It was a huge compliment in my lesson last night when my trainer said, "Wait, was that your FIRST trot transition?" I confirmed it was, and she said, "That was incredibly good!"
I wrote earlier this week that I've started really taking responsibility for my own riding, and I've had truly incredible rides on my own, so it was nice to get some actual validation that something was very different in my lesson (FWIW, my first like...20...trot transitions usually suck. So this is a dramatic change.)
A big part of this change is due to a change in my hands and elbows. I have two sources to thank for planting this seed in my head.
The first is Megan's post "Screw Up With Confidence." Specifically, the section about horses that lean. Specifically, these lines:
"If you don't give him something to pull on, he won't pull. But I say fuck you, if you don't give him something to pull on, he won't be on the bit"
So true. With Rico, the leaning went away when we improved his self carriage, and more importantly, when I improved mine. I think that more riders than we think are reliant on their horse's heaviness/leaning for their own balance and that more riders need to work on their own self carriage before insisting the horse carry themselves. Test: ride along and randomly drop the reins, if you even slightly change the way you're sitting, you're using the horse's mouth for balance and the horse will never be in self carriage because you'll prevent it.
I read that, and then I almost immediately started re-reading "When Two Spines Align." She was describing the way the hands must allow the horse's head to travel "forward and down". I should probably get that tattooed on my thumbs so I see it when I look down while riding, as dramatic of an impact as that phrase had.
I was trotting, sitting trot, and "forward and down" scrolled across my brain like a marquee, and I let my hands go forward AND DOWN, and the whole feel through my body changed in an instant. I know that feeling, because that's how my body feels when Connor is going well, but I never thought it was my body that was causing him to "go badly". I never thought I could change something about my hands to get that feeling through my whole body, I thought it was all Connor, and I had to figure out how to manipulate his body to get him to go well. Wrong.
|Thanks as always to Kelly's husband Paul for this picture.|
|Downright shameful, but why do I blog except to think through this stuff and look back at evidence? Connor's leaning, and I don't realize I'm pulling here, but everything about my body says "Don't go forward!"|
Confession time: Even though I really didn't think I was, I've been pulling, holding, and balancing on Connor's mouth this whole time. And he responds by leaning, of course. When I break that cycle, I get trot transitions that make my trainer's jaw hit the floor.
I won't say I've 100% fixed it in the three rides I've had since the "forward and down" moment, but I can notice it and fix it myself. For someone with very little body awareness, being able to feel and fix something like that without being told to by my trainer is 75% of the battle.