Yeah, so this is a bunch of stuff you guys probably learned a long time ago, but bear with me, I get excited easily and I just feel so awesome that my girl and I's bond is flourishing! Flourishing!!
This past week has been eventful. I had prom, an art exhibit premier that one of my works was included in, and Greta and I had a ride that felt the closest to Training Level than I've ever ridden before on her!
Yeah, that was supposed to be a circle....
So, a quick little summary: the last three rides last week (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday) Greta was acting like a little twit going to the right on any circle, no matter how large. She wasn't stiff, she wasn't sore, she was just very looky going to the right and constantly had her eye someplace, completely going out of focus, and just trotting towards whatever it was, and I (quite incorrectly and quite unconsciously) had a very loose outside rein and an inside rein so tight where I was trying to pull her in that my right hand was actually further back than my left. I realized this, and was kicking myself for it. A solution had to be found.
Dusting off ancient books and learning super-cool riding skillz like a scene from the bad spin-off Indiana Jones and the Quest for the Training Pyramid
I went home, dug up my copy of Centered Riding by Sally Swift (The analogies and illustrations make it super easy for a visual learner like myself to understand, and it goes step by step to where it all adds up in the end) and looked through to see if I could figure out what I was doing wrong. What I found, combined with the recent article I put on here by Jennifer and Beth Baumert in Dressage Today, has led to a little crash course in having a far more efficient seat. I think Greta did this on purpose. She was tire of me inadvertently using my hands to steer and less of my seat. Well, so I like to think....
I have heard my instructor drill me about using my seat and legs to support her when she becomes unbalanced and/or wants to go wherever, especially coming down the centerline (oh, the dreaded centerline and halt at X, heck, the halt in general...) but I never really fully grasped the concept. While I am no expert now, I believe I have grasped the concept.
And it's GOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAALLL!
Firstly, I needed to center my seat. I feel quite fortunate to have a non-existent butt and thus little fat to cushion my pelvic bones, which means I can feel my seat bones really well. I noticed as soon as I put even pressure on both seat bones, Greta seemed to come up beneath me and reach for the bit a bit more (no pun intended). Yay, step one down!
Step two: consistent contact with the outside rein, keep it still and don't mess around with it unless the contact becomes loose, and give and release on the inside. I needed to keep my hands evenly apart on either side of her withers. Greta didn't want to comply at first, but after a while she seemed to work her way into taking contact.
And thirdly, using my seat by pretending my abdomen is a flashlight. I needed to point it in the direction I wanted to go but still keep my seat pressure even, even at the posting trot. Along with this, light contact with my legs, which needed to be prepared to "tap" her back into position in conjunction with my seat. It almost seemed like I was dribbling a soccer ball: when she wanted to drift to the left, I lightly pushed her back onto the circle with my left leg and directed my seat left, and if she drifted to the right I corrected her with my right leg, but still kept my seat consistent. I think this crash course will help me indefinitely as far as making good circles and straight lines! Thank you instructor and Sally Swift!!
Greta, could you please direct your attention to the front of the class?
Now, where the Dressage Today article came in was keeping my aids consistent even if Greta became distracted. We may not look perfect, but by keeping my aids consistent I feel like I'm focusing more on the ride instead of whatever is distracting her, and in turn she seems to kind of blow it off because I'm blowing it off. That's not the case every time, but it's been working most of the time.
And the ride Sunday!
Sunday felt like the best ride i have ever had on her. I read and hear that self-carriage feels like just a light weight on the reins, and that's certainly what Greta felt like almost the entire time. My aids stayed consistent, our circles were practically perfect, my hands felt perfect, my seat and legs felt coordinated, she was quite attentive, and we were even able to do a decent (far from perfect, but much better than previous attempts) trot down the centerline, halt, and pick up a trot again. She didn't halt square, but she came to a halt coolly and picked up the trot again without taking off. It was awesome. In fact, they were switching around trailers and bringing in a new horse during most of the ride, did I tell you that?
But of course she does it when there's no video camera or anyone to comfirm her awesomeness. You'll just have to take my word for it this time.
And the super cute picture of her peeking into the tack room...
YAY! The end.