I was having a second dressage lesson, in two days, on Neuf. The universe has spoken and sent him back to me, again, which secretly makes me (if not my savings account) happy.
Yesterday, I grabbed my Stackhouse saddle, as it fits him quite nicely, but as I proved 4 or 5 years ago, that saddle does not fit ME when I ride Neuf. I’ve never loved how straight the flaps are and how big the thigh blocks are, as they are too restrictive, even on Bali, but it does fit me on her, so long as I’m in long stirrups, but Neuf, his movement is way too big for me to have stirrups that long. And there is NO room to even go up a half hole in my stirrups in that saddle. I also use my neck strap on him, every ride. He is big enough in movement, that I don’t want to catch him in the mouth if he surges forward. Joanna asked if I had half holes in those leathers, I don’t, so we carried on. Today, I brought out my old Albion Euro-Comfort that fits him, but remembered it is why I have a lift-back Mattes pad, put that on and ended up adding half holes to those leathers, and also remember why I like that saddle. It has fit on Pico, Aster, Tanq, and I’m sure a few others I’m not remembering.
A Second Neck Strap?
While I was bridling Neuf today, Joanna asked if I had a second neck strap. Yes, I do, and I grabbed it. I knew where this was going, I can only really hold the neck strap with one hand which means I’m constantly changing hands on the strap and since I’m always working on my hands, I have a long, enduring love affair (abusive relationship?) with too much inside rein, and it is damaging to my developing a solid relationship with the outside rein. I try to break up, but I’m seduced again and again by relying on it too much, incorrectly, for steering and bend! It doesn’t help that my attempt to break up with TOO much inside rein has me abandoning it altogether, which also not good, I need to learn how to be good friends. Over the years I’ve used all kinds of tools to work on my hands, carrying a whip over my thumbs, one handed riding, bridging the reins, using a neck strap, a bucking strap on the saddle….the list is long. A second neck strap was a new idea.
I liked this, it made adjusting rein length a bit trickier and moving my crop to the outside a little more cumbersome, but hello bad habits. Trotting was good, this helps me stabilize both hands, especially with Neuf’s powerful trot. Then, when it was time to canter, I couldn’t. I mean, I did it, but it took me a quarter of a circle to find the rest of my aids because I’d taken away the ability to pull the inside rein, I knew I did this to some degree, but this really called MY attention to it and even better, a tool to help me break the habit and develop a better one. Making adjusting the reins harder is good for me too, motivates me to keep them a consistent length.
Neuf’s lazy. Not dull, lazy. Joanna was prepared with a lunge whip to assist me in going forward and NOT allowing my position to deteriorate. She wants to see a more working, on contact warm up, instead of our usual walkabout on a loose rein. Neuf was a bit resistant in the usual corner, at one point, Joanna just went outside the ring with the lunge whip and that fixed that. Today, in the other saddle with shorter stirrups, it was much easier. We had a couple of really good circles with a nice, big canter step. I need to remember that feel and how we got there. For Neuf’s resistance cantering the corners left…yes, the barn end of the arena…I worked on some turn on the haunches in walk, kept that feeling and aid in trot, made/let him fall onto his shoulder crossing the diagonal, then used that aid to bring his shoulder back over inline to straighten him, and then again, at the canter, but adding in a few steps of leg yield left. Keeping him straight is so helpful in this, but throwing away my inside rein completely is not the best way to get him straight.
Two good lessons, and a new tool for me to work on my hands.