|WHO IS THAT HUNK IN THE MIRROR?! Oh, wait. It's me!|
YES, that is a photo taken of Dino and I IN AN INDOOR ARENA this weekend! Angels descended from the heavens and sang. It was a spiritual experience.
But first, let me tell you about how I got to meet some wonderful, interesting ladies for dinner on Saturday night. Amanda of The $900 Facebook Pony and Emily of Wilbur, Ellie & Emily were in town for the AETA trade show. Pam - owner of Mango Bay - was also in the area, and Jenn of Stories From the Saddle and I both live within a reasonable distance from the Philadelphia area, so we all gathered for dinner on Saturday.
It was a fun, delicious evening with endless talk about horses, tack, equestrian fashion, and That One Crazy Person at everyone's barn. Each woman present came from such a different background - both as equestrians and in 'real life' - and had a lot to contribute to the conversation. I listened to so many interesting stories, and had a great time hearing from everyone around the table. Everyone had so much to share! I really enjoyed meeting this great group of bloggers, equestrians, and businesswomen. It's exciting to be able to connect with people through my blog in a way I wouldn't be able to experience otherwise!
Then after a late-night text to my amazing, generous, wonderful trainer, I confirmed that Dino and I would be trekking over to her place to hack in the indoor on Sunday. No ring fee required. Have I mentioned that I love my trainer?! SHE IS THE BEST.
Running a little later than I had planned, It took me way longer than anticipated to load the trailer and get pony onto it. It was one of those days where you can't find anything you're looking for! And I feel that I always have so much more STUFF to take with me in the winter. In any case, I rolled into my trainer's place about 45 minutes past when I had planned on being there. But thankfully it didn't really matter, since there was only one other soul at the barn anyway, and she was just cleaning up her stuff and getting ready to leave. While I was hoping to have someone else to ride with, it was pretty nice having the whole indoor to myself!
Dino was a bit miffed at first that his vacation was over. While he wasn't behaving TOO badly, he seemed to be somewhat confused about the concept of "work", and definitely gave me a couple bucks the first time I asked for the canter.
After we got over that hump, however, the WonderPony emerged and he was an absolute rockstar. Forward, attentive, and responsive. Having mirrors to check myself in was a HUGE help for me - both in terms of seeing what I was feeling, as well as checking my position and body alignment.
I started off the ride with some transitions and big circles, just getting my pony on my aids and moving forward freely. After 20 minutes or so of that, we buckled down for some real flatwork.
I insisted that Dino carry himself a bit more, and we moved on to more 'serious' trot work. Lengthening and shortening, leg yields, and some trot/halt/rein-back/trot were all on the agenda. While Dino was nice and soft in the bridle, he wasn't quite coming through from behind, so all of these exercises had connection in mind.
After working in trot for a while, I had to take a break because my new boots were literally cutting off circulation in my legs, and my feet were tingling. Dino was cool with taking a break.
Then we did what was quite possibly the most canter work we've been able to accomplish since before Christmas.
Dino was really into his job, and springing forward off of my leg and seat when I asked him to go up into the canter. It was so much fun to feel him so enthusiastic! We did loads of transitions, circles, and even a little counter-canter. After all the canter work and a short break, I wanted to finish up with some trot work before being done for the day. I rode down the quarterline, focusing on straightness, and then asked Dino for a little haunches-in.
And holy cow, I found a new gear in trot that I've never felt before! All of a sudden Dino was moving with so much suspension and elevation that his trot got a little hart to sit. It was awesome! I'm wondering now if he tends to travel with his haunches canted out a bit, since bringing them in gave me a whole new level of connection and 'sit'. Time to wrangle someone into videoing us!
All in all, I had a wonderful ride on Sunday afternoon, and gave my pony some bute with his dinner since he worked a lot harder than he has in a while, and is sure to be a little sore today. I also took note of the following things that I need to work on:
-When I carry myself better, Dino carries himself better. I know this, but it was really evident in our canter work on Sunday. When I engaged my core and really lifted my upper body and put my leg on, Dino lightened up in front and was able to come rounder and be more connected.
-The pony understands contact. You can soften your hands now. I don't need to be as aggressive with my hands anymore - I can soften and Dino's head will stay where I put it previously. I found myself frequently thinking 'RELAX YOUR ARMS!' throughout my ride. Especially in the canter, when I softened the contact and added leg he actually went ROUNDER. Who'da thunk?
-Seatbones! I was a lot more aware of that pesky right seatbone, and when I made contact with it when tracking right, it made a huge difference in how Dino held himself.
Hopefully I'll be able to get in a few more indoor rides over the coming weeks, and then get back into the swing of lessons and daily schooling at home!