Riding River

I have been riding River lately, practicing sitting, posting, and two-point at the trot. I’m trying to be fluid and balanced and to use my legs before my reins. I’ve never before managed to use leg cues while posting or in two-point, and now that I know what I know about riding, I understand why I couldn’t do it.

I didn’t know it was okay to use my thighs. I interpreted “don’t grip” and “don’t pinch with your knees” as “have your whole leg flop loosely down the horse’s side without any sort of holding while you balance entirely on your seat” and thus had jiggle-knees and you could see daylight between my legs and the saddle all the time.

Now, I’m practicing “heavy seat, light head” and “tailbone heavier than pubic bone” and “inner thighs are part of the core, so engage them, silly!”

Riding river

And River is enjoying our time together. She is trotting around like a happy little metronome, teaching me as we go, as I figure out how to organize myself and signal her, to have a plan and a focus, and to keep my attitude playful and joyful and not like we’re working at a job we dislike. I’m able to feel now when our circles collapse because she hesitates in the turn, and practice addressing that sooner so that we make a wider sweep around. I’ve played with mixing it up, with follow the rail and figure 8s and interlocking figure 8s and spiraling figure 8s.

River is easy to ride because she is so rhythmic. It feels like cheating, compared to Rocky*; I don’t feel like I’m trying to learn a dance while also standing on a wobble board on the deck of a deep-sea fishing boat. In a storm.

So I was able to practice using my leg cues while posting, and to start learning how to create patterns, and how to motivate her, and how to feel the difference between awkwardly executing steps (ONE two three ONE two three) and actually dancing together.


*I am finally at a level where I can help Rocky use his body better, through the supporting rein/soft feel concepts of pre-Finesse. We’ve already had some positive strides — heh heh — in this direction, showing Rocky how to carry his body to become more comfortable for himself as well as for us. When Rocky carries himself well, his trot becomes rhythmic, balanced, beautiful. It’s the “bad banana” or “upside down” posture and braced jaw that creates that stabbing, random, awkward gait.

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First bareback and bridleless ride on River

Today, not quite on a whim but definitely in a playful mood, I tied my savvy string around River’s neck and asked her to line up at the mounting block. We’d had fun playing stick-to-me at liberty — in all three gaits in several directions — and it just felt like the next natural step would be to make the stick-to-me more literal.

We both enjoyed it! She put a lot of effort into listening and figuring out what I wanted her to do, and I made sure to appreciate her willingness and to accept some of her suggestions, such as stopping to smell the manure; and in encouraging and supporting her ideas, I caused her to accept all of my ideas, such as walking forward when I asked and then stopping when I exhaled and melted into my seat.

Maybe it’s my efforts to be more playful, to smile and laugh a lot, to “be pleased” as we said in The Clinic. Or maybe it was just that without a rein to obsess about Not Using, I had more focus for my seat and my balance and moving in harmony with her. Either way, I ended up feeling more secure on her naked back than I remember feeling before.

She asked questions when she couldn’t tell what I was asking her to do, and that helped me become more clear in my communication. We practiced walking, turning, and stopping, and went twice around the arena. At that point, figuring that things had gone super duper well, I hopped off.

It’s hard to stop right when my confidence is rising and the joy is bubbling and I want to keeping going and do more more more. Yet, feeling that way is also a pretty good sign that it is time to stop. Ending on a high point allows both of us to take time to lick and chew and look forward to doing it again soon.

And then, of course, we had plenty of time for scratches.

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