I had two really good rides on Aruba over the weekend. We are getting there and last night’s ride was probably one of the best ones so far. If you look at the pic's in the last post of the sweat on her flanks and further back, that was all she was using of her back end and otherwise 'floating along' not really exerting herself too much. Last night after I dismounted, I looked her over and found those tell tale sweat marks- ALL OVER her nice big, bay butt!
So what was different? Well I was still using my western saddle, the same simple bridle with a French link snaffle and still riding with spurs to remind her not to lean on or ignore my leg... We started off with our softening work, bending and stretching both directions, long and low at the walk, easing into it and not rushing or anticipating. Everything was going well enough or so I thought. The walk felt good and solid, the rhythm steady and consistent.
But even at a walk, Aruba was ducking the corners on the north side, trying to navigate the south east one on her own and when we trotted things weren't a whole lot better. All of my signals had been on the inside- inside rein and inside leg. Inside rein to keep her head bent in the direction of travel and inside leg back under me to move her hip over to the outside. If she started falling into our circles, dropping her shoulders, I moved my inside leg forward by the cinch and might have to spur her one to get her attention and move the shoulders over some, but there were times I would and she would hold it a stride or two and fall apart again.
I brought her back down to the walk, thinking to fix it there, then try it at a trot again. That sorta worked and I was running ideas through my mind on the mechanics, the how and why. I remembered one woman saying something about pointing her belly button where she wanted to go. This keeps your hips straight and your legs may slightly change position. In a turn, the outside leg comes forward a little. We picked up a trot and things were a little better. Less ducking corners, me trying to remember to relax into the seat and lower legs, belly button pointing the way... and it was good for a while.
We came back down to the walk because both of us needed a breather. All of the trotting and posting had me breathing just about as hard as my mare because yes, I am out of shape too. It's cool though, I can admit to that and the riding is doing wonders for both of us. Yay! As we were tootling around the arena, it came to me. I drive my corners rather deep. Straight into them as if we were going to crash into the fence or stop- one or the other. Sometimes I need to push the hip to the inside and straighten her out down the rail. What the heck. I can give it a try and see how it goes, right? If it works? Great! If it doesn't? I gave it a try and will move on to something else, no harm no foul.
When we picked up the trot this time, I squeezed with BOTH legs and felt her gather beneath me. I put my inside leg on her, but this time I also kept the outside leg on her too. I pushed her up into the bridle, she found the contact and BINGO!!! She had some serious TROT! going on out there. She was balanced and posting was pretty easy to do again since her big movement was helping it along. She dropped her head down where it belongs, rounded her back and damn if that wasn't an awesome feeling!
She was still dropping her shoulder in the turns when going to the left and we still have some things to deal with on that side, but for the most part- she was doing great. Both of us were finally "Getting IT!" and it was slowly coming together. I realized that I have two legs and I need to use them equally. I had been letting her go on the outside instead of using my leg to push her forward. Baby steps, small victories and A-HA! moments will eventually get us there. It is a learning process. Problem is, with this mare, I tend to hold my breath or at least just not say anything. When I tried to praise her- she stopped. When she stops, her head comes up, back hollows out and it all falls apart. At the walk she is fine with all of the chatter, the praise, singing and any jabbering I choose to do up there, but at a trot- say anything and she stops.
Although I was hoping to take her to the horsepark to try working her there, it didn't happen. I had to go there anyways to meet a woman and pick up some more Dynamite for Mondo, she was working at the Parelli clinic going on there, so she was in the area and it worked out for both of us. It was a good thing I hadn't taken the horse with me since there was a bunch of cars and not much parking in the arena lot. While I was there, I was also thinking to text Nuzzling Muzzles and see if she had made it since one of the people working with her horses is a Parelli student. Just as I hit 'Send', I looked up and who is standing right in front of me??? Yeah. Crazy how that happens.