I was nervous about starting again with a green horse, but this journey has turned out to be one of the most rewarding things I've done in a long, long time. I thank my trainer, Regina, for that. Where I used to hit a road block and stop, Regina can see things from a different perspective, anticipate issues, and help me get past it.
It has also been fun to have a winter project and to bond more deeply with Leah, who I've raised since she was two. I feel like the Grinch whose, "small heart grew three sizes that day." .
I stopped about half way through the lesson to ask Regina what she meant by "power posture", and she told me that my horse can ignore me when I lean forward or am otherwise unbalanced, but when I sit back, she has to give me her attention and respond to my request. In other words, my power posture connects me to her.
Leah's response to my request Friday was, NO. She had taken three steps forward and one step back and wasn't inclined to give me her attention or give up control. I don't like to make excuses (and yet I do), but there were three other horses in the arena at different times. She didn't do anything bad, but she was avoiding by bending her head or dropping her head. No matter the reason, the response is the same: patience, and stick to what I'm asking her, until she makes the right choice--no matter how long it takes.
After five or ten minutes, she made the right choice and we moved on to doing the same thing at the trot--which, of course, makes it more difficult to stay in your power posture. And, I will add, that when Leah isn't balanced, the saddle isn't balanced. I used to think the saddle rolled because it wasn't tight enough, but Regina says it's because her spine isn't balanced and it's rotating the saddle. When she's further trained and collected/balanced, she said, I won't have the slippage anymore. But for now, that is one more thing making it difficult to stay balanced in my seat.
I found an interesting website that explains it and had a diagram that shows what, I think, Regina is asking me to do: Horse Collaberative "Sitting On A Horse In Balance."
I tend to lean forward. The article above had this to say, which I find very interesting and accurate. From The Horse Collaberative: "Sitting On a Horse in Balance" Follow the link to read the whole article.:
"The Error of Leaning Forward
The reaction which takes us away from finding the correct position on a horse is our instinct to lean forward when we feel the movement of the horse underneath us. This is probably because, when we feel the power of the horse coming through the horse’s back from the haunches, our impulse is to disconnect ourselves from the movement by taking the weight out of the back of the seat-bones, so that we no longer feel the power coming through into our own body.
It is also a natural human reflex to crouch into the fetal position in order to protect ourselves when we are under threat. When sitting on a horse, this defensive position equates to tipping the upper body forwards, so that the rider’s shoulder are in front of their pelvis.
The problem with leaning forward when sitting on a horse, is again that it makes us lose our connection with the horse’s body, because we lift our weight out of the back of the seatbones – the place where we can best connect with the ‘engine’ of the horse’s movement: the haunches. It is only when we become one with the horse’s power that we can be in full security on a horse, and be in harmony with the movement.It's all food for thought. My next lesson is tomorrow.
Leaning forward, even slightly in front of the vertical, tilts the rider’s pelvis onto the pubic bone, which is not the right orientation to be able to follow and engage with the movement. In this position, the seat-bones point backwards against the direction of the horse’s energy, and the rider’s lower back is hollow, exposing the vertebrae to compression, with the impact of the movement, and possible damage.
… re-balancing a horse with the seat comes from the leverage we create by raising the front of the pelvis into suspension off the saddle by way of engaged core muscles.
The other reason leaning forward does not help the balance of horse and rider is that the horse already carries around two-thirds of his weight on the forehand (front legs), which is fine for his natural balance without a rider, but when the rider adds their weight, already sitting further towards the front-end than the haunches, the forehand becomes overloaded, and the horse, out of balance, ‘runs downhill’. Leaning forward brings the rider’s center of gravity towards the horse’s forehand, aggravating the situation."