Years ago Sarah told me that Grace’s left hind lameness was a result of me riding off balance and crooked. I didn’t want to hear it at the time and I had no problem building a camp of people around me that disagreed with Sarah’s assessment. While I still hold to the belief that Grace was injured before I knew her, I know have no choice but to admit that my posture in the saddle absolutely contributes to my horse’s level of soundness. This was more than apparent at this week’s lesson.
I didn’t even know if I would get to ride during the lesson. When I rode Grace at the neighbor’s arena on Thursday night she was visibly off on the left hind. I made arrangements to haul to Sarah’s before the lesson on Saturday so she could check it out. My hope was that the hock was just “out” as the lameness looked similar to the last time she tweaked it. Sarah assured me that this was most likely the case. It turned out that Grace’s hips and her left hock were out. When it came time to ride I could immediately feel and hear the improvement. The left hind toe drag that had returned in the last week was gone. Onto our lesson Sarah had me start with the exercise that we had ended with previously, stopping on contact with a loose rein, backing up, sitting for a moment on contact and then walking forward. Sarah reminded me to prepare my body before walking off; fill my back, breath, engage my core and lift my sternum. Each time I took those steps prior to walking off my horse took her first step from behind. Each time I skipped those steps my horse stepped off in the front and carried herself on her front end. The position I was after reminded me of when Cherie over at Go Lightly called “keeping the water in your bucket” when describing the Mary Wanless clinic.
Onto the jog and of course I had to start all over again. It didn’t take long before I was out of balance and riding off my hands. Sarah finally got on my case and grabbed my arm so I could feel the difference between a light contact and being pulled on. I let her know that I go to my hand when it feels like Grace is running from my leg. Sarah reminded me to find it in my body again, slow Grace with my body and not my hand. The next time I felt her begin to rush I thought of that bucket of water, Grace slowed down. During the lesson we worked on straight. Going to the right Grace tends to lean out her left shoulder. Sarah had me correct her with the left rein and when I felt the need to add right rein I was to add right leg instead. An amazing thing happened; Grace went straight, slowed down and engaged her hind end. Throughout the ride I was able to string more and more strides together. As amazed as I was by the improvement I was equally frustrated. My horse IS sound, when I ride her sound; actually my horse is quite lovely when I get myself together. Once again I have some work to do.