So it's 33 ̊ and raining today at Leighton Farm. I was going to the track do pictures and video of four horses to add to the site, but it was just too dreary for the pictures to come out well. I felt pressure anyway because I was sure the day would deteriorate and I have horses I simply must ride today - in the cold rain.
I don't have an indoor or even a sand arena. We built this farm to accommodate the needs of racehorses and they don't need an arena. I never cared for farm racetracks, so we have turf gallops and trails through the woods for schooling the babies. It's great for transitioning thoroughbreds and it was easy to incorporate jumps into the gallops. The thing is, when the footing is greasy, I have to be innovative. It was that way with the babies and racehorses and it's that way with the horses in show training. Today we only had a couple must trains. One is a baby that was really rotten to break and now that she's going good. We give her light days, not days off. We are all safer that way.
The other is, you guessed it The Bird. I gave him a break last week, but just found out we get to school with Jimmy this Thursday. The Bird is a pip after a day off so we usually hack about the farm the first day back. The next day we school on the flat which will set us up perfectly for our lesson on Thursday.
Now when I get back to the farm it's 33 ̊ and raining. I have to admit I'm used to it. I galloped for around 20 years at Pimlico and your job is to ride, rain, shine, sleet, snow. I hate galloping in ice rain, it hurts your eyes. If you wear goggles it builds up on them quickly and you can't see. I used to close my eyes and open them for a stride every three or four strides. Can't say I miss that.
Getting to the point - this is an epiphany for me. I would estimate every month I've schooled with Elizabeth Madlener she has at least once per month taken hold of the reins near the horse's mouth in an attempt to show me the elastic "feel" I should have. In other words, the relationship with the horse's mouth. I did understand it and try to put it into play. I've always been a tactful rider, so I'm sure I was getting it?
A few entries ago in this blog I talked about Sharon White and how light she is on a horse. In fact this is a trait that the really gifted riders seem to have. They are effortless and comfortable on a horse. The horse in turn is completely comfortable with them.
I'm always working on my riding and trying to learn why I do what I do. The Bird loves to run at jumps, he came to me that way. When he is in high anxiety you have to take hold of him to the jump and then let go on approach. This is very hard to do. Jimmy has made it easier for me to do this and I've been working on it. I asked myself why can't I let go? It's driving me nuts. It's easier for everyone to let go, the horse is happier. I've never had a problem letting racehorses go. Why is this so hard on this horse?
Today riding my Bird in the cold rain at the walk on a long rein I found the answer. Tension. Tension is the answer. The truly great riders all lack tension. This is why Sharon is so light. She is strong and effective, but hasn't an ounce of tension in her body. The "feel" that Elizabeth keeps showing me. To achieve it there can be no tension. The tension in my shoulders and elbows prevents me from letting go of the Bird. It builds with his tension. I have to be strong to ride him to the fence, but by the time I arrive at the take off I've built up so much tension in my body to hold him, I can't let go completely.