On Sunday, I thought I had a really good ride, but I was by myself, so I wasn’t sure. He felt forward and pushing and when I half-halted, it looked like he sat in the mirror. My position also felt stronger and straighter. I was thinking that the saddle adjustments made a difference. However, I don’t have the greatest feel, so I didn’t trust my own opinion on the matter.
Well, today I had a lesson. PJ wasn’t quite as good as he was Sunday to start but he got better. To confirm that what I was feeling I called out to Barbara “This feels like a good trot to me.” She agreed and I tried to file the feeling for when I am alone again. Then at the end of the lesson I asked about my straightness. She said she could see a big difference – I definitely wasn’t twisting so much. Awesome.
Every time someone (usually Barbara in a lesson) watches me I try to file away the feedback and capture what I am feeling at the time of her/his comment. “He needs to go more forward.” “You’re twisting to the right.” “He dropped his outside shoulder.” With every lesson I get a little closer to feeling what I’m being told. And while I do relish lessons, once I think I have linked a feeling with an action, I need to practice on my own to solidify that I’ve got it, but then I need another lesson to confirm that I got it.
To say it another way: Step 1) Get told Feeling X (me) = Movement A (horse); Step 2) Work on my own to recognize Feeling X to change/achieve Movement A; Step 3) Have someone watch to confirm that I really do feel X and can change/achieve A.
From what I’ve read, that cycle of learning is not unique to riding. I know from experience that it applies to golf and learning to swing a club correctly. And it’s also not unique to beginners. That’s why even Olympic riders have coaches and ride under the eye of someone else. We get so used to doing things a certain way that we don’t feel when something may be a bit off (especially if we only ride one horse). That’s what our eyes on the ground are for, whether they are our trainers, riding buddies, or even nonriding friends who may not be able to tell the horse dropped his shoulder but can easily see that you’re dropping yours. They all help to confirm what we are doing right and tell us when something needs adjustment. Or in other words: it takes a village to create a true equestrian.