Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider

Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider
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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Centered Riding Update Clinic Day 2

Can you believe that it is the middle of June already? Summer is here now, as it is sunny 70 in CO at my clinic. I had my trailer windows open as I made supper, and even now as I’m enjoying a cup of coffee while I blog. Shaggy is eating some hay, and I will go check him and clean his stall in a little bit, but first I want to share about my day.

I am having such a good time here. Relaxed. No pressure to meet any guidelines or to pass any level. This is a time to learn more, apply what we are learning and go home with more “tools in the toolbox.” We are learning a few more Centered Riding techniques and exercises. We are applying what we are learning in 2 ways. First we teach a 45 minute class to 1 or 2 students, instructing them with any Centered Riding basic and exercises that we think will help the students that we have. Then after the teaching sessions, we ride. Today was an 1 ½ hour instruction by Susan, a Level 4 Centered Riding instructor.

I asked Susan how she knows something is enough when she does body work or is having the rider do something. She said to me that just her years of experience have given her a precision of knowing what to do and when. And it shows. She can see what is happening with a horse or with the rider, and she knows exactly what to say to the rider to see an improvement in the rider/horse relationship.

I am so glad that I came with Shaggy. He is being excellent! I can tell that we are improving in our relationship. He is starting to feel my body movements and to know what they mean. As I do the “Following Seat“, he moves in a deeper stride. If I half halt, he hesitates. We half halted to the stop and he began to stop. He is moving off my legs, without spurs which I have never used with him, and he is staying straighter down the long side of the arena.

Shaggy has definitely deepened his stride with 4 exercises that helped to get the horse’s back up. First, using the “Following Seat” and other exercises, his legs reach under him as I follow his movement with my hips, allowing him to be freer through his shoulders and his body. He is staying light and lifting his shoulders. This is happening because I am riding with my center and moving my hips freely as he moves.

Second, in the “Posting Trot“, we use our outside leg back and deepen our heel at the down movement of the trot, which is when we sit the trot. We move into the “3 Seats at the Trot”. We post 6 strides, 2-point 6 strides and sit 6 strides, then repeat the sequence. When we 2 point, we do the “Dancing Knees” exercise, allowing the hip, knee and ankle joints to relax and feel the movement of the trot. When we sit, we sit with control. We sit lightly into the saddle by first starting to sit, then opening up our knee which takes our knee off the horses and then sit. By doing the sit part of the 3 Seats at the Trot lightly, we are able to sit the trot without hurting the horse’s back with bouncing.

Lastly, we did Half Halts at the walk to stop the horse. We think about our Center and having our center deep. Then we grow with the horse, but we don’t think about growing up. Think about growing down, like the roots of a tree. Another way to Half Halt to the stop is to bring our center down, then think of letting go of a balloon from our head. Don’t allow the body to straighten too much, just think lightness. We finished the exercises by asking for a stop at the trot by using the Half Halt.

I was almost ready to lope Shaggy as his movements were beautiful. He was giving to the bit. At the end of our lesson time, I could tell that he was tired though. He did want to grab at the bit. I asked him to continue to stay straighter going down the rail and moved his ribcage back over to the rail when he wanted to come off the rail. I wanted to end on a good note, and I didn’t want to move him into the canter, which seemed like it would have been effortless, if I didn’t have time to correct anything that went wrong.

I did turn Shaggy out in the outdoor arena while the next group had their lesson. I brought him in at the end of the day for some hay and water. I saddled him, put him into a D ring snaffle instead of the short shank, broken mouthpiece, (which has a covered hinge), that I had been riding in. I knew tomorrow it was time to take my Centered Riding exercises and apply them to the lope. What better way to improve his lope than when I am being instructed by a very knowledgeable Centered Riding instructor.

I warmed Shaggy up with some walking, using the Following Seat. I trotted him, both while posting and while 2 pointing. I practiced the half halt stops at both the walk and trot. When I felt that he was relaxed, and half halted him, I asked for the lope with my center. I maintained light contact on his mouth, mainly for speed control at first. But I left go of contact as I wanted Shaggy to know that it was ok to lope freely with a rider. Using half of the arena, after 2 or 3 circles, he settled down into a nice lope speed. I stopped, reversed, and went to the right, which is harder for him to stay in the lope. This was also the direction that he would come off the rail at the trot. I asked for the lope and I left him go faster. At home, I had trouble keeping him in the lope, so I wanted him to lope at the speed that he is comfortable. I stopped him, then went right into a free moving walk, using the Following Seat. This way, he knew that loping could end and be relaxing!

I know at times I hold too lightly on the reins for contact. I have control, but I need to tell my horses to move back into straightness sooner and with more exact pressure when they don’t stay straight. That is what I am taking away from today’s lesson.

The lesson felt good. After an in depth lesson like this, I have never re-saddled my horse to ride again. Today, I couldn’t wait to get back on Shaggy and practice a little. I want to prepare both him and myself for tomorrow. We both can be relaxed going into the lope transitions.

What a journey this is starting to be. As I have started this journey a year ago, it is still new and fresh for me. Now I am starting a fairly young horse and teaching him correctness and straightness. Shaggy and I are both starting together at the same level.

I will “Embrace the Journey!” with him.

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