I arrived at BRM a bit later than I honestly wanted to. Hwy 59 was great, but the last few miles of Hwy 99 were chock full of traffic. I had other motorists trying to weave in and out of the traffic, had to hit the brakes harder than I like to, and just felt incredibly stressedy by the time we arrived.
Leslie greeted us at the trailer while I was saddling Ransom. "Yeah, that's my boy. Wow he does look good!" Whew, a huge sigh of relief. I got Ransom all dressed in his blue pad, blue polos, and french link bit. Snatched my chaps, helmet, gloves, and offs we went.
Leslie told us to "meet her in the big jump arena." As I started to go in there, another lesson student wandered in wearing a hunt saddle. Oops. Leslie looked back at the covered arena, and said, "The heck with it. I'll be right back out, go ride him over there." She pointed to an uncovered, unfenced, 20x40m dressage marked, um, area. Note I didn't say "arena". There were railroad ties along the ground as markers, and the rubber/sand footing inside the ties. NO FENCE.
My mind churned. I am terrified to ride outside of a fence in a saddle without a handle or a way to feel anchored in. Oh Holy Crap! I swear how on earth am I going to trot, let's not even consider how I'm going to canter. Oh crap! I shared my anxious fears with R, who told me, "There's a difference. Look at your horse. He's at home, and he knows it. You're not riding Chewie, that's the difference. Has he done anything bad to you yet? Okay then, get up there."
I mounted in the saddle, and did everything I could to ride on the buckle at the walk. Ransom cheerfully plodded along in his standard free flowing over strided walk, head down. The first time their automatic gate squeaked open, he peered at it, but settled right back down. I laughed as I said to R, "Look at his ears. They're flapping he's so relaxed. Good grief whatta good boy."
Leslie approached, and said, "Okay, pick up a trot for a few rounds to warm him up." I took one HUGE deep breath (one like I just did as I remembered what it felt like), and barely squeezed with my legs. Ransom popped into a nice quiet trot, though with his head up and uncollected. (At this point, he hadn't had his normal lunging & side rein warm up like he's used to. I was a bit too late today to get a good warm up in. This led to some troubles in the lesson later.)
Ransom trotted around, and I settled into light contact quickly. Leslie chirped at me, "Shorten your reins, get your hands out of your lap. Bend your elbows, pick your hands up. See! Right there, now do you feel him going different?" Um, sort of. He's staying collected, but I usually get that after a good warmup.
Leslie asked me to "bend him around" in the corners. She said he wasn't bending in the middle. HUH? She asked us to trot serpentines, but quickly made me stop, commenting I wasn't bending him. She asked us to trot around and "Try to ride up centerline." So, I did. She said to us, "Well, I'm surprised you made it to centerline, because his behind wasn't bent getting there." HUH? She tried for probably twenty minutes it seemed like to explain "bending". The one time it made sense was in a corner, when she told me specifically to "pull my inside hand towards my hip, and add outside leg." One time Ransom seemed to push smooth through the corner. But I quickly lost the idea, and had to try again.
After some chat of "Bend" at the trot, she asked if I'd ever ridden him on a leg yield. Nope, never. (Okay, a bit of a fib. I've done a little bit at walk, but not really fought him for it.) We rode it at the trot-only. Heading left, I rode up the quarterline, and added inside leg ONLY, trying to balance his head straight on the bit. He gave two or so really neat leg yields to the rail. Heading right, it wasn't quite as easy. But I've got a good idea how to do it now, and will be doing this more at home. Inside leg only, take the outside leg completely off, look straight up ahead, and only use the reins to keep his head & front end straight. If he doesn't yield over, move inside leg back some & ask again.
We discussed this word "Bend" for quite some time. Then she asked me, "So what's his canter score?" I chirped happily, "I got 8s both leads on the test where we were both paying attention." She responded back, "I'd kind of like to see that. You really got an 8?" I glanced over towards her and R, and saw him grinning just a little bit.
I glowed. Oh yeah? You think? Let me just show you what our canter looks like. Oh my goodness, I'm still in this unfenced arena. Ransom, please let me show her what awesome canter you have. Take care of me, please. I leaned back, squeezed, and except for him popping his head up, he moved out into a gorgeous canter. It was a bit more forward than I'd like, and felt like he leaned just a bit, but it was nice. Just as nice as in the last show. Leslie's eyes lit up. "Wow, that does look really good. Just remember to bump him with the reins, get him off your hands every once in a while, and otherwise, that does look like an 8. Wow."
I was grinning, all over. Ransom and I settled back into a trot, then we cantered the other direction with EXACTLY the same result - a head popped up transition, but a gorgeous forward canter. I know I was grinning & glowing. I got a beautiful canter, outside of a fence, in my dressage saddle. How awesome!!!
Another one of the instructors came over and tried to explain what they meant by "Bend." She first had me ask him to turn on outside leg and outside rein only. She said to me, "He'll feel like he's bent to the outside. That's okay right now." And he was. Then she told me to add inside rein, wiggling the bit. I did that, and it did feel a little bit different. We did this at the walk some, then at the trot some. R videotaped that whole section of the ride, and I hope I'll be able to hear her talking to me through the wind & general outdoor noises. This part of the "bend" discussion made some sense, though I'm not entirely sure I felt anything different.
R made some observations worth noting, that I hope to see in some video this upcoming weekend.
*When I rode "hands out of my lap", elbows bent more, and hands up higher, Ransom apparently bent himself up more, and seemed to stick his butt up in the air. Hope to see, because I didn't feel it.
*When I "did what they told me to" with inside hand, outside leg, and bent him around "correctly", he bent in the middle and tucked his nose around the corners and in circles.
These are things that might have been captured in the pile of still shots he took, I'm not sure. We didn't review them together this weekend. Maybe get that done sometime this week.
We ran some shopping errands in Houston before taking Ransom on home for the night. Over all, it was a good lesson.
I did learn some new things.
I did ride somewhere new.
I did ride outside of a fence.
I didn't have a terrifying "train wreck" ride.
I did ride him without a lunging warmup.
I don't know that I learned anything really profound or applicable to what I hoped for, but I did get somethings accomplished.
Countdown to Sienna ... 8 days.