2 weeks ago Grace found her 1st gear. I still seemed to be searching for mine. I found myself kicking her with my legs at the jog in attempt to boot her up to the pace I was accustom to. She wasn’t in a hurry to go anywhere; gone was my tense, sensitive, over reactive horse. After confirming that Grace was not sick, lame or dying I started to wonder what brought on the change. Why did she decide to slow down 10 years into my asking, wanting and nagging? The timing was interesting – 3 weeks after I took my spurs off, 2 weeks after I found my legs. There was one problem; I had no freaking clue how to ride it!
I’ve watched Western Pleasure for years and always assumed that it was easy for the riders. I still believe that those sitting on a dead broke horse that the trainer sits on 90% of the time have it easy, but that is not what I experienced when my own horse slowed down. My body was totally confused – missing was the tension radiating off my horse. I’m not ashamed to admit that more than once I slapped the mare on the hind end with the reins in frustration. The result wasn’t an improvement but at least the hurried pace was familiar. Did I have a 1st gear? Did I want one?
I think I might have found my slower gear tonight. Our first lope transition was really pleasant; Grace stepped into it with no squealing, pinned ears or tail swishing. I didn’t have to readjust my body after the transition; I just sat where I was and added more leg. The gait was an actual lope, not the usual canter in a Western saddle. I was able to engage my abdominal muscles to lighten my seat, not just the muscles beneath my belly button but all of them. I felt the obliques that I worked during side planks today; I’ve never felt them while riding before. I’m not sure that I’m ready to admit that the trainer was right, but it could be that all this time I’ve been pushing the mare with my spurs and seat. It could be that because I was riding off my spurs I couldn’t engage my abs and soften my back. It maybe, just maybe could be that the horse wouldn’t find her slow gear until I found mine.