I think the key to becoming a good rider (and, actually, a good horse trainer) is being aware of what your body is doing. The only times I can ever begin to fix my position is if I know what's going on. Oftentimes, the cycle is set in motion by looking at horse show pictures. This is how I discovered my lower leg slipping back after the jump. Then, at my next lesson, I began concentrating on the feeling of my leg slipping back.
The next step was to go back to the Bible, aka George Morris's Hunter Seat Equitation, THE guide to equitation over fences. Studying pictures of what you want to look like over fences is a really great step to not only discover ways to fix the problem, but aid in fixing it by visualizing the position you want to have. If you've ever read Jane Savoie's book, That Winning Feeling!, you know as well as I do that if you visualize yourself jumping in perfect form often enough, it can actually make a real difference! And don't you want all the help you can get?
I tend to analyze a lot during lessons. I'm a very intellectual rider, and I really have to have time between rounds or during flatwork to process what just happened, whether it went well, and how it could improve, either on my part or my horse's. It does really help; it helped me figure out that in order to counteract the forces that sent my leg flying back, I needed to really sink my weight into my heels before each fence. It's still a work in progress, but it's getting stronger every day!
Next, I found that though my leg was staying put more, I was still really throwing my upper body forward, and for those of you who don't ride hunt seat, this is called getting ahead and is a VERY VERY bad thing. Not only do you throw all of your weight onto your horse's forehand (which I think we can agree is a bad thing across the board) but you're also in a very precarious position should something go wrong. Your weight isn't under your leg. Now, my leg was beginning to come back under me, but it still wasn't effective because I wasn't balanced over it. And since I couldn't use my leg, I braced against my hands, causing a stiff-armed look that Blue couldn't have appreciated. Luckily, today I showed some improvement on that. I really do enjoy making progress like this; it's one of my favorite parts of riding - well, after those awesome connection moments, of course!
We had more of those today, too! I can feel it most after canter-trot transitions; he's on the bit from the transition, but really striding out and reaching. It's a high that I'll bet beats drugs any day.
I think when it comes to working with horses, you also have to have body awareness. There's a clear difference in the behavior of a horse handled by a confident, poised handler and a horse handled by a timid, wimpy handler. Even if you're not confident, try to present yourself as if you are! You'd be surprised at the difference! I think the most important part of any horse-human relationship is mutual respect - something Mugwump has said for awhile but bears repeating. The best part is, after you gain your horse's respect, you gain their trust - and that's when a bond develops. Not all horses are the cuddly, friendly types - but if you have their trust, you've definitely got something.
This progress is getting me all excited. Our next scheduled show is on Labor Day Weekend, the big county show. There will be tons of horses and riders who show more regularly there; I'm not in it to win, but I'd like to turn in a respectable performance. We'll see how preparation goes!
PS: I don't know how many, if any, people read this, but please share your experiences! I'm eager to hear them!
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6 years ago