We've officially put all of the anxiety and frustration that was the last couple of months at Riverview behind us. Our new barn is working out great so far and Tucker and his buddies seem really happy. I am so grateful for your support. One final word: As horse owners, we need to stick together. If you have a terrible experience at a facility, speak up! Don't let other unsuspecting future boarders be misled and end up in the same sinking boat you were in. It pains me to learn how many other people had horror stories from Riverview. I was there almost a full year before I figured it out, because as a working ammie I'm just not there enough. Get the word out. There are so many places online to do this - forums, facebook groups, blogs, ripoff reports, etc. I have been criticized for the negative impact my last post may have on their business. To that I say, the only people who will be to blame if my post dissuades people from boarding there are the barn managers. It was their negligent practices and unprofessional behavior that led me to write that post, I was just reporting it.
And that, my friends, is all I will ever say again about that.
Let's talk about Tucker. This horse, you guys. I'm so smitten. I went to the barn late Sunday afternoon, so I had the whole indoor to myself, and I could not have had more fun if I was riding Valegro.
Since we were alone, every noise and every shadow was scarier, and he started off really tense. I did a lot of lateral work at the walk until he did it without jigging or head-flinging or hopping. Then we moved up to the trot. For some reason when he's fresh (not sure if this is just a tension or a back tightness thing or what) he gets a death grip on the left side of the bit and leans into it with all he's got. So I was playing around with different things to see what would work, trying to move his haunches and his shoulders around and get him straightened out.
We were working through a haunches-in to the right, and I was trying to get him lighter on the left rein and keep him from bulging through his left shoulder while keeping the right bend. We were in a really collected trot and I kept half-halting on the left rein, tapping with my left leg, shifting my weight around to try and figure out what would work, he was getting pretty amped about it, all this extra energy building up without a trap door out the left shoulder, and then all of a sudden.... tick-tock, tick-tock, he was passaging.
As any seasoned, skilled, decorous dressage rider would do in response to such an effort, naturally I giggled.
Anyway it was magical and amazing and I can't wait until I do that on purpose someday. From there, it was like something clicked. In my last lesson, Amy told me to think of pulling my belly button toward my spine, so my pelvis tucks under, mirroring what I want Tucker's lower back to do when he sits and collects. So I have been working really hard on changing the position of my pelvis when I sit at the canter, and it has been helping me find my seat. Karen did a blog post about this just recently, actually, and she explains it nicely and provides a video.
So, since I had this awesome, buoyant trot and lots of forward energy underneath me, I decided to try to put this new position into play in the trot and see if I could sit him (which thus far has been impossible for me). I think it was a combination of his roundness and my position, but I did it! (We celebrate every tiny victory around here.) I felt like I was leaning way back, but when I went by the mirror I was actually sitting up pretty well. Still too round through my shoulders but that can be the next piece. My abs are still sore two days later, so given what I know about the masochism of dressage, I think that means I'm doing it right.
I trotted and trotted and trotted, and sat and sat and sat. We serpentined, we did small figure eights, we did our shoulder-in, 10m circle, haunches-in exercise down the long sides. And Tucker got straighter, and more supple, and started relaxing and breathing. I actually got through to him and he gave up the fire-breathing dragon/angry kangaroo/dram llama routine! His mouth got all foamy and his ears got floppy. It made me all sorts of happy.
I was almost afraid to canter. I thought about quitting on that note. But you know when you can feel like they are just waiting to canter? Not in an anxious way, just in a willing way? So I let him canter, we worked the left lead canter transition up and down a few times because he'd really rather grab the left rein and launch himself into it. And then when he held the bend through the transition, we had the best left lead canter I've ever had. It was round, and forward, he held a nice left bend, and I could adjust his stride with my seat and control his haunches from swinging around. Even his downward transitions were balanced (which is nothing short of a miracle).
After some stretchy trot work, I did just a little right lead canter as well, but by that point he was getting tired so I didn't push it. That's the easier lead anyway. We just did a little bit and practiced a couple of transitions and I quit for the day with lots of pats and he proudly marched around snorting like a champion.
There is nothing like the euphoria you get from a good ride! And nothing like the comforting feeling of tucking your horse in for the night with a warm bran mash, knowing the barn owners will be back to feed his alfalfa and check on him later. Or the adorable faces that Tucker and his BFF Goose make begging for a candy cane.
I love these guys.