Echo and I have had a busy few weeks. She's coming back into work fairly consistently now which is very good, and I'm trying to believe that the fact that the saddle doesn't look like it fits her quite as well as it did when I bought her is just a 'settling in' issue. It's only when I first put it on - after I've ridden in it, it looks perfect, so I'm going to ignore it for a little while and hope it goes away!
More excitingly, we had a lesson at the beginning of this week with Wiola, whose blog I have been reading for the last 2 and a half years. It was a really interesting lesson; we've been having real problems with crookedness recently. Well, I say WE, but in fact I'm really the one with the crookedness - Echo can't hope to be straight if I'm not! Wiola came over for the day to see if we could sort out what my problems are.
It was a really interesting lesson, as it made me really think about the way I sit and what I do with my seat. One of the interesting things we worked on was using my seatbones to straighten Echo. I have always used my weight to push her away - if I sit heavier on the left seat bone, I expected her to move away to the right, away from the weight. However, Wiola got me to use it to get her to bring her own weight under me. So that if I put more weight in my left seatbone, she will move her body under that weight. I need to think this through and have a bit more of an experiment with it, but it really did seem to work.
The other really interesting thing that we worked on was in my posture. I have always looked down when I ride - it is a problem I have had ever since I learned that a horse should 'arch' its neck when it is moving (i.e. - since a LONG time ago!) Every instructor I have ever had has tried to get me to look up, but Wiola was the first person who made me realise why I need to keep my head up. I know that it makes her go on the forehand if I look down - but she explained that I need to be able to feel the movement of the horse right up into my neck - if I look down and break the straight line through my body, I can't feel the movement properly. She said also that if I look rather than feel the movement of the horse, then I will be reacting too late to things that need to be corrected. I will be a much more sensitive rider if I rely more on my feel.
Wiola rode Echo during the session and it was really good to see her work with her - she was able to explain to me exactly what she was feeling and what she was doing to correct it - and as I know Echo so well, I was able to immediately understand what she meant. Wiola has written about the lesson here and it makes a really interesting read; you can also see some video of me cantering. What's interesting is that in the video I felt as if I was almost leaning back I was sitting up so straight - in reality, it looks fairly normal - I have definitely got some work to do on this!
In addition to this lesson, I'm hoping that Wiola is going to be able to come out again to continue working with us on the straightness issue; I really feel that there is little point in spending lots of money on lessons that only work on the horse, until I have sorted my own problems out first. The lady that owns the yard I keep Echo at was really impressed by how well Echo was moving during the lesson - and we were barely concentrating on her - it just shows how vital it is to make sure you are sitting right in order to make the horse go well.
In light of this, I am also planning on having a lesson here, with a lady called Becky Chapman. Se has a mechanical horse that apparently feels exactly like riding a real horse. The benefit of this is that the horse can be trotting, but the instructor can be manipulating your body into the way you should sit while you are actually moving. It also prints out lots of graphs for you to see what the eveness is like in your seat and in your rein contact. I don't know much about it yet, but everything I have heard is incredibly positive. I'll keep you posted on this!