Sitting in the corner of one of Michael’s tack rooms is a diminutive trash can labelled “Whup Ass.” It is, of course, a joke. But neither Midge nor Ella nor I required the opening of said can last weekend, when we drove up for our first New Jersey lessons of the year: We were sort of awesome.
Midge was actually fairly wild on Sunday, which was pretty fun. It was important, because he’s been SO good for SO long that I’d actually started taking it for granted, and as Michael astutely pointed out, “He could be like this at the championships or at a CDI!” So I rode him through it, put my leg on, made him go forward even when he was tight as anything, and the result was a pretty unbelievable ride.
Ella was herself, and herself rode great. I must confess that I was a little insecure about how she was going, because I’d been working on little details and not on big, grand work since leaving Florida. I knew it was the right thing to do, but no matter how much I preach it, I still am always a little ticklish about how much time should be spent on Grand Prix horses just working on the basics. But Michael eased my concerns – he said she looked super.
Both horses spent a little time on piaffe and passage, but they couldn’t have been more different. Midge is all energy and quickness, particularly on a redheaded day, so it was all about swing for him. Ella can get a little slow, so it’s balancing the looseness she brings to the table with the hot I want to encourage. Both did great work.
Monday was much better for Midge – much more himself. We worked on really PUSHING the canter forward, something I’m not so great about doing, and I made a great discovery. He has a tendency to get hang-y in the pirouettes, and I’ve spent a ton of time working on neck down and staying quick, but Michael discovered that I’d been riding the neck down while also riding him off my hand. He encouraged me to make Midge really take a hold of the reins, so that his hind legs really reached for the bit. An instant improvement. Midge needs my hand for leverage still; if I back him off, he tends to drop his back.
Ella also worked on canter stuff, but funnily enough I’d done my homework too well with her – I’ve been focused on quick, quick, quick, and Michael wanted me to allow a longer, swingier canter stride. We spent some time on it, made it better, and gave me homework to address for the next few weeks until I see Mike again in mid-May.
But the best epiphany of the weekend came not from a riding lesson, but from my fifth P90-X workout. P90-X, for those not in the now, is an insane DVD workout system that will, apparently, make me as buff as anything in 90 days. So far, it’s made me feel really sore, though I’m digging it, especially the one guy from the ab video. Oh my God, the muscles, and the ratio of skin to clothing. Mmm.
The epiphany came as I was cursing and whining my way through a set of wall squats. I thought to myself, “Hey, this is just like collection. And it hurts like HELL.” It gave me such sympathy for the horses learning collection – it must be really brutal muscularly to really sit like an upper level horse. No wonder it takes so long!
I’m home with some motivation. The break’s over; both red hots start their summer fitness regimen this week. They’ll both spend an hour in our exerciser at the end of every day, at the walk, for the first couple of weeks. Once she’s used to that, Ella will start doing some trot sets on the hills every other evening, and Midge will do his hillwork at the walk. Ella needs more muscle conditioning; Midge needs more wind for some hot summer horse shows. I’m ready to get back to business for myself, too. Tomorrow starts Week 2 of P90-X – time to open my own can of Whup Ass.