Time for some Working Equitation. This time it was only me and Karin riding, almost like getting the instructor, Jackie, all to myself.
We started with some free riding as a warmup, but after a while Jackie gathered us together and told us to ride on a big volte and focus on the horse's rhythm. In walk you should be able to feel the horse moving its hind legs and your own hips moving up and down with the horse's movement. When the horse’s left hind leg leaves the ground you feel your left hip being lowered. When focusing on something like this you get a better feel for where the horse is and what speed you're moving at. As usual Nemah was moving much too fast and I had to slowly her down. In trot, which is a two-beat diagonal gait, it was just the same - Nemah needs to go more slow. In canter, being a three-beat gait, it was even harder, but with some focus I got it to work quite well. Nemah started to feel a little bit more relaxed.
As a final warmup exercise we got to ride in circles around two barrels. As they where not placed in the middle of the circles the challenge was to get the circles to be equally big in both directions. We did this in trot, in the beginning with a few steps in walk between the barrels but soon we moved on to trot the whole circles. The goal was to get the horse to trot in the same rhythm and put its hind hooves on the same line as the front hooves. Nemah usually lets her hind legs drift outwards to the right and again tries to run away from work. We got the hang of it after a while and Nemah started to feel really relaxed. On to today's real exercises!
For starters, ringing the bell in the end of an L-shaped space and then back out the same way we came in. The L was created by putting poles on the ground about half a metre in from a corner. The chosen corner turned out to be “the spooky corner”, something that made this exercise even harder. Nemah and I got to go first, as Nemah is the more experienced of the two horses. Nemah walked into the corner with her legs shaking of fear and stopped by the bell, really tense. Due to the stress she felt we quickly decided not to ring the bell and leave it a her standing still. When she did I backed her out. After this we got to help Karin and Luffen to go through the scary corner. To get past something scary we often use other, more experienced, horses to let the scared horse see that the scary thing isn’t so scary. We walked straight through the corner a couple of times so Luffen could feel more secure. When that worked, Luffen and Karin rode the exercise without the turn in the middle, as Luffen finds it hard to back at all. This is one of the things I really like about WE, everyone can take part and it’s adaptable so that people and horses on different levels of experience still can ride together and learn a lot. I also like that we always try to make it as nice as possible for the horse. It should be fun for all involved, not just the rider.
After this we moved on to the side pass. For me and Nemah it was quite easy, when I move Nemah away from my left leg I need to remember flow and to keep my right hand on the correct side of her shoulders. When moving Nemah away from my right leg I need to focus on slowing her down and try to feel the rhythm through the whole exercise.
From this we went on to opening, riding through and then closing the rope gate. This might sound easy and when you watch the professionals it does look easy. In reality, and for us beginners, it’s really hard. The trick is to break it down into smaller subtasks and focus on one task at a time. The first thing is to get to the gate and the rope. To do this you ride towards the gate, make a 90° turn and ride alongside the gate until you reach the “opening”. There you come to a full stop and wait for a bit. You then take the rope in the hand closest to the gate. Next step is to back the horse up, enough to get its head through the hole in the gate. Once there you make the horse turn, walk through the gate and then turn its behind towards the place where you want to close the gate. As a final step you back the horse to that place, stops it and hangs the rope back where you first found it. It’s just as simple as that! And still we had great issues getting this to work. Nemah knows this exercise really well and knows when to do what, so she does it without me asking her. Getting her to wait in each step is really hard. We got through the gate once, but the second time Nemah (or was it me?) was too tired to actually do it again. Nemah started walking around, not wanting to stand still or go near the gate, so we called it a day instead of pushing her. We want the horses to remember their training as a fun thing.
All in all Nemah did a great job this day and she felt really relaxed and collected for most of the time. I still need to practise on getting my shoulders to show the direction in which we are heading, and of course I need to get Nemah to go more slowly so she gets the time she needs to do what I ask of her. A fun thing is that I now can feel how we are moving forward and getting better. Nemah feels stronger and we communicate a lot better now than we did a couple of months back. Things are looking a lot better these days.