and yes, I'm making you all wait for the clinic recap. I'll have it up soon I promise.
She was really amazing and wonderful and all of the unicorn things that she's capable of during this lesson. I think that both L and I had started to worry a little after how much she struggled at my last lesson even though we knew that she'd had a month off and just needed a little time.
On Sunday though she brought her pony game face (which was good because in my sick condition I certainly didn't). I think I'm also starting to figure some stuff out about my body and how to use it properly which is always helpful. I've always felt like there are really two main groups of riders, those that subtract energy from horses and those that add energy. I never would have said that I'm the type of person to really light up a horse and make them hot but in thinking back on the horses that I've ridden and the lessons I've taken I think I'd have to add myself to that category.
Don't get me wrong, Katai is already hot enough without me adding anything but I started to realize this when L climbed on and rode her and she was immediately quieter. This especially surprised me since in my experience instructors tend to make horses hotter since they're just asking for more. This really made me think that it was something about me.
Then I got the other piece of the puzzle when I was noticing, and hearing from other people at the barn, how Katai reacts to other people. With me she's nice and calm and hen I go into her stall she'll come right up to me. If I'm in there with her for long grooming her or something she'll fall asleep. With other people she's hot, can be reactive, and gets a little nervous. Also, on the lunge she's always really quiet. I can get her to go from a canter to a walk just by slightly turning my body and I have to really ask to get her to go faster most of the time. That told me that it was something that I was specifically doing with my position and not my energy.
I've been trying to figure it out and I think I've finally got it. I'm aware that when you post it needs to come from the upper part of your leg and that you basically use your thigh and knee as a lever to lift yourself out of the saddle with the horse's help. Heck, I used to post bareback all the time when I was growing up so it's something I'm really comfortable with. However, I figured out that this is not what I've been doing with Katai, I've found that I was really using my stirrups and basically standing up from there. I'm sure that this has translated into more squeezing and tension. I think I've figured out that I started doing this because of where her smaller frame puts my leg. With a full sized horse you have relatively more horizontal surface area, more of a table top if you will, that makes this a little easier. On Katai with her smaller barrel my leg hangs straighter down from my hip so I've got less back under my upper leg. I think that this led to posting from my feet rather than from my thighs.
As soon as I remember this now and do it correctly she instantly slows and relaxes and listens better. Now I just have to make it a habit!
On Sunday I was really making myself stick to this so I was getting a slower and more reasonable trot. Of course it helped that with my cold I felt like a floppy bag of potatoes -said no dressage rider ever.
I also had much better control of her shoulders and much more flexibility through her body even to start off.
L had me warm her up and then after a walk break we started doing shallow serpentines into canter. L want's me to do this because as soon as Katai starts thinking canter she gets extremely stiff through her body. The goal with this is to really bend her in both directions and then as soon as we hit the wall to ask for the canter so that she's already looser through her body.
L also diagnosed that when I'm doing 10 meter circles to supple her she's stiffening and diving for the wall when we're just past the half way point. As soon as she said that I was able to appropriately ride her at the same bend through the circle and had a much more supple pony.
Then, seriously this pony is too smart, after we had done two of this exercise to the left and taken a walk break we went to do it to the right and as soon as I started the shallow serpentine Katai cantered. Yep, after doing the exercise twice in her life and changing directions she still knew what we were doing. I'm going to have to really up my confusion game!
In that light we went back to trot and did another shallow serpentine only we turned the middle loop into a 10 meter circle. Pony's mind was blown. Finally we did one more serpentine at just a trot and then did one into the canter.
L gave me a couple more ideas of exercises to work on and then let us call it quits a little early. She said it was because we're still bringing Katai back after her break but I think she was just tired of listening to my coughing ;-)
Finally, I'll leave you with a sneak peek from the clinic!