Since my jumping lesson was canceled due to a super-soggy arena, I decided to head out and see how Saga would be hacking on the trails. My best friend came along - although we usually ride together pretty regularly, she's been out of commission for several months due to family health issues. Since her horse is WAY out of shape, she rode my husband's horse Red.
Before we went to the barn, we stopped at Half Price books and perused the equestrian section. I actually snagged a couple that look pretty good - Stretch Exercises for Your Horse, Feeling Dressage, and Ride Right with Daniel Stewart. I confess that I have spent very little time reading books about how to ride, and most of my time actually riding. However, that was in an age when I had all the instruction I could possibly want as often as I could possibly want it, and now I'm without a regular trainer. So, picking up information wherever I can get it seems like a good idea. I'll let you know how the books are!
Anyway, once at the barn and tacked, we headed down the barn driveway and turned onto the right-of-way by the road. They're in the process of widening the road (bummer), so for now the barn property and the property to the south have wide grassy right-of-ways in front of them. We started by walking all the way down to where we'd have to go on the road, and then turned around to walk back. As soon as we turned around, Saga started jigging and flipping his head in the air. No amount of "whoa, easy," sitting loose with my seat, half-halting, or anything changed his behavior. I had visions of disastrous trail rides with Cash (The Other One) flash before my eyes, along with "ye gods, I have bought the WRONG HORSE!" Fortunately, I knew how to deal with this from previous experience. I asked for collection, halt, walk (more jigging), and then shoulder-ins each way (holy smokes, we actually got laterals to the left!!!) I believe we also got in some very nice baby passage steps, and maybe even a baby piaffe step or two. I was thumbing through my de Kunfy book last night and remembered reading "take what the horse gives you and make it seem like it's your idea," and just sort of went with it. When we got back to our starting point, we turned around away from the barn, Saga went back to a nice forward walk. Um... okay. Poor Reddums with his short little legs had to really work to keep up. Then we turned around again to walk home... no jigging. None. He was FINE. Chalk that up to having spent three days in his stall and just being a bit fresh. In fact, after that first bit, he didn't jig again during the ride.
We took advantage of the fence along the front of the property line and used it to work on leg-yields down the rail. In the indoor arena, only one short wall has a rail on it, so it's hard to use the wall for laterals. I pretty much parked Saga at a 45 degree angle to the fence line and told him to move off my right leg. He was very fussy at first but eventually got the hang of it. Having the rail there preventing him from moving forward allowed me to focus on me, too - did I have my weight in my left stirrup (not enough), was my left rein contact solid (not enough), were my shoulders and hips pointed left (nope), and what WAS my left leg DOING (still trying to figure out how it got where it was). In other words, I *think* I'm asking for laterals to the left with my right leg, but that's the ONLY part of my body that's doing the right thing. The rest of me needs to get with the program so that I can help Saga get with the program. He's trying, but I'm not giving him the right cues and I'm hindering more than helping. Poor guy.
After torturing him with laterals, I decided to finish off the ride with a few trot sets down the ROW of the next-door property. We trotted away from the barn and then walked back, three times. Each trot was perhaps 30 seconds, but they were BIG trots. Saga stayed with me the whole time, coming back when asked, moving out when asked. He was very light in front as well, definitely that "uphill" feeling that my old trainer said to look for in my warm-ups. On the last trot, I asked for a bigger movement, and suddenly I had a HUGE trot. Definitely medium, maybe extended, it was hard to tell because the rhythm barely changed but suddenly we were FLYING. I wish I had pictures or some video! It's always amazing what they'll offer you out in the field, but then when you get back in the arena, they're so much more reserved.
All in all, a wonderful day despite the lack of jumping lesson. Now, I'm off to peruse the books I just purchased!