides of the arena, focusing on getting a nice bend in both directions.
Next we worked on stretching. I had previously introduced Naia to a stretch aid at the halt whereby gentle but steady pressure wide on the bit rings cued her to drop her head, doing it both from the ground and from the saddle. Today I introduced that concept at a walk for the first time. Before long Naia was quickly giving me a good stretch down whenever I asked. I alternated periods of stretch with riding her with shorter reins in a more shortened upright frame, getting her used to riding in various neck positions with soft contact. This stretch cue is something that I was first taught right before losing Kachina and in hindsight it is something that was really missing from my training and a key reason why stretchy trot was so hard for me on previous horses. Hopefully I won't repeat the same mistakes with Naia (but I am sure I will make some new ones).
We then did some work on 3 speeds of walking, asking Naia to slow down or speed up her walk speed. Putting this exercise together with the one above gave me some moments of a lovely forward free walk.
I was pretty happy with Naia's turning but SJ had me fine tune my turning aids by using a more supportive outside rein and making sure that my hips rotated with my shoulders in the direction I wanted to turn. As soon as I focused on this I could feel that Naia's balance improved and the last ounce of her falling out on the turn disappeared.
It was a hot day (35 degrees C) so I kept the trot work to a minimum but at the trot Naia was maintaining her circle and tempo nicely so I was able to focus on my posting position in the western saddle (I use it for trail riding etc so I've never been great at trot or canter position in my western saddle).
|When not at the barn I do enjoy my hammock in the backyard|
I finished off the lesson by showing SJ our newly acquired ability to do baby turn-on-the-haunches and sidepass and she gave me some simple tips for making these new exercises clearer for Naia.
Overall it was a great lesson but I was amazed at how much of what we were working on was fine tuning of concepts that Naia is already pretty solid at. This was only Naia's 33rd ride ever so I am pretty shocked but pleasantly surprised that she is already at this point.