~ By Courtney Crane • Blog #2
We have had a lot of rain in Florida this past week. Being a native Californian, it’s kind of fun being in thunderstorms and experiencing varying weather. The wet ground meant we had to come up with creative ideas to continue progressing while we wait for the ground to dry out.
There are some flooded areas which we have been riding through. Walking and trotting through deep water is a fun way to help our horses gain confidence.
Linda filmed a “Member Minute” on it. If you haven’t seen it yet, go check it out! We have also been riding out on the roads. It’s so easy to stay in the arena or get used to riding in the same place every day, so this has been another good opportunity for us to expose our horses to different scenarios such as scary mailboxes, gardeners with leaf blowers, and horse-eating electric gates. 😉
We mainly walk when we ride out so it is a perfect time to work on rider position and boy, do I have a lot to work on! I’ve known for some time that I’m a bit crooked in my position, but Linda helped me realize that I need to ride with more structure. I’m too relaxed and tend to flop from side to side a bit and don’t keep my legs quiet.
I’m so lucky to ride with Linda every day and have her remind me to keep my ‘dots’ together, rise up through the back of my neck to the crown of my head, elbows down, relaxed forearms, belt buckle back, steady lower leg, heels out, etc. We joked the other day that I just need to record her saying everything and play it on repeat as I ride. This might sound like a lot, but I love the constant reminders of how to be a more polished and effective rider – that feels good to my horse!
I’ve always wanted to look good when I ride and this has been a driving force with my motivation to get better. However, this week I have had multiple “aha” moments that rider position is not just about looking good. It helps your horse move better, helps you be more balanced and secure in the saddle, and more clear with your communication. It’s incredibly hard to re-train my body to do everything Linda is coaching me on, but when I get that split second of everything coming together and feel how my horse responds, it is worth all the hard work.
My highlight this week was at the end of one of our “road rides.” Linda said she wanted me to ride her horse Hot Jazz around the barn at the walk so I could feel what a forward walk is supposed to feel like. (Something I have been working on with my horse for a long time, which is a whole other story). I was immediately excited and terrified to ride superstar Jazz, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
I got on, started walking in my body and WOW!! I felt like I was being carried forward on a wave. After a couple laps, Linda said to pick up my reins and ask for a trot. I thought about trotting in my body and with just the tiniest effort on my part, we were trotting. It felt amazing and powerful! Then, when it was time to walk again, I couldn’t. I kept thinking “walk in my body” “I’m walking” and Jazz kept trotting. I made the mistake of slightly pulling on the reins and he just got more powerful. With Linda coaching me, I eventually was able to communicate with Jazz that I was walking and then he did too. That was such an eye opening experience for me, on how sensitive and in-tune your horse can be with you and how important it is to be clear with what you’re asking.
Since that ride, I have been working on recreating that same feeling with my own horse and it’s getting better and better each time. The best part is that I know if I’m consistent we will get it – one day.