My legs not only make sense to me now when walking, but it has translated in the saddle. For years I have been told to close my leg on my horse. I had a tendency to keep my lower leg off my horse; my legs were often jutted out in front of the girth. My leg position has improved tremendously over the last year, but I won’t lie to you, it has been a lot of work. I had to consciously think about it every time I rode. I first had to take the arch out of my low back,breathe, soften my lower back, breathe, focus on my abs, breathe, reposition my seat, breathe, and then I could find my leg position. I had to correct it several times throughout a ride. Just as soon as I thought I was getting somewhere it would be time to lope and it would all go to hell. Still with a 6 day a week riding schedule, regular lessons with Sarah and the occasional lesson with Peggy, I’ve really made some progress. My butt no longer slaps the saddle in the lope, something I thought I might never overcome. The biggest difference I’ve noticed in the saddle after my sessions at the Strength Lab is that I don’t have to work near as hard to achieve a balanced, efficient position in the saddle.
I rode Grace when I got home from the cranial sacral session with James. For the most part I didn’t ask anything of Grace, I really just wanted to see what my body would do. As soon as I settled into the saddle I noticed that my legs were in contact with my horse’s side. My feet were pointed forward, just like on the ground I couldn’t quit staring at them. I was in awe of the fact that I didn’t have to force them into this position, it was natural and comfortable. My ankles, knees and hips were all soft and relaxed, ready to absorb shock, just as they were intended to. For the first time ever I was able to utilize the “come along” leg cue that Peggy Cummings taught me. It has been a source of frustration for me for the last 6 months; I had finally decided that it just wasn’t for me or my horse. Even with Peggy standing there I wasn’t able to get my leg to do the subtle cue without becoming tense and losing the softness in my back. Now for the first time I understood exactly what she was talking about when she told me that she should not be able to see the movement in my thigh when I moved them within my jeans for the cue. This time when I gave the cue Grace’s hind end seemed to wake up underneath me as she lengthened her stride behind stepping up into the contact. Gone was the ear pinning and head toss that had been her answer to me every time I had applied the cue in the past. We were getting somewhere.
Grace has been lovely to ride since her appointment with the dentist, but on the ground she has been less than pleasant. She’s been biting at the halter when I bring it towards her face, she bites at the air when I brush her and tack her up. If I didn’t know this mare so well my response would be to immediately discipline her, going after her total lack of respect. But I do know my mare, and when she behaves this badly she is screaming at me that something isn’t right, it’s her way of saying “fix it dammit!” Sarah had mentioned that Grace could use some cranial sacral work the week after her dentist appointment. I had let two weeks slip by and I was pretty sure I was paying for it. I set up a time to have Sarah work on Grace. I couldn’t help but notice that during her session Grace didn’t bite at the air, the halter or at Sarah. Grace can be very untrusting about having work done on her head and face, but she was totally into it, she was more than ready for uncovering this layer of the onion.
Sarah had me get on Grace after the session. When I arrived at the barn Sarah was riding Joe, one of her rehab horses. She was working him at the jog, constantly changing directions. From there she put him into the lope. Joe’s movements became more fluid with each bend. I noticed at the lope that Joe holds the ground longer with his hoofs, the mechanical movements that he arrived with in Sarah's program are now gone. Sarah had me practice the jog exercise on Grace. I was to change directions while really asking her to bend, and keeping her driving up from behind. The exercise had to be fluid and forward, the goal was to not give Grace a chance to stiffen her jaw while changing from one direction to the other. After a few reminders from Sarah about keeping my body soft, holding the ball in my lap and breathing, it started to come together. The softer Grace became in her face, the bigger her movement was behind. When she forgot to stiffen her jaw she also forgot to stiffen her hock. Never one’s to leave well enough alone we moved onto the lope…..