Wow I just realized I hadn't published anything since January (although I had an unfinished draft which I'm publishing today with a fake date) - I knew I was slacking off on the blog but I hadn't realized I was slacking off THAT much. Here are some videos from last Saturday's lesson with Marina - just to kind of show our progress. Daniela has me riding with ONE draw / running rein - in case my English equestrian term is off what I'm referring to is a long rein which attaches to the girth between her front legs, then runs up through the bit ring and back to my hands. This gives lots of leverage and allows me to pretty much force her head down when I want to - for instance if she gets stargazy when her best friend's in the parking lot or for canter departs where she tends to throw her head up, I can bring her head back down. I know this is not an ideal situation and really hope to be able to get rid of the lot of auxiliar reins soon, but with the videos I've confirmed two things which make me a little bit less apprehensive - for one I'm not riding her behind the vertical except for specific situations (spooks, temper tantrums, etc...) where she herself sucks back and goes behind the bit, and these situations are really not very common at all - I mean this might happen once for a few seconds every three or four rides. For another, I note that the draw rein is loose a lot of the time, which is what I was going for - to use it only for a few seconds, then drop it again.
The truly important thing that's coming out of all this is not just that Starbuck's learning to carry herself correctly and flex at the poll (although this is pretty awesome), but that I'm learning what it feels like for her to be actively using her hindquarters and "working through the back". I never really understood this phrase but now I think I'm starting to - there's much more activity (and it's harder to ride!) and I can truly feel the energy coming up from the hind legs, bounding through the back and topline and then cycling back down to my hands through the reins. And now that I can feel it, I can ask for, identify and reward it promptly and accurately.
And best of all, she's so damn fun to ride these days! And I really do get the feeling that she herself is enjoying it more now that she's realizing just how strong she is.