I had a great ride on Secret Saturday. Seriously, one of the best rides I have had on her in the last two years. Its no secret (haha) that this mare can challenge me in ways the other two don't. She is incredibly athletic, with a ton of potential. But she is also a diva with a lazy streak. We've butted heads on more than one occasion, and I will be the first to tell you that she has taught me a lot.
So, what changed?
I rode her in the ring on Saturday for the first time in weeks. Truth be told, we've spent two hours total in the ring all spring and summer. We've been doing a lot of trail riding (where a fair share of training goes on - she's not a natural trail horse) and she has had several breaks while I have been busy with work, running, or kayaking in Montana.
I rode John first on Saturday, a quick half hour trail ride to see if the new bit worked better with the LaSalle bridle. It did. I'm going to need to find a biothane bridle the same size as the LaSalle. Who would have thought that I would grow so attached to biothane tack?
The 1/2 hour trail loop needs to be trimmed again. Several branches had me ducking low, they had not been a problem before this. If I was ducking that low on John, I knew I was going to have some interesting times on Secret.
Because we were in the midst of a heat wave, I decided to just spend 1/2 an hour in the ring, rather than trimming trees and then going riding.
We walked both ways, no problem. I asked for the trot to the left first - this is her stronger direction. From the first step she was soft, supple, bent and on the bit. The voice in my head, "Wow, this is really nice. Who are you and what have you done with my horse?"
We changed directions and went to the right. She needed a bit more support, but I got the same results - soft, supple, bent and on the bit. I was thoroughly impressed.
I haven't cantered Secret under saddle at all yet this year. This has been her achilles tendon in the past, she gets all flustered and their are legs going in every direction. She requires a strong inside leg and an outside hand for support. I asked for the canter a few times when I was longing her in bitting tack. It was ugly. That was part of the reasoning behind doing more trail riding, "lets see if we can develop the muscles some other way."
She had a tough time transitioning to the left lead canter. When she got it, she would hold her frame for a few strides and then want to trot. I let her trot before asking again, having learned from our marathon canter training sessions last year to take small victories with her. We did several sets to the left and then I worked her back into a relaxed trot.
As we changed direction, I wondered, "If the left took that much work, the right lead could be really scary..."
We picked up a trot and I made sure she was balanced and in a good frame before I asked for the canter. Boom. Right lead canter, bent and in her frame. Again, the voice in my head said, "Who are you and what have you done with my horse."
I got off after 25 minutes. For Secret, this was a huge day. I don't know if the trail riding helped, or the heat wave aided (although she was barely sweating when I was done), but what a cool ride!