I’m practicing slowing everything down and doing less, and allowing everything else to just wait until I’ve developed this happier habit. By this I mean not worry that I wanted to stop at the barrel but we’ve gone a few strides beyond, or that I wanted to back up immediately but River hesitated or braced first. I’m practicing:
- Pick up the reins much, much slower than I’ve been doing.
- Hold instead of pull.
- Lighten the !@#$%^ hold because if there’s holding, I was too fast. Lightening up is not the same as releasing.
- If I’ve had to hold for more than 1 second, Do Something Else: Deploy the carrot stick, wiggle a saddle string. But do not squeeze my legs or increase the hold.
- Release when River is responding on lightness. So if I had to use the carrot stick to get a backup, stop the stick and keep the rein to allow her to back at the lighter phase and then release.
Today was my fourth ride of trying this — the first ride was during a lesson when Erin taught me some techniques, and I’ve had one other lesson and two rides since. I am already so much better about the reins. And I know it’s working because River has become softer and — hrm, how interesting! — more responsive.
I got the best compliment today when sharing the arena with another rider. She commented on River’s relaxation as we did the weave pattern and said “she always looks like she’s smiling when she’s with you.”