It’s been a couple weeks since I first got back in the saddle, and since then I have been able to ride almost a dozen times. While the main candidate right now for saddle time has been Bob, a few times I sat on another horse, and success on both horses has been across the board.
Once upon a time I was very much in the habit of riding and adjusting to new horses, thanks to that being the founding concept behind intercollegiate dressage. But that was now several years ago, and since then the majority of my riding has been geared towards training Foster. I set out goals from the start with Foster to ideally be the type of horse that I personally like to ride- which is to say about 3-5 lbs of contact in my hand, forward thinking, and responsive to the leg and seat (but not so responsive that the horse would explode from underneath you if you sat really deeply and drove). The horse that I have now I think is a mixture of his own preferences in how he likes to go and my own preferences/training philosophy.
So far I’m reasonably happy in being able to figure out these horses as I ride them, though their own quirks and preferences are so unlike Foster’s. Bob for instance has a beautiful floating stride with a ton of suspension, but easily gets behind the leg and curls. Riding him has definitely strengthened my calves and is teaching me to feel when he is truly coming through from leg to hand versus when he evades behind the bit. He also shows me my own weaknesses- like my sad left leg, my desire to pitch forward when I am really having to use my leg, and occasionally a loss of balance. But each ride has gotten better and better as I both get stronger and more in tune with his way of going. The learning opportunity (besides the benefits of not losing my mind) has really been a great one.
The other horse I sat on a handful of times has been a mixed bag of success and absolute failure. Knowing that he is a tricky ride that others have struggled with, I was at first thrilled when we were able to get through movements the equivalent of a training level dressage test without issue. Well, a training level dressage test without the left lead canter, that is. After cantering left the entire ride fell apart each time, dissolving into an unhappy mess for both the horse and myself. I have been able to find a good note to end on, but this one in particular makes me wonder. Another learning opportunity though to be sure, and I hypothesize that my own crookedness (weak left side and very strong right leg) is what causes us the trouble.
This weekend I’ll have the opportunity (if the rain will let up) to get on a third horse and (dare I say it!) have a dressage lesson with Eliza. I’m excited to bring some of my newfound insight into the world of left-leg-decrepitude to her and hopefully learn how to adjust for my weaknesses. I’m fully expecting a tough but interesting and probably humbling lesson, but I’m looking forward to it nonetheless!
While I can’t wait to be back on my own pony, having the opportunity to ride other horses is a definite silver lining. I can feel that the experience is making me a more well-rounded and correct rider (I hope!) and I have faith that Foster will benefit as a result. So until then… bring ’em on and saddle up!