Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mecate Transformation

After our foray into English riding we were keen to get back on our own horses again. We stopped at the barn on our way back into town and found our guys a bit on the grimy side but otherwise seemingly unaffected by our absence. It was nice to ride in my own saddle again, but the really exciting thing was to ride with my mecate. We took it to Chicago with us, and while we were there we soaked it in water and a teeny bit of shampoo, rinsed it out, and swirled it around outside to get the water out. We then hung it up in the basement to dry.

I've been wanting to do this for a while, but as the mecate is basically just a long rope of knotted horsehair, getting it wet means waiting for it to dry. I didn't want to take the time off using it.

Immediately after soaking it, we were surprised that it didn't feel that wet. The next day we were surprised that it actually felt stiffer than before. The day after that it was still very stiff and I was starting to worry the soaking wouldn't help. But the next day something magical happened. It went from being a stiff, wiry rope to a soft, supple one. It's actually a far more dramatic change than I expected. I now understand why so many people talk about the weight and energy of a mane hair mecate.

So once I got the worst of the mud off Steen, I climbed on with my newly supple mecate in my hands and some of the ideas I picked up during our lesson in my head. After riding around for a while I actually got off and put my stirrups up one hole. I ride with super long stirrups because for years I found that was the only way to keep my somewhat temperamental right knee happy, but looking back I've realized I was always riding in saddles that were too small. Thea talked about stirrup length at the beginning of our lesson, saying she thinks a good bend in the knee is important for proper balance, even for western riders. So I thought I'd give one notch up a try. And I have to say, it felt pretty good. I have enough room in my seat to adjust my legs as necessary, and I've got my leathers hung fairly far back, which helps too. Right when I got on, I thought my knee would be a problem but I concentrated on relaxing my lower leg (which is something I still need to work on anyway) and that seemed to help. I also found I felt slightly less inclined to turn my toe out with the stirrups shorter, so maybe I'll stick with this setup for a while.

Overall, my ride was pretty mediocre. We had some good lopes during which I thought a lot about sitting up straight and steering with my legs, and preventing Steen from making a dive for the middle when I brought him back down to the trot. I worked on a new figure eight pattern that I am hoping will help our transitions and stops, and that went well. But Steen was sluggish. It has been so warm, and he's got his blanket on and I think he spends a lot of time being slightly over insulated. He's always had a tendency to get quieter in the heat, and just doesn't pay me the same level of attention he normally does. He was behaving just fine, but he wasn't giving me the soft feel very well, which was frustrating. I never thought I'd have the problem of wanting to liven Steen up, but I'm increasingly understanding why trainers like Buck and Ray Hunt spend so much time talking about keeping the life in your horse. Steen is usually so lively I've got plenty of energy to work with. When he's not it's kind a rude shock.

Ride Time: 1:00
Horseback hours YTD: 107:55

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