I had a weird thing happen tonight while riding Ava. Let me back up… at the Goodrich clinic, Pam kept yelling at me for leaning left over Ava’s left shoulder, so I was concentrating on keeping my shoulders parallel with Ava’s shoulders. I couldn’t figure out why I was having an issue with that. I mean, it’s stupid. I don’t even realize I’m doing it. Which frustrates me, because how can you fix what you can’t feel?!?
Anyway, I’m concentrating very hard on keeping my shoulders directly over Ava’s, I’m concentrating on her right ear like Pam told me, and I’m checking that my seat bones are even and stirrups are evenly weighted…. all while Ava’s got her head and neck canted so far to the left that she looks like a U from the top. So I boot her with my right leg to get her ribs under me. Ava gives me the ear flip (that’s the equine version of the finger), and I bop her again with my heel on the right side. At that point Ava responds and suddenly I actually feel her stand up straight. Why could I not feel that before?!
Apparently my left lean is a combination of counter balancing Ava’s weird contortion act that she’s got going on and an attempt to force her to turn left when she won’t turn (which she can’t because she’s all contorted).
Did I mention I ride mostly by hoping and praying something works?
We did some trot work in a longer frame to start with and every time I felt her bulge against my right leg I bopped her. While we were doing that, the whole part were Pam was talking about with me leaning and Ava not straight, etc, etc, really became much clearer. Ava is unloading her left hind at all times to some degree, but it took Ava being REALLY badly crooked before it was bad enough I could figure out how to fix it.
The point being… sometimes things just have to get to the point where the problem is so freaking obvious (if you’re obtuse like me) that the fix becomes a no brainer.
After I fixed it, I could steer Ava from my hips again. She was under me and a heck of a lot straighter. I’d say I wasn’t leaning, but I can’t tell when I’m doing it so I have no idea if that’s a lie or not. All I know is that I felt connected to Ava’s shoulders again and I know I lose that feeling when I’m leaning.
Once that was sorted we worked on shoulder-in and haunches in — with power. Every time she slowed down I would circle her and ask for more forward during the circle and then power on through into the haunches-in. The first few times weren’t all that good, but Ava figured it out pretty fast and the last attempt each direction went great. We still have a ton of work to do with that, but mainly I’m using as a strength building exercise until she gets strong enough to hold a big forward trot all the way down the long side (it’s a very short arena so not that far to go). My ab’s were really hurting from trying to sit the bigger trot. That’s hard work!
We ended with some really nice, lofty trot that was very forward. I still had good half-halt responses from Ava so I felt like the big trot was very balanced and engaged. Ironically, Ava seemed to really enjoy herself once she realized I wasn’t going to slow her down, or clamp my thighs on. Now I have to get in better shape so I can actually sit that bigger trot without losing my balance.