1. Grace’s reaction to pressure is to suck back and slow down. She does this when I ask her to move her hip, her shoulder or her ribcage; she does it in upward transitions. If I don’t correct it she drops her back and dumps her shoulder making the upward transition or lateral movement just downright ugly. I’ve spent entire rides in the last week just working to keep her at one steady pace no matter what I was asking of her. I’d like to tell you she is a lazy horse and is doing it to get out of work, but I can’t help but look at the fact that for years anytime I was under pressure in the saddle I froze, locked my body down and didn’t move. Kind of like a human form of sucking back. Coincidence? – I think not. The good news is that it has only taken a few rides to reprogram the two of us. The right shoulder and left hock issues seem to resolve on their own. It is amazing how nice she moves when I keep my body moving.
2. Grace has never been taught to just sit and chill. I really want to compete in trail class with this horse, but I get frustrated when she lifts her head, drops her back and takes over on course. We started to get it at the practice show so I wanted to build on that. When it was time to give her a breather tonight I parked her in between some poles to get ready to side pass them. I asked her just to sit there for a minute or two. You would have thought the world had ended. She lifted her head, I asked her to put it down, she lifted her head, I asked her to put it down, repeat. She pawed at the pole, I asked her to stand. She spooked at something in the woods, I asked her to stand with her head down. She tuned into the horses next door, I asked her to stand with her head down. ONLY when she stood still and relaxed did I even think of side passing the pole. Even then it was a step at a time, correct her head, ask her to stand and continue again. After 10 minutes we went back to work in another part of the arena and started the process all over again when it was time for a breather. It did get easier with time and she started to become a horse I would like to sit on at a show. Guess what we will be doing for the next few weeks?
3. Everything I do in the saddle affects the movement of my horse. If there was one thing that I took away from our Yoga for Equestrians classes it was using the placement of my belly to establish my center of gravity. When we were learning a new movement we were told to put our bellies in the space first and out bodies would follow. I started playing with this under saddle. These are small movements, almost more of an awareness of where my center is and I am just amazed by how little control I had of it. Turns out most of the time my belly is trying to throw itself at my horse’s ears. This throws all of my weight onto her front end; no wonder I couldn’t get her to free up her right shoulder. I have again spent entire rides in the last week focused on my belly. I visualized it sitting on my horse’s hocks. Big surprise my lower back softens when I do that and my horse starts to sit on her hind end. I can side pass and half pass my horse with ease when I think of leading the movement with my belly.
As much as I appreciate the discovery process and amazing journey I’ve taken with Grace, I really look forward to the day that it all comes together and I have something to show for it. Here’s hoping that it comes sooner than later.