It's All in How You Sit
Of course I knew my position on the horse made a difference, but I had no idea how much.
Patrice Edwards is a master of explaining and teaching just how important my body is to my horse's performance. A simple shift of weight to the wrong seatbone, or a slight falling backwards of my pelvis can make all the difference in the world to Tucker's way of going.
The neat thing is that he is tremendously responsive to whatever I do.
Or, that's the problem.
All the little erratic steps he takes as we progress in our training could well be related to my position more than anything. Fortunately the adjustments I have to make are fairly minor at this point.
As I looked at myself in the mirror, I was sitting very straight at last. So now I need to concentrate on keeping my leg where it belongs, not letting my left hand drop, keeping my pelvis forward, and using my seatbones correctly with even weight that adjusts on the turns.
We did several leg yield exercises to get Tucker to step under with his hind end, and I began to get the real feel for when he was actually stepping forward with his outside shoulder instead of just laterally. The idea is to feel the hind end step out to the shoulder, something I think about in other exercises but have not in the leg yield.
Then too we worked a bit on shoulder-in and I, as usual, had to remember the outside rein.
We did spiral in at the trot until Tucker found his bend and began to carry himself a little before spiraling back out. I was also reminded then of the value of shoulder in to get him to engage instead of escaping through the outside shoulder on a circle.
At the canter, we did some more canter plies and I firmed up the exercise in my mind a body a little. Again, I have to remember both the outside seatbone and the outside rein support to make the exercise work to engage his hind end.
Patrice also had me "carry my own hands" by having me lift them until I felt no "drag" from Tucker's mouth. This way I don't put the pressure on his bars and he is obligated to carry himself more.
It's going to take some practice before all of this gels in my mind and body, but if Tucker keeps on telling me when it's right as he did today, it will not be too challenging.
He was again a lovely boy, working very hard and being amazingly responsive. His biggest fault, if you can call it a fault, is overdoing when I ask for something. Once he understands the basics of an exercise he is so quick to offer the movement that I have to actually control it so he doesn't go too far. For instance, a leg yield can become a full side pass in an instant and the shoulder-in a half-pass.
I am much used to that, actually since all my horses have been Thoroughbreds. I love the breed just because of their quick intelligence, but sometimes their anticipation of an exercise can be tricky to deal with. In a dressage test, it can cause problems when they try to trot or canter before a marker because they know it's coming. It can also be a boon, when, for instance, you ride a dramatic extended canter along the long side and then come back to lovely collection in a breath at the correct marker.
I will work on digesting today's lesson. Acutally I have little choice. The temperature is dropping to well below freezing for the next two days as another Arctic blast drives its way through New Jersey. No doubt my ring will be frozen solid, so I won't be riding.
Darn. Guess I will have to report on the State testing at school instead. Sorry.