I have a new riding plan. It’s unorthodox, but it’s working.
I’ve watched lots of dressage videos, imprinting my memory, to emulate the good riding later. Sort of a visual aid to my brain: see this footage? Do that, K?
I know this works for many riders.
Frustrating. It doesn’t work for me. I went back to concepts that I understand in my body.
- Whatever I am physically holding, the horse can’t use.
- Look for the places I brace my body. Those will be the areas the horse can’t relax in, since I’m bracing against him.
it’s not always bad. Quiet holding with my body can be a powerful tool to keep a line straight or block a ribcage from drifting. The concept also helps me stop unconscious holding: letting the horse have room to move forward within the outline, and not stop impulsion.
Oy. Is there anywhere I don’t brace, at some point? (Gumby bracing. Bend one part and another part stiffens!) I discovered I brace my wrists (?!?!?), creating a counter brace in Hudson, making it very difficult for him to be soft. He can be super light, but not soft. How do you soften wrists? I’m still working on that one.
During the last few weeks, I’ve watched the video of Kathy cutting steers on Rhodie many times. She has something I want, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. Stillness? Quiet? Relaxation? Yes, but the way she is doing it is different from what I do.
The next time I got on Hudson, I went through my checklist (it’s Hudson, there’s a little give and take):
Jane: Hmmm….what am I holding? [mentally going through body parts]
Hudson: Jane? I believe you are holding the reins. Feel free to drop them.
He’s a humorous guy.
Jane: tension in body…where am I bracing myself? Good grief. Who braces their ankles?!? I will my ankles to stop “bracing” against the stirrups.
Hudson: Don’t care if you brace. Hellloooo, I’ll just brace back. Win-win. Can we GO already?
I picture Kathy on Rhodie: that quality of internal and external stillness you need when approaching high flight animals. Why not try?
Jane: Still. Completly relaxed. I am one with my horse…I am one with the herd. Ohm.
Hudson: CATTLE?!? WHERE???? I’m on it. Point me.
His head flew into the air, his ears swiveled wildly, and he became absolutely and totally silent. He saw the cows in my head, he knew. My body was saying “get ready for cows”, and he was ready.
His reaction was the best possible positive feedback. I did it. I’m quiet enough for cows!
I warmed us up on the access road as if we were moving through a large herd of invisible steers. He’d begin to amp up (seeing my imaginary cows) and I’d say, with my body “Shhh…don’t scare the cows.” He was instantly quiet. Our connection was electric, solid. For the first time, in his mind, we were partners. I finally hit teammate status with Hudson!
The change is profound.
In order to broadcast “safe”, I have to stay emotionally and physically contained
in a way that is new for me on the back of a horse. It’s impossible to broadcast “unthreatening” if I’m not self-contained, relaxed, focused, and quiet.
When we went into other gaits, I imagined going through a herd of steers at the trot or canter. Whole new experience. I am GLUED like a pivot to the saddle: a very relaxed pivot. It’s not perfect, but it’s a great start. Finally, I can feel the dressage axiom that was too abstract for me to integrate: my seat belongs to the horse.
This is why I appreciate good horsemanship wherever it shows up. Apparently I’m too concrete of a thinker to apply spoken dressage axioms.
But watching a good cutting team, I suddenly could visualize it in a way that made sense to me.
Give me an imaginary herd of steers, and I get it. I GET IT! Whahooooooo!!!
(Shhhh…don’t scare the cattle…)
If you try invisible cattle, let me know if it worked for you or not, and how you felt it went!
What unorthodox things have you done to “get” things in your disciplines?