I had sent out the pictures of me riding Aruba a few weeks ago to a few people, whose opinions I respect. Although in a few of them she is not looking her best and some of them I'm not either... at least there are pictures of us working on it.
Of the pictures I sent out there were a few that were fairly decent, a few she looked like she was moving downhill, some that were a touch blurry and some that were just 'ok'. One thing I did notice in them was that of the things I worried about, what I felt going on being up there and in the moment- were not happening like I thought.
Sure my leg needed to come back under me some, but my heels were down and lower leg looking secure. My hands were low and I was not asking for a bend to the inside and refusing to give with the outside (one problem I know I have) and although it felt like I was posting a mile out of the seat at times- it didn't look like it. I was also looking UP! As in watching where I wanted to go, not looking to see if my horse was still under me, which is another big problem I have....
So with all of this out of the way as far as thinking about it, worrying over it or whateverthefluck I do that distracts me in riding, I could move on and focus on other things. Like her rhythm, balance, bending, softness, rating and contact.... One thing I noticed in riding her with the western tack was that when I posted, I did not rely so much on my stirrups. Mainly because they are still a hole (or two) too long. Which allowed me to sink into my lower leg and heel, posting off of my knees, while relaxed and letting her motion carry me.
When I switched to my dressage saddle, although I ride with my stirrups where they belong or one hole longer, it felt like I couldn't get my legs back and under me the same way as before. One of my friends I had sent the pictures to, had commented on trying a few things to change how the mare was working. I had sent some pictures of her working in western tack and said I would be switching back for me to fix me and in turn, also fix the horse.
I'm guessing the idea of turning Aruba into a western horse to be doing the crab walk, slog and four beating trope sprung to mind for her because I was told she would hate to see the mares suspension and lovely movement wasted in that respect, but this was the dressage rider coming out in her. Rest assured- Not on my watch. That is about as miserable to ride as it is for me to watch. Why would I want to do that???
Saturday night as I tacked up, I switched to the western gear. I assured my friend that all of the work would be the same, it's just different tack and different clothes. Besides, with the western saddle I would be using boots instead of polos and the foxtails wouldn't be working their way through the wraps poking her in the legs and irritating her while we worked.
Instead what I got out of our ride, was a noodly horse that drifted and was trying to do her own thing on her own terms. Going to the left, I would tug the left rein and signal her to start turning. What I got was her head turned to the left but we started drifting off to the right. If I put my left leg back to push her hip over to complete the turn, she drifted further, faster. I put my right leg on her with the spur and shut off that exit route. No more evading that way, although she tried it a few more times to see if she could.
She also was anything but consistent. She would quit on me or try to, speed up and act as if she should be racing as a trotter at Yonkers and just about everything in between. The rhythm, consistency, contact and softness were just not there. At a walk things went well, but move up to a jog or trot and it fell apart fast enough. We needed to stop and start everything over again. Refocus, recenter, rebalance and redirect the energy, but our daylight was fading and her attention span was going with it... It would have to wait until the next day, so I found a good place to stop and we quit there.