I drive about twenty-five minutes from home to work and then back again every day. Most days I use a hands-free device on my phone and spend that time talking with my mom. However, mom is in town because we are going to the AFC Championship game this weekend and so instead of talking to her last night, I called N. That conversation illuminated some riding stuff I hadn't consciously recognized.
Here it is, since N thought it was significant.
Riding English and specifically dressage is very different from the riding I did as a kid. One, I am riding in a saddle vs riding bareback. Two, I had no idea what a frame was or why you would want to ride in it when I was younger. Three, the riding styles are very different. As a kid, my priority was to be able to stay on, steer my horse and go at whatever gait I required. Now I am focused on creating a relationship and conversation with Ashke that goes beyond pointing him in the direction I want him to go.
So, to the epiphany. Or what N referred to as a breakthrough moment.
On Wednesday night, when cuing the canter, I really focused on keeping my back straight and not leaning forward. I recognized while talking to N, how important it was that I maintain my posture and keep my weight steady and balanced in the saddle, because otherwise I am sending conflicting messages to my horse.
What I have been doing is leaning forward, dropping all contact with his mouth and asking him to canter, then throwing my weight back and jerking on his mouth as I pick contact up again, fighting with him to move at a canter rather than a gallop. This has been our pattern on the trail, when he's galloped and it causes him to throw his head up and fight against the pressure. It's been my pattern of riding in the arena. It's a horrible behavior of mine that has caused him to be worse. He can't be happy with me, since I am the one that is simultaneously asking him to move faster and to stop at the same time. It explains why he is so hesitant in the arena when I am asking for the canter, because he is anticipating that I will also jerk on his mouth and ask him to stop.
Poor baby. Stupid human.
On Wednesday, I was able to maintain contact, thus alleviating the jerk on his mouth, I was able to encourage him verbally and with my leg, while asking him to bring his head down in the same way I ask at the walk and trot, thus I was able to be consistent in my ask. Additionally, I kept my weight in the same position on his back, keeping my arms and hands in the same position, helped him be balanced in the canter. When he got ragged to the right, I was able to continue asking him to give to the inside rein and lift him with my inside heel and he lifted himself into the canter. Finally, keeping my back straight and not shifting forward allowed me to relax for the first time, moving with him instead of bracing against my back pain. . . . . and IT DIDN'T HURT!!
I could feel both of us relax at the same time at the lack of pain on my part. Between the BOT back brace and my improved core strength, I was able to let go of my internal tension at the expected pain. (I hate that I do that. The pain should be nothing. But I still do.) We finally moved in unison, without fear, without pain, at a sweet canter.
Still have stuff to work on, but I think we found our key on Wednesday night. I will see if we still have it tonight when I go to ride. J and Mom will both be there, so I am hoping for both pics and video.