. . . rather than riding to not fall off.
This is a very important distinction for a rider to make, especially one who is attempting to get back what she had when she was younger. I used to ride better bareback then most people ride with a saddle. I could hang off the side of my horse. I could mount behind another rider at a gallop. I could stand up and step from one horse's back to another while moving. There was nothing I could think to do on the back of a horse that I didn't do when I was younger.
It's like a line from the Steven King book, It: You can't be careful on a skateboard. You can't be careful on a horse, you have to relax and let things happen. Who would have thought I would be such a control freak at this point in my life.
I recognized last night that I am very tense and anticipatory when I am riding. I need to relax my legs, hips and butt and let my body remember riding. You can't simultaniously relax and tense against anticipated behavior. I can't relax and enjoy the canter, while tensing every muscle to try and stay on. At the very least, I am overcueing my horse. At the most, I am overcueing my horse and tensed against the motion, which means I am fighting what we are trying to do.
I think this is what my sister was trying to tell me several weeks ago. I need to trust.
Driving home last night, I was talking with J and realized that I need to trust myself, my poor beaten up body, and my innate ability to stay on anything that has four feet. I need to trust that I can ride without holding on, that I can come off the horse without hurting myself, that I can relax and begin to trust that Ashke is enjoying our time together and that he really wants to please me. He has completely relaxed when I am grooming him and seems to enjoy the feel of the brush over his skin. He is still blowing up a bit and I plan on getting the saddle adjusted next week when I have time off. I think it is too wide at the withers and I am having to cinch it really tight to keep it on, even with the new pad (which is awesome, by the way). I think with that adjustment the saddle should be much easier on his back, since it will stay positioned over his withers, instead of moving down his back.
We rode in the indoor arena last night. I was real hesitant to ask him to canter, since there are spots in the arena where the ground is really wet and slick. (Leaking sprinkler heads that need to be replaced). One of the kids doing a lesson last night had her horse slip and go down with her onto his side. She was fine, the horse was fine and the horse decided that while he was on the ground he would try to roll the saddle off. Scarey, but comical. Based on that event, Ashke and I played it safe and mostly trotted. I lunged him first for about fifteen minutes at the trot and canter, then we moved inside and I worked him at the walk and trot. We got to work with the kids doing the lesson, which he seems to really enjoy. He likes being in the arena with the other horses and there was only one time when he got his nose up and tried to take off with me. Otherwise, he did great.
After that ride, our cooling off period and putting him away, I was trying to put together why I was so tense with him. Since I started lunging him, Ashke hasn't tried to buck or throw me. He is williing to listen to what I am asking of him and is learning the verbal commands that I am using. He is still a bit tense and spooky, but not nearly as bad as he was when he first started. I don't believe there is a mean bone in his body. I have to start recognizing that he wants to please me, seems to enjoy the exercise, and is trying to create from his side of things the type of relationship I am working toward.
Ashke seems to have the type of personality where he wants to try new stuff, to learn new things, and doesn't seem to be real excited about doing the same thing over and over. Although, I have to say, having a plan has helped me evalute his progression, has provided consistency in expectations, and given him a great foundation to help him learn from.
Last night, we were all taking a break and he just stood there with the other horses. He's getting it. He snorts and drops his head when I pat his neck and tell him what a good job he is doing. He turns his head to me after working around the rail in the round pen and I've asked him to stop. He has stopped nipping. He isn't scared or timid or hesitant. He whinnies whenever he hears my footsteps in the barn. He likes people. He is getting enough to eat. His body is getting stronger and more able to move on a daily basis. He has the softest eye in a horse that I have ever seen.
Look of Eagles, I swear.