Sometimes I find myself wishing my car had a sixth gear. It already has turbo and goes up to 5th, but I always feel like I’m pushing it a little hard when I drive on the interstate for a long time. What makes me think of this, you ask? Well, a couple things.
First, Strider and I had a huge breakthrough in our dressage work last night. It started out relatively average. I lunged him in side reins as the trainer I groom for suggested, and had him do several trot to canter transitions to work on strengthening and loosening his back. We usually start with walk on a loose rein, and then go to more collection, then some leg yield along the wall, then trotting, then leg yields in the trot, then trot lengthening, then canter etc. Last night wasn’t really any different, I had, however, been reading on Jane Savoie’s blog about her tips for developing the trot lengthening since I was admittedly getting a little frustrated as I couldn’t figure out why Strider wasn’t seeming to lengthen for me. After all, the horse can jump 3’9” no problem, shouldn’t he have enough push in his rear to lengthen a trot enough for a first level test? (Don’t answer that- I know it is two different sets of skills, but I think you can understand where I was coming from. I know that doesn’t make logical sense, but neither do I sometimes.) The comments I have been getting on my test say he needs more stretch in his frame and more suppleness- well, according to everything I have read trot lengthening is supposed to develop suppleness. Huh? So which comes first, the suppleness or the lengthening? So, I decided to experiment a little bit and see what would happen.
Before I go too much farther I should mention, that I also was working very hard last night on sitting more upright and looking up as in all the pictures from my last show I was a little bit tipped forward, especially in the canter, and was looking down quite often. I know that these two faults of mine do not help at all when I am trying to get my horse balanced and loose so I am working very hard to fix them.
I sent Strider down the diagonal and remembered to let my hands go a bit forward but stay on the contact. I then pushed strider forward with my leg and tried to imagine my upward post staying in the air a bit longer and Strider reaching forward underneath me while still keeping the same tempo. It didn’t work. No 6th gear was magically appearing on my horse. I tried again on the next diagonal, this time I closed my leg and used the same things but I also gave Strider a little tap on his hip with my whip, while still staying very upright and holding consistent but more forward contact. I was blown away. Magically, 6th gear had appeared (I know, you knew it was coming…I wouldn’t blog about it if it didn’t…well, actually I would, but I wouldn’t be as happy about it.) Strider suddenly gave me much more push and I could see in the mirror he was reaching forward more through his back and his front feet were reaching out as far as they could. My friend Eileen would call it a “flippy toe trot” because he literally would flick his hooves forward wit each stride. It felt amazing and powerful. I praised Strider and patted him and told him how wonderful he was; of course he soaked it all up and gave me his look of, “What, no confetti?” He did his beautiful new trot for me twice more before I figured I should let him be. Hopefully we can have a repeat performance tonight. I still need to unlock the secret of the canter lengthening, but I am reveling in my moment.
All this did make me think a little about RA though too of course, since, thinking is what I do after all (and trust me, the smoke you are smelling is from the California fires so don’t blame me!). Some days with RA I am pain free and it’s like I have an extra gear because I am so used to being in pain; I love those days because I feel like an absolute beast that can take on the world and win every time. Other days I dream of having an extra gear because it would make it easier to get through everything and try to find a way to some relief faster; those days are the ones where RA really tests you and asks you from where you will acquire strength and drive.
Who knew a little trot lengthening would put me on this tangent? RAWR!