What I've noticed in my two rides is that Carmen is looking to tune into what I am asking of her right way rather than paying attention to everything else first. In the first ride I was so focussed on spinning my ball, following with my seat and having a giving hand that I couldn't worry about anything else. She gave one huge spook and scooted off (I think she was startled by a crow). I lost one stirrup but didn't lose my balance. I brought her back and returned to what we had been working on. In that past a spook like that would have led to me spending the remainder of the ride calming her down (and possibly dismounting). This time it was just a couple minutes and she was completely calm again.
In the second ride I had a chance to see if my arena lights were going to work. In the summer we installed 6 solar powered spot lights so I could ride in the dark. They really worked and Carmen seemed to be fine. Before that ride I had a massage therapy session. I hadn't been in a long time but I wanted to see if she could loosen up my left hip. What she noted that was that some muscle deep in my pelvis was tight which was pulling everything forward (that's the leg that's want to be in a chair seat). She did a release on that muscle that really really hurt. But after it felt great. And when I rode I didn't have to think about following her with my seat- it just did. I also had an easier time with the giving hand. After I realized that Carmen hadn't rooted the rein- not once.
I am definitely going back for further work with the massage therapist. If you are struggling with an aspect of your riding and you just can't get it to work it might we worth checking out to see if you have a physical cause (like we do with our horses).
It's not been easy to develop this partnership but what I've come to realize that is that I needed it to be difficult. I had so much baggage and heartache after losing Steele that if she had been simple I wouldn't have given her my full effort. The reality was that she didn't care that my heart was broken, she demanded my full and unwavering attention and would settle for nothing less. Whenever I was working her and my mind wandered off to Steele she would react by withdrawing from me and more worried about what was around me. But as time passed I was able to focus on her and throw my heart at her and she's been responding. She is a much calmer horse these days. I find her much more relaxed around the barn. She greets me at the fence when I come home and she is very respectful of my space.
I believe that Carmen is one of those horses that cannot really progress in her training without a relationship with the person on her. And that is what I have really spent our time together doing- sometimes well and sometimes not so much. Together we're learning to trust each other and our self-confidence is growing.