In the middle of my lesson today, Barbara stopped me and said I was trying too hard. For so long, she had been telling me to turn my shoulders in around turns. Today she said she could see that I was concentrating (and succeeding) at that but that I neglected to pay attention to what my hips were doing – and it wasn’t pretty. She said that I was dropping one side or the other of my hips and not continuing to push the horse around the turn.
We started at the walk. To fix the problem, she had me push first with my left hip and then my right hip in tune with his stride. As I started into the turn, I was to continue pushing. I had never noticed that I stopped pushing until she told me to concentrate on it. And guess what? My shoulders turned automatically.
She theorized that when I entered a turn, PJ slowed down, so I overreacted to keep him going but in doing so, I collapsed. When I concentrated on keeping my hips moving, he didn’t slow down, so I didn’t have to work so hard and I didn’t collapse. A Catch-22.
At the trot, instead of pushing with one seat bone and then the other, I kept thinking “up” in my post, using my core to keep the tempo. The goal at both the walk and trot wasn’t necessarily speed, but use of his hind legs. I had to keep them moving.
I realized that PJ needed me to tell him how to go. When I consistently pushed him on around the turn, he could rely on me and didn’t change his gait. When I hesitated, he did what he is always inclined to do, which is slow down. Then my trying to get him working again caused me to tighten up, which only served to slow him down more. This is going to be something I’m going to have to concentrate on for a while until it becomes second nature. Add it to the list.