jennyaxe: (dexter)
[personal profile] jennyaxe
I've not posted much about Dexter. That's the horse in the icon of this post, and I've been riding him for about a year now.

Dexter is owned by Eva (who's also the co-owner of the foal) and her sister. He's basically got two modes - the one where he just lazes along nicely, and the one where he's got a rocket under the tail. In lazy mode I have to work on getting him to lift his legs; in rocket mode I have to work to not get thrown off (which he actually did once, on purpose...).

I've not "clicked" with Dexter the way I did with Melanie, or with Skutt. He's nice enough, he's just not my horse in the way Melanie is even though I don't own her. But I have learned a lot from riding him. Eva rides him in dressage competitions, and she's a very good rider. She uses her seat a lot, so he's sensitive to weight distribution and movement of the abdomen and seat. This basically means that he doesn't listen to me unless I'm firmly seated. That took me a long time to get used to. I had the problem that when we'd go in a trot, he'd speed up more than I was comfortable with, and then I'd get nervous and want to slow down. I'd haul on the reins - but at the same time I'd be leaning forward, and he listened more to the weight than to the reins, so to speak. So I've had to teach myself to first sit down properly and only then take the reins. It works, when I do it right, which is far from every time.

When we do go at a trot or a gallop, he usually wants to go faster than I'm comfortable with, and when we trot he wants to gallop. Part of this is because I lean forward too much; the other part is that he's not strong enough to carry himself at a slower pace, especially with an not-completely-balanced rider like me. Needless to say, Eva doesn't have this problem.

So, in short, I've been having some difficulty and have been a bit wary of riding him alone. But a while ago I had a lesson with Eva which pretty much changed everything. We basically created the situations where I've felt uncomfortable, and then she explained what was actually going on and how I could handle it differently. Previously I'd basically just slowed down or made a complete halt - now I learned to continue working while bringing him down to a pace where I felt comfortable.

And it worked. Since that one lesson a few months back, I've taken him out alone a couple of times, I've trotted outside of the paddock, and I've been to two jumping lessons. True, it's been scary sometimes, but it's worked, and I've learned!

Yesterday I got the clearest proof so far that I've learned a lot. There was a jumping competition going on when [ profile] cdybedahl and I got to the stables. Lots of cars, lots of people, lots of strange horses. It was hot enough that Dexter wasn't quite in rocket mode, but he certainly wasn't calm. I took him down to a path in the wood, beside a small water-filled ditch. The footing is good there, and as he was being a bit skittish, wanting to turn back to the other horses, I started to trot - that means he needs to focus a bit more on going forward and less on looking back. And so he did - in fact, he was forward enough to start galloping instead of trotting.

And I did exactly the right thing. Instead of freaking out and hauling on the reins, I simply sat down and thought "hey, trot, not gallop". This made my body move into the right position for trotting, and he just followed and switched gears back into a trot. It took me at least half a minute to realize that a miracle had just occurred. I had done the right thing, and it worked.

Now I just need to keep my head in the space where it just lets the body get on with the job instead of interfering by trying to think everything through...
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