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So how do we keep it past those three steps? The physical therapist helped me with the horrible twist in my body. She treated my shoulder by addressing a hip issue I had been dealing with since birth. Turns out I had the same onion layers that I have seen in Grace. After the physical therapy sessions, I was finally able to access my core strength in the saddle. My walk is much improved, but still not as perfect as those three steps I took during one of our sessions.
I attended a clinic of Peggy’s 8 years or so ago when I was boarding Grace at the barn the clinic was held at. The clinic was done under saddle at the time. I still remember the little “check ins” she gave us to see if we were in the correct position. I was able to hold onto the muscle memory for a few days after that clinic before I got in a hurry with my agenda and went back into my old holding pattern. At my lesson last week the same series of check ins were once again presented. 8 years later, I am able to hold onto the balanced body position and remember what it feels like. I found it last Fall when I finally let go of the arched lower back I have been holding onto since birth. Add to that years of “equitating” and I was one stiff rider. Once I developed enough core strength to allow my lower back to soften, I finally felt like I was getting somewhere with my horse. She was not able to come through and over her back until I got out of her way. I was finally allowing her access to her hind end and the use of her full skeleton when I was on her. Once I had a “feel” of my new position and my horse’s improved movement underneath me, I developed a memory of it. I was no longer willing to accept the old pattern of poor quality movement. It just didn’t feel good, even though it was all we had known for many years. I had “awakened” to what my body was capable of.
At one point during the lesson with Peggy last week, Grace saw something at the end of the arena that spooked her. Peggy was holding Grace, showing me a groundwork exercise. Grace’s head shot up and she started to dance, she was fixated at the end of the arena. Peggy kept “combing” the line that was attached to the work halter Grace was wearing until Grace came back to earth. Grace’s reaction gave me the chance to ask one of the many questions I had about “neurological reprogramming”. I had noticed at home that when I reintroduced Peggy’s Connected Groundwork program, Grace became “spooky”. She started to notice things outside of the arena that normally wouldn’t bother her. Grace has always been a “quiet” horse. Even as a 3 year old, most things that upset other horses never bothered her. It surprised me when she started to react to everything around her when I would start the Connected Groundwork after not doing it for a few months. It was almost as if I had woken her up and tapped into the part of her brain that remembered that she was a prey animal and could be eaten at any time. The behavior only lasted a few minutes before she would settle down, which was almost always followed by a breakthrough of some sort. I had started to see the spooky behavior as an indicator that I am doing something right, that I had tapped into that part of her brain I hadn’t been able to previously access. I remember that the first time my feet touched the ground differently in my physical therapy appointment, for 10 seconds I was absolutely convinced that something was wrong with the ground. I believe that Grace must be experiencing that moment where her brain says “hey, this feels different” right before her body says “this feels really good”. I could on to something here.......