super manny

I thought I’d been dropped in the deep end. My first ride back, after three weeks away with only two rides in Sydney, was on Manny, in the indoor arena. But he’s a new Manny. I rode as light and soft as I could, and he did big blowy sighs (which is a VERY GOOD thing; it means the horse is happy and relaxed) and the first time – the first time! – I asked him for some lengthening in the trot, all I did was unclench my diaphragm and he immediately stepped his back legs under himself and lifted his shoulders so he could reach his front legs further out. It was MAGIC. Then we did a canter and I collected it just by clenching my diaphragm, and there he was, uphill and happy and bouncy and fast-but-controlled. A Ferrari in third gear!

We didn’t really jump, just did patterns over poles on the ground and a couple of teeny fences, but when the big white dressage horse was being lunged next door and bucking on the end of the lunge rein I knew he was going to infect Manny’s mood. So I concentrated really hard on staying the same and not riding defensively – keeping my hand and elbow and shoulder unlocked, letting him move forward, and jamming my heel down as far as I could so I had a strong base to follow him. And Manny was perfect; soft and happy and responsive. And he did pick up the white horse’s mood, and he did buck, and it didn’t matter because my heels were down and my core was strong.

It’s Manny that’s improved, far more than I have. We were talking about it afterwards and Toni said “It’s like he’s looked around and taken a deep breath.” He used to get complicated because he was over-anxious to please. Now he knows he won’t be punished for mistakes, he has relaxed and is able to enjoy himself. Every horse that comes into this program gets better: fitter, happier, more delightful to ride. It is an awesome pleasure to behold.

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