"Hiiiii I'm coming to see you because you look like you might have treats or will pet me."
"What are you doing with that small metal object? I'm much cuter."
This week, I decided it was time to kick both our butts back into gear, and started with a nice uninvolved flat on Tuesday. It was raining, so we rode inside, where someone had thoughtfully left up an entire course made entirely with poles. There was also a fun little bounce combination. After I warmed up, I made up a few fake courses and cantered around, practicing light seat and heavy seat, and went through the bounce a few times to try and get Riley off his forehand a bit. The five days off was great for him, but he was definitely a little stiff and, well, felt like a horse that hadn't been worked in five days. He handled the bounce combination like the pro he is, and after popping him through this a few times, working some transitions and generally not trying to kill him, I called it quits.
On Wednesday, it was *still* raining, so we were inside once more. I did one of Riley's favorite things and let him loose in the indoor arena. He greatly enjoys a good blowout from time to time - about every five days in winter, thankfully a lot less in summer! - and enjoyed galloping around, bucking, farting, striking and playing. When he is done he just stops and wanders over to me in the middle of the ring. When he was done this time, I sized him up and decided that I should really ride but that tacking up was hard to do. So, after donning my helmet (#mindyourmelon) I tied on a leadrope and hopped on.
It's been some time since I rode bareback - the last time was probably in mid-April, but I've done plenty of no stirrups work and been riding six days a week. Still, I wasn't exactly expecting to feel so incredibly sticky. In the past I've been a little hesitant bareback - put on a neck strap, trotted carefully and only really cantered on the straightaways. But, for some reason I felt fantastic, and we proceeded to have a totally normal flat, including poles, rollbacks, lead changes, transitions... pretty neat. I guess the seat is improving. Riley felt like a lovely soft piece of butter. At one point, while cantering, I decided to drop my "reins", close my eyes, and hold out my arms like I was flying. Riley definitely accelerated, and it just felt... amazing. Definitely one of those Flicka days where you really feel a deep and powerful connection with your horse.
This all led up to a lesson with Assistant on Thursday. I hopped on - with a saddle and everything - and Riley immediately felt fantastic. He went right to work, and was soft, pliable and forward. Various commentary from Assistant and the person observing my lesson basically consisted of how amazing he looks, how they can't believe he's the same horse that he was four or five months ago, how well muscled he is now, how he doesn't look like a weird pony on stilts. He has truly come a tremendously long way.
We had a great flat warmup and then started to jump some. Assistant had us warm up over a small vertical, then we started adding in slightly bigger fences. Riley was spot on and I worked on doing heavy seat vs. light seat, which led to one fairly bad distance when I saw the right spot, then decided to add another stride that was really, really not there. We jumped a few smallish courses, probably around 2'9", then she put some of the jumps up to around 3'3" and we jumped around those. She had us practice a short approach to a vertical, a seven stride dog leg to another vertical, left turn and rollback to another vertical, then very tight rollback to a long gallop to an oxer which we jumped from left to right. Riley handled all of this like a champ, and so did I. We finished after doing that course beautifully twice.
After this I had a short discussion with Assistant about where Riley maxes out, since he's changed a huge, huge amount over the past several months. At first it was, maybe he can do 1m again. Then it was, let's do 1.10m! Whee! Now we're thinking he can handle 1.20 at the very least... and maybe even more. Once we're ready to move up from 1.10m, Trainer will hop on and teach him a little bit about bigger stuff. We're pretty lucky to have him in the mix, and Riley seems incredibly confident and secure in the 1.10m, which he never did before, so.....
I am really excited for the future with him, and equally as thrilled that this might mean another year or more with him! I love this horse so much.
Today, I gave Riley the day off and made homemade pony treats with the full intent of spoiling him to death. They're organic and look a little bit like Stud Muffins. Hopefully he likes them!