Mugwump asked for the list of check ins that Peggy gave me during our lesson. I find them hard to describe because like most things in riding it involves more feel than anything. I have found that the best way for me to retain something is to describe it so I will give this a shot. The first thing I check when I get in the saddle is can I jiggle my thigh bones. It is a small movement, not something you would see from across the arena, it comes easy when my back is soft and my body is unlocked. My horse responds to the thigh jiggle by waking up her hind legs. She doesn’t get faster or quick, she just steps up underneath herself. If I increase the rhythm of movement in my thigh bones when asking for a jog transition my horse steps right into the jog from behind every single time. I could spend hours working on her jog transition with my back locked and never accomplish what I have in the last two ride just my jiggling my thighs.
Peggy taught me a new check in with my reins. I rode one handed during our lesson with the reins in my right hand. She had me hold my left hand on the reins a few inches below my right hand and then slide my left hand down towards the saddle horn pulling the rein length between them taught like a bow. The left hand didn’t put any pressure on my horse’s mouth; the pressure was between the two hands. Peggy reminded me to keep my left wrist straight. This strange exercise put that hinge in the front of my ribcage without me thinking about it. My back immediately filled and softened. Each time my horse would respond to the change in my body by lifting her back and lowering her head. I’ve used it in our last two rides to ‘reset’ any time I felt tension creeping back in. I’m now finding that just thinking about that hand position creates the body posture I’ve been working way too hard to find.
I think that is a big key here, when I am in the correct position everything is easier. My legs naturally lay on my horse’s side, my calves and ankles are on my horse without being forced to stay there. I don’t rely on my spurs near as much because my leg is actually effective. I find that my seat position is closer to the saddle horn, I find myself shifiting it up in to that position a few times during the ride. It just feels better there, for once I have the full use of my body and can move freely in the saddle. I’m willing to bet that my body is in the same spot in the saddle, but my pelvis is no longer out behind me. I had a moment in the lope today where I almost felt like I was riding my horse’s shoulder, but I also noticed that I could stay with the horse with every stride. I was sitting on the crest of the wave as opposed to staying behind it with no chance of catching up.
I hope some of that made sense to more than just me. What I know for sure is that my last two rides have felt amazing and my horse has a hind end like I have never felt before. There are times where it looks downright goofy as my goal this week is to establish my seat so I am for the most part leaving the mare alone. I can get past that since I ride alone and no one is watching. At this point I would stand on my head, chew gum and pat my belly if I knew it would allow my horse to feel that good under saddle.