Tuesday and Wednesday last week were back to back rides on Apache.
Tuesday found us working late in the evening before feeding time. Apache was amenable and we practiced walk straightness and maintaining gate in the trot. Apache was getting lighter and softer in the turns which felt really good considering how stiff he was in the ring when we started working together. I also noticed that he was no longer chewing sideways, which is maybe not the best way to describe it, but it is what I thought of when I watched it. He did this often in the beginning and during this ride I realized that he had stopped. He also was breathing much more regularly. I think this was the combination of getting used to our sessions centering on coordination and resolving the hindgut ulcers. I also noticed that the clicking I hear in his hind end especially the left stifle in the walk almost disappears when his walk is straight and slowed down. He does not weave back in forth any longer in the walk either. Very cool! His trot was feeling powerful at times and he was listening to me asking him to slow down without breaking into the walk.
Wednesday I rode Apache in the morning and worked on the same things except I left the reins loose in the trot. I realized that Apache had been wanting to lean on the bridle and now that he is listening to a much lighter guidance it was easy to navigate around the ring with loose reins. He stretched down a lot and I would ask him often to walk. He also decided that he would like to eat grass and I felt it was time to patiently say no and work on going lightly forward. He spent some time standing and pawing. And some time backing. Then he took some deep breathes and went forward. That happened a couple of times and then we worked in the trot and then I decided to work in hand. I position myself next to the saddle and work as if I am riding. It was much easier for him to trot in hand and work in shoulder fore. He was able to collect himself and didn't need to stretch so far down. It was also easier for me to show him the direction I wanted his body to go simply by walking in a straight line myself. I was reminded how much easier it can be for horses to coordinate everything without our weight on their backs.
During both of these sessions I was also conscious of how my balance was affecting Apache. I also was fully aware of my back and whether or not it was straight. My shoulders are unlocking just from no longer holding my hands out away from my body. Especially my right hand which had the habit of wandering forward and up. All of these habits were from wanting to help the horses I was riding. Knowing that my responsibility is to keep my body balanced side to side and front to back has made riding feel so much better to my body and the horses. This reminds me of Conrad Schumacher memorably saying "You simply do too much". This applies to so many things in my life. This practice of stillness and listening, breathing and responding becomes a way to live and ride. I let go of demanding and making it happen and tune in to how the subtle orchestrations can be felt when I slow everything down. I am so blessed and thankful to be on this journey :)