The rider who leaves a horse on his own in the name of lightness is not working but is just strolling with his horse. The one who pushes and pulls is a wild person.
This is not a new thing, but it is one that I have been trying to really focus on in my riding. Remember when you first started riding and the aids seem to be pretty binary- simply on or off? And then as you learn more you realize that it's more complicated then you thought. And then, with more learning is becomes very nuanced and complex.
Add in a sensitive and complex horse like Carmen and you can end up wanting to bang your head against the wall. I have found myself in a pattern of either not giving any aids in case she spooked to riding very heavy handed, again in case she spooked. It is easy to say that both of those things are 'wrong' but I'm learning that the answer is a little more gray than that.
What I've been playing with is the concept of figuring out the minimum amount of aid I need to accomplish what I want. In the past I would take that to mean that I need to be really quiet and soft. Now I have that as the goal and I am playing with how much pressure do I need to accomplish the task.
I am finding it to be a very nuanced game. For example, I have playing with the 20 metre circle and how much I need to do to keep her on the circle. This means that I have to give her room to make a mistake. It's easy (well easier) to micro manage her around the circle but that makes me responsible for everything. And I would like her to take some ownership.
I usually start at the walk and put her on the circle. I have contact and my legs lightly on but let her alone as she travels. If she bulges I put on more outside aids, if counter flexes to look at the outside I put on the inside. The pressure goes up until she responds and then goes back down. It's her job to stay on the circle, I only let her know when it's off.
|my mental image|
Playing with this has helped me to realize how much I try to micro manage Carmen and how much I don't need to. This is, of course, the approach of 'make the wrong thing hard and the right thing easy' made famous (to me at least) by Warwick Schiller.
Thinking of this way has made me feel more confident of adding aids when needed. If I'm going through troll corner and she begins to shorten her stride and retract her neck I might shorten my reins (but not too much, mostly I don't) but I definitely sit up and add leg to get her to go forward. When she does it all goes back down. The trick is, of course, to always start light. How quickly I go up will depend on the circumstance but I try to keep it within a short time frame ( no more than a few strides).
What is interesting is that Carmen is really responding to this. She appears to understand that I will be there if she needs me but mostly she can carry on. We have been getting in fewer 'fights' about things and it's not because I'm avoiding them but because I am being more nuanced. If we need to have a strong discussion about something we do but I'm trying to show her that we don't have to. At least for now. I know that things can change again. But I'm less fearful about those 'discussions' then I have been in the past. Nor do I view them as a failure if/when they occur.
The other thing that I've started doing with Carmen is hacking at the start of our rides not the end. Right now that is only with Julia is riding too. We go to the ring, hop on and then walk out and head to the woods. Carmen has been leading these rides. I generally keep the rein loose- after all it's a stroll for relaxation. If she wants to stop and look at something I let her. Then when I ask her to step forward she does. Yesterday there was a tree across the path (it blew down in the hurricane). We both assessed the situation and I said 'I think we we walk over it on this side'. And with no hesitation she did. If she's tighter or more up (like yesterday) I keep the rein a bit shorter but it's still loose. So is my seat and leg. If she does spook I can get her back easier and with much less drama.
|I do love this view. Back when Irish had to lead.|
He's now learning to follow (it's good for him)
Starting the rides this way seems to make her much more amenable to the ring work. She is far less looky and spooky in the ring (not completely but whatever, it is Carmen after all). I think that this breaks the pattern for her of resenting/resisting ring work and lets her warm up her body and mind more gradually. I am going to be brave and see if it works when we're on our own.