This week was not too great for me. My son had brought home a cold from his university and I had been fighting that pesky virus all week. Colds can be crippling diseases for people with MS, triggering devastating exacerbations of the MS. Luckily mine got no worse than stumbling and dropping things and I altered my supplements, but I could not ride today because I finally came down with this cold. Bummer.
I did get to ride Mia twice this week, Debbie had gone to meet her new granddaughter so I didn't have a lesson. When Darryl brought Mia up I told Mia in words how I was feeling and when I stopped talking Mia gave me one of those super light caresses with her muzzle. Since Mia had been trimmed the week before I didn't have to rasp her toes very much Wednesday, so I was able to groom Mia and tack her up. Since I've switched to a Dr. Bristol eggbutt snaffle I got to get her to open her mouth and she mostly cooperated. The stable has switched to winter daytime turnout and some of the horses are still adjusting, but since Mia is out all the time it doesn't bother her as much. As long as Mia has enough food and can hang around Amira, her friend, Mia is relatively content. With my husband helping me as needed, we got to the ring and I mounted.
Even though I was feeling out of it and mainly riding at a walk I was working on several things on Wednesday. I practiced holding my face vertical while looking UP with my eyes, focusing UPWARDS as we meandered around the jumps. I practiced using my peripheral vision that is on the bottom of my eyes. It took me a while but this vision finally came through and I had some way of watching for ground obstacles and head set as I rode around. A new skill I will have to develop. My circles were interesting, looking upwards to a quarter point in thin air and nothing to focus on. Another thing I am going to have to practice a lot. While I was doing this I was also working on Mia's and my contact, with me trying to keep an even, soft contact while using enough leg to drive her into it. I also worked on keeping contact with my inactive hand while giving a subtle hand aid with the other hand. And Mia rewarded me.
She stopped being "sticky". When I used my legs and spurs Mia not only extended her stride and/or quickened her steps and/or both, she did it with more drive from her hind end and impulse at a walk. When I asked for a trot she sprang into it quicker on a lot less leg, it was easier for me to get on the correct diagonal, and she did not collapse back into the walk when given the chance. It felt as if I had taken a big load off her shoulders. The ONLY change in my position was that I was aiming my eyes upward, everything else was my Forward Seat, though of course I adapt my seat to how the horse moves. Greatly encouraged by this new impulse I dared to keep contact at the posting trot, concentrating on raising my hand when Mia started to invert and not loosening my contact until Mia had put her head down a little bit with her nose out. This got me tired, so I either rested at a walk or sent her on the trot with sagging reins. Mia also backed up easier and straighter on contact.
On Friday my son could help me so he did the grooming and I got to get Mia's hooves well shaped. On this ride I decided that it might be a good time to explain to Mia that I want her to keep contact with the bit after a halt. Mia came to Debbie's farm with a bad habit of yanking the reins out of the rider's hands after halting or slowing down. Of course I've worked on this and Mia is much more polite about asking for more rein. But I've worked with Mia for a long time and I think that her neck is finally strong enough not to HAVE to stretch out immediately when either contact or forward movement ends. So I went through some gyrations keeping a pretty constant contact while Mia insisted on stretching her neck. When she stood calmly on contact, at first for a split second then increasing to a few seconds, I'd say OK, loosen the reins, and tell her to stretch her neck out. Then walking, some trotting on contact, then I tried a turn on the forehand. My hand aid was too strong, she tried backing up first. Finally, on my third attempt she gave me one step of a proper turn on the forehand. She got praised to the skies and I ended my ride.
If I had been trying to do this contact work when I started riding Mia it would have been abusive and done nothing to improve Mia. Through riding her mostly at a walk and mostly insisting on long steps I have caused Mia to grow muscle mass in the right places. Mia's neck, back, and hindquarters are now packed with muscle and are now strong enough to stand up to this work on contact. Since she has had several months in the Spirit Bridle with the running martingle, she has built the remaining necessary muscles for good contact. I used to get the impression of a painfully cramping neck muscle when she demanded and then asked for more rein. I no longer get this feeling all the time. The feelings I get now are impatience and pure habit. So long as Mia keeps improving I will be insisting on a slightly higher grade of contact with the bit.
And all through these rides Mia took care of me, even if I was irritating her with my hands. When my hands dropped reins she'd check on what the rest of my body was saying and proceed calmly, easily correctable when I finally got my reins re-adjusted. We took frequent rests since I got tired quickly, and she stood there calmly on loose reins while I pointed out things of interest to her (bird, people, tractors.) I feel so safe on Mia's back, she may shy at something but nowadays her shy is a subtle movement to the side, Mia at least has never given me the sudden disappearance of a horse from under me. When she moves off in obedience to my legs she sort of checks on me and if I am unsteady she backs off on her hindquarter power even if I use my legs. In return I am polite to Mia, and I show appreciation when she does what I ask.
I LIKE riding Mia.
Have a great ride!