I had my trusty riding buddy longe Brego while I rode without hands. The objective was to find my seat and relax my legs down along my thigh. I ended up feeling the best and most relaxed when I crossed my arms behind my back. Wow, did that find my seat bones quick.
It's amazing how you just keep reinforcing bad habits. I had no idea how much I was bracing from my hands to my knees. My whole body was full of tension. It wasn't until I could release it all and just move with Brego, without worrying about steering or holding up that ginormous noggin, that I could see just how bad it had been.
I have always been a "strong" rider, whereby strong does not mean good, it means strength. Some might refer to it as "Brute Strength". I don't mind working way too hard, apparently. Letting it go and just riding was really illuminating. No wonder Brego was bracing, we were battling it out with every step of every ride.
This first part of the video which shows the longing was pretty bad, due to fixed camera on a tripod. I just included it to give people a reference of what we did. I don't expect for anyone to see anything of quality, especially after youtube mangles it.
After the longe session, I took him for a spin and tried to stay soft and relaxed. I kept my hands lower and stiller and although I still have a tendency to "puppy dog" them, I kept them soft. Brego responded by settling into the contact more, and I found myself almost reverting back to holding up his head again. I had to catch myself. I would raise my inside rein to tell him to pick his head up and then we would go back to me trying to be relaxed.
In the video, I can see that when I got bouncy again was when I was trying to get him to do something he was resisting, either pushing him forward or bending in a smaller circle. Everything would get tense with exertion. I can see where we got in the habit of just struggling around each other. Like I said, it was very illuminating.
Relaxing my arms had an interesting effect on my leg. I tried really hard to feel my knee slide into my post, but I think the biggest difference was just relaxing. My leg was stiller.
So Brego wasn't the most dashing horse in the world without me pushing him every step of the way. We were both more relaxed and quiet. We'll get back to brilliance in a more cooperative, sustainable way. I think in time, if I can learn to use my "inside voice", Brego will learn to be less deaf to the noise. And then we will really start to make progress.
In the meantime, I need get a conditioning ride in this week and try to get another longe session in over the weekend. Oh, and there's a new huge outdoor arena, complete with jumps, we need to try out. And of course, I NEED to get him out cross country schooling...
After the ride, while Brego was hand grazing. I was checking his tendons, crouching down by his forelegs. We were alone and he was happily munching on some clover. I suddenly dropped my head against his leg and hugged him tight. He is such an amazing creature. I don't know what I would do without him. They are so fragile and so fleeting.