After such a pleasing day yesterday, I was a little hesitant to hope that today would live up to expectations. After breakfast with hubby and my father in law, I headed up to watch some of the stressage at Stratford Hills. It all looks very scary to me, there were 6 arenas on the go when I arrived, and lots of horses in the warm-up area. Lots going on! Anyway, it spurred me on to join Sarah schooling when we got back, and give riding with a contact a go. Rio has offered it up to me once whilst out hacking, but I didn't really ask him, so we're starting from square one.
I have an issue with loopy reins, so first things first was to get to grips with keeping him on a shorter, tighter connection so that I could feel him properly on the end of them. He gives a bit of a fight for it, and this is where I need to toughen up. Once the fight has been had, he is quite a natural at carrying his head in the right place, THEN you can soften up with him. I need to have that bit of a battle, and because I know he's not a kicker or a total idiot, I can more or less trust that if I can arrange myself, he will eventually follow. I was still struggling a bit, so Sarah and I swapped horses and I got to try riding a Franks! It's the first time I've ridden him, and I was a little nervous!
Franks is pretty special, he's done all sorts with Sarah over the years, and no sooner had I picked up the reins, did he take up a contact. It was great being able to feel what I'm looking for from Rio, and Franks' trot is amazing to sit to - I don't have that luxury with Rio as he's a bouncy little dude! The saddle is also a nice squishy armchair of a dressage saddle, which was wonderful. I took comfort in the fact that I was able to keep my hands steady and maintain the contact with Franks' - good news as it means it's not my hands waving around that's causing the issue. I need to learn with Rio to hold my hands up a little and ensure that I keep a slightly tighter outside rein to maintain the contact, whilst playing a little with the inside rein until he drops down. My problem is recognising when he drops his head and relaxing (but keeping!) the contact in that second.
Once Sarah had got Rio going nicely, I hopped back on, and worked on the same. We did manage a few good steps in outline, but boy was it hard work. It's certainly something we can work on now that I know what I'm looking for! I was also really pleased as Sarah got a full circuit and a half of canter out of Rio on his right (good) rein. Even she found it hard work though, and it took a bit of verbal encouragement (read: noise) to keep him going around the top bend of the school. Something else to work on. In the meantime, we have trot poles laid out to intersperse the serious stuff. Rio loves them! Please ignore my heels in this photo, I was just trying to keep him in a nice active trot (something else I'm working on... heels into the ground!) It won't be long before we try a little cross pole hopefully, especially if we continue at this rate.
Ride / play safe x