Have you heard the expression about lightbulbs coming on when you get a good idea or come to a realization about something? Well my last few rides have been extremely productive as far as lightbulbs are concerned. I’ve been riding Baron up the road with all sorts of scary things like traffic, garbage cans, mailboxes and German shepherd dogs. He does great with all that, no problems at all. Then we ride up to a huge vacant lot that is grassy and flat and absolutely frickin’ perfect for riding. Problem is, he tends to get a little wiggy in wide open spaces. He wants to be a racehorse again and I want to enjoy a nice calm ride. So the whole goal for our last few rides has been relaxation and forward movement without feeling like he’s about to explode. He has been awesome and more relaxed each time. First time out, I tried to keep him at a walk/trot and he cantered some anyway. He came back down pretty easily, but he was snorty and high headed and not very quiet and hunter-ey. This morning I was able to keep him at a walk the entire time until I asked for a trot. He was still looking around and very alert, but much, much more relaxed. It didn’t help that the kids at the daycare across the street were yelling, “Hey lady! Bring the horsey over here!”
The lightbulbs I was talking about were realizations about my seat. My biggest fault in my position is that I lean forward. It’s a common defensive mechanism, but it impedes my ability to be balanced in the saddle. My heels come up, my shoulders hunch and I brace, particularly during cantering. I realized that I had been tilting slightly forward in the saddle and resting on my pubic bone instead of my sitz bones. It’s a slight difference and I don’t think any of my instructors could have seen it from the ground. They could see that I was leaning forward, but the problem wasn’t in my upper body leaning. It was in my seat, leaning onto my pubic bone instead of sitting back onto my sitz bones. Once I focused on tilting back onto my butt bones, it solved a lot of other problems. It was easier to keep my heels down because I wasn’t perching on the balls of my feet. It also brought my shoulders back naturally instead of having to concentrate on keeping them back.
The biggest thing I noticed was that I was able to achieve downward transitions with only my seat and no reins. I just stiffened my back and sat deeper and he came down. No reins, no verbal “whoa.” Just sitting differently and bracing my back, even in a wide open field with traffic and screaming children, I was able to bring him down. Now, this may seem totally obvious to you and something I should have figured out long ago, and maybe you’re right. But seriously, shifting my pelvis backward onto my butt bones was monumental.
It may take me longer than other people and it may be painfully slow, but I am becoming a better rider. Baron forces me to be a better rider. He’s not an easy ride for me. In retrospect, I probably should have bought a 15 hand, fat quarter horse who was dead broke. I would probably have been further along in my riding by now. But I love riding big, beautiful Baron. He forces me to improve. He doesn’t pick up my slack and cover up for me in the saddle, but when I ride correctly and balanced, he all of a sudden becomes this beautiful, calm, forward mover. We don’t need special tack, harsh bits, martingales or gadgets. He just needs me to up my game in the saddle. Amazing how that works, isn’t it?