We walked Winston to the covered arena and Sandy climbed on. I settled into a chair in the corner, shivering in the cold despite my fleece shirt and windbreaker. Brulee, Sandy's whippet, came over to say hello and pretty quickly found her way onto my lap. She was nice and warm; a welcome companion. I'm not familiar with the breed but she is a very sweet, serious dog with large round liquid eyes. I was smitten by the time it was my turn to hop on Winston.
Sandy put Winston through his paces and he looked much more steady in the bridle. He did kick out in the canter once but that was pretty minor compared to the high headed hopping he did for three laps in the beginning. I watched and thought, Okay, that's better but the difference isn't huge. And then I got on.
The difference was huge. I was a bit nervous at first; I haven't ridden in two weeks and I could feel Winston's forward energy beneath me. C'mon, woman, let's go! In my last lesson, my brain was pinging around in my brain trying to coordinate my aids and trying not to worry about my mom who had just been admitted to the hospital. Winston had tested me the whole time, perhaps sensing that I wasn't on my game. He was also pretty new to training with Sandy and not with the program yet.
Sandy told me that in the beginning, she walked on eggshells a bit with Winston. He tended to try and pick a fight over everything. But as he got more fit, and learned how to work with the bit instead of against it, she has been able to direct him more. As Sandy said, he has more in his toolbox now. My job today was to ride with purpose. Winston was not allowed to dictate the ride, although he tried. Rain was beating on the roof of the arena, creating a cocoon of sound as we worked. Sandy's voice was in my ear (love riding with headphones) and I zoned everything out except the feel of Winston beneath me.
I did a much better job of keeping my hands correctly up and flexed. My legs were softly against Winston's sides at all times, and I was able to relax my elbows into the flow of Winston's trot. It felt effortless. We were focused on each other and I was riding, directing, communicating and loving it.
Sandy told me to look in the mirrors as I went down the long side so I could see how good Winston and I looked together. I could also see the difference between when he dropped his head low to evade honest work, and when I lifted his poll up higher. Brett wasn't there to take pictures so Sandy snapped a few with her phone. Isn't Winston looking great?