In a recent lesson, Erin really helped me find my “center” at the trot, by having me lean way forward (and post) and then lean way back (and post) and then be “in the middle” — and I could feel the difference in River’s body when I was in the right place. By putting myself in the wrong place, I was able to find and maintain the right place. Which, as it turns out, is where I’ve been most of the time, for the past couple of months.
By the end of the lesson, I felt so in tune with River, and so happy, and her happiness, that it just felt right to try a canter. I visualized us lifting into the canter at a barrel and then cantering together… which happened! But I hadn’t visualized us going smoothly around the corner, and I hadn’t remembered that I could trust River to steer herself around the corner, and I felt River visualizing going to the rail and stopping rather suddenly. So I looked up and sat down and did that.
And Scott — all unbeknownst to me! — got it on video.
There is said to be a code in the number and placement of the horse’s hooves: If one of the horse’s hooves is in the air, the rider was wounded in battle; two legs in the air means that the rider was killed in battle; three legs in the air indicates that the rider got lost on the way to the battle; and four legs in the air means that the sculptor was very, very clever. Five legs in the air means that there’s probably at least one other horse standing behind the horse you’re looking at; and the rider lying on the ground with his horse lying on top of him with all four legs in the air means that the rider was either a very incompetent horseman or owned a very bad-tempered horse.” ~ Terry Pratchett, I Shall Wear Midnight
In our lesson on Saturday, we wrapped our horses’ legs in polo wraps of different colors, so that we could more easily see how horses move their feet in each gait.
Then we each got two carrot sticks and practiced moving around the arena as if the sticks were our front legs, finding our rhythm in walk-trot-canter-halt-backup. I even went over some cavaletti.
I’ve been really paying attention which foot is “up” or “next” when I want to send the horse or ask for a change of direction. In the saddle, I most easily feel the footfalls during the back up, or when walking forward down a hill, or when posting the trot. I’m trying to improve my timing so that I’m not asking the horse to turn when all of his weight is already planted on the foot he needs in the air to make the turn.