Or more endearingly titled, “He can do WHAT?!”
R, Jen, Ransom, and I arrived at BRM about 35 minutes before my lesson was to begin. R and Jen cheerfully unloaded Ransom and prepared him for his lesson while I checked in with Barb. The barn was bustling with people, something I always love about BRM. Always busy, always full, always cheerful.
We all finished dressing my superstar, I got changed, and off we went to the arena. I confidently hopped aboard without lunging first, and let Ransom walk around a little while. There was some horse wire fence laying in rolls outside the arena. Ransom looked long & hard at it. All I could do was laugh. Everything else at that end of the arena he’d seen before, but apparently not that wire. Silly man.
Barb said, “Warm him up like you normally do.” So I did some walk circles & bends, and some trot circles & bends. Nothing fantastic. She said to me, “I saw your Facebook from yesterday, we’re going to work on those transitions a bit.”
We brought Ransom up on the bit, and started working on walk to halt. He did the same from the day before – ignoring the bit, charging straight through it, and popping his head up. It got better with repetition. Then we tried trot to walk. A total disaster, and a repeat of the day before. Barb said, “If you’ve got time for me to change, let me hop up there & school him a little bit.” I was fascinated! I hadn’t seen Barb on Ransom, ever. This could be really awesome!
And I was nowhere near ready for what I would see next. She teased me as she got aboard, “You could get him out of the baby-bit you know? That’s a bit for green babies! Not old show horses!” We talked a little about a more suitable bit. Barb said to Ransom as she got on, “Hi old man. Yeah, it’s been a while. Let’s get to work.” Immediately, she pushed him up collected into a frame I never knew he had. He looked just like a dressage horse!! He was collected, with that beautiful framed arched neck, and he was going somewhere! She transitioned him up to a trot, and asked him to trot just a bit before bringing down to walk. He tossed his head in sharp protest. I laughed. Barb asked me to put her spurs on, with some minimal complaining, “You make that look easy! Gosh he’s a lot of work to put together!” I grinned a little to myself. See, Ransom, compared to Chewie, is easy to push forward. Just a little leg, and he’s cruising. Apparently he still requires more than average effort. *grin* Okay, if she says so.
Barb rode him through quite a few walk/halts and trot/walks, before he finally started agreeing with her a while. What came next, was stunning. He had the most beautiful canter, again, better than I’ve ever seen him do. I had no idea he’d compact his big self into such a tiny stride. At first, I didn’t even realize he was at canter – until I saw his foot falls. I thought to myself, “Holy crap! That’s a canter! Good grief he’s slow!”
They continued together for a total of about 10-15 minutes. It was amazing to watch.
More amazing, was what I got as I hopped back on. I felt Ransom let out this HUGE sigh, and I said to him, “Yeah, you’re not done yet.” Barb walked off to get another bit – a boucher. Single jointed, and a neat looking contraption. She switched bridles (yeah, as I sat up there, thinking, “good grief don’t spook, ‘cuz I gots nothing to stop ya with”) and told me, “He’s going to fuss about the flash, he’s going to be unhappy with that bit, but he’ll get over it. Just be prepared for him to be bad before he is better.”
What I discovered – He was light, responsive, and really ready to do whatever my little legs wanted. If I squeezed with any effort, poof right up into the next gait. When I sat deep and settled the reins on more contact, he’d slow down. We did lots of transitions, but actually progressed out of just walk, into some great trot work, and even some canter. In the canter, it’s tug tug release on the inside rein. Tug Tug to remind him to collect & bend, but release immediately, before he starts to lean. Same work at trot, but more release – get him off my hands.
After lots of transition work, and even some canter that felt magical, Barb reminded me to sit up! Yeah, I guess I’ve gotten that bad habit back again, slouching like I’m on the couch at home. When I did sit up taller, legs felt longer, and shortened my reins (again), he felt incredibly put together. I was at trot, sitting deep, and seriously felt my hips only moving with him. The rest of me felt loosey-goosey relaxed. It was incredible!
Ransom and I have some serious homework!
*use the borrowed double jointed boucher bit, flash noseband
*transition, transition, transition! Lots of walk to halt, and trot to walk
*tug tug on the reins, use some force, but then release! Let Ransom realize I won’t be there to hold him up, I can guide, but he can’t lean
*side reins are back! Five minutes warm up each way on shorter side reins & the lunge line. Stretch him out before any serious work
*Short rides! Nothing over a half hour, due to the heat, and his muscle development
And what I really learned? Ransom is a dressage super star, he’s been holding out on me pretending to not be that dressage brilliant, and I can make him do the same things Barb did. Best of all? I’m back to loving dressage again. It doesn’t feel repetitive, and it is incredibly satisfying to get even a stride or two of collected sitting trot.