Drop Those Elbows, And Dino Stares At Dogs
One thing riding by myself 99.9% of the time has taught me is to be self-aware while I'm riding. I don't have a trainer to tell me when and how my body is falling off the wagon, so I need to make my best effort to catch these things myself.
The best way I've found to do this is to be aware of the changes I make in my body, and how those changes affect Dino.
In my quest to find a more steady and consistent contact lately, I've been focusing hardcore on what my hands and arms are doing during each ride.
And on Monday, I discovered a cool thing.
When I drop my elbows down, it does something magical wherein it relaxes my forearms, opens and lifts my chest, and somehow makes the connection better, and Dino drops into the bit and just holds my hand.
Gee willikers, isn't it funny how when I stop doing goofy things with my hands, my pony goes better? These things will never cease to amaze me.
Yesterday I had planned to do a conditioning trot/canter set ride in the field down the road, but apparently Dino had other plans. He was his usual fabulous self walking down there, (Some guy dragging a trashcan over his gravel driveway was no big deal.) but once we got to the field he went all freakazoid on me. Nothing was really out of the ordinary - the usual dogs, cows, and other horses were out and about on the neighboring properties - but he had to look at EVERYTHING. My unspookable pony even spooked/bucked as we turned to go down hill, which made me swear a bit. We got through 3 tense, high-headed trot sets before I decided to start cantering. Dino gave me a gorgeous, light canter depart, powered up the hill, and then slowly crawled to a stop because there was a dog about a quarter-mile away that apparently Needed To Be Stared At.
Seriously? Seriously. No.
I just couldn't get him to focus, and decided that the best course of action would be to go back home and finish our canters in the ring. I didn't really want to be dealing with a tense, distracted pony while riding by myself off property. So that's what we did, even though Dino was suddenly incapable of the beautiful walk-canter departs he had just demonstrated in the field once we were back in the arena. Punk.
In other news, on Thursday (tomorrow!) I'm going to go observe a lesson with an eventing trainer near me that I had contacted. I really enjoyed talking to her on the phone - she was very friendly and easy to talk to, AND appreciates a good GRP. I think her program will be a good fit for us as well; there is no set minimum number of lessons we need to take at any point in time, and she does 2 XC lessons per month at the horse park. She also said she has a group of riders that are about at my level, and I'm going to get to watch their jump lesson this week. Very excited!