A really satisfying ride... Thanks to buymeaclue
and to lots of thinking about her good advice, and to my instructor R, and to Star, who I was riding... !! And me, of course, who did things differently, and got some good results!! ;-) In particular, we had some good canters - which I am v pleased about (more detail below)...!
I had been doing a lot of thinking during the week about my mental state while I ride - which I think was at least part of the issue on the ride Saturday last week - and I've decided that there are two parts to this (well, two parts that I can see at the moment, anyway - always more to add, I'm sure): first is body tension, second is my own nervousness/confidence.
I know that generally I hold a lot of tension in my body, and I was trying to notice where
specifically, during the week, and I have a particular habit of holding tension across my shoulders by twisting in my left shoulder. So I was trying to get into a habit of being able to consciously relax that tension. The nervousness/confidence thing is more difficult... I find it difficult to identify why some rides I start off feeling more twitchy than others, and why sometimes (as buymeaclue
says) you can ride yourself out of it, and sometimes you can't... However, I've been doing a reread of the CJ Cherryh duology 'Rider at the Gate' and 'Cloud's Rider', for the first time since I have started learning riding again, and was finding some of the nighthorse bits there, surprisingly relevant, in particular *spoiler alert*
Danny's realisation that he is fidgetting at Cloud - I was practicing during the week, holding a feeling of <still water> while consciously letting go of that tension in my shoulders/upper body, and that seemed to get good results in terms of a more relaxed less fidgetty horse underneath me.
I was riding Star this week - who I've had some really nice rides on recently, and that helped confidence-wise compared to last week. She is a grey mare, and I'm hopeless on horse sizes, so I'm just going to make a stab in the dark at 16.2, because that sounds about right! She's very responsive to legs and hands, is quite forward going but not too strong, and can get a bit spooky, but only when she is taken by surprise and freaked by something. The early times of riding her, I got caught out by a couple of sudden spooks sideways, through not predicting well enough what she was about to do, but recently I have found that riding her forward more confidently, results in a kind of nervous curving sideways away from the nerve-inducing object, but none of the sudden bounces sideways that we had before. So I'm pleased with that. We get on very well and I enjoy riding her a good deal.
It is still on tracks in the Park, so we're restricted to the horse tracks at the moment, so we did the usual circuit clockwise, walking and trotting up towards the steep hill - Star was a bit rushy, wanting to get ahead of R's horse when trotting, but I was feeling calmer about that than last week when Sonnet was doing the same thing, and was just trying to remember to keep my upper body back (ie not tipping forward), and then asking her to come back to a more collected trot, which she did. Then had a couple of good canters, with walking in the middle.
I was trying really hard both to keep myself much more relaxed and also to keep my upper body further back... I think that part of my habit of curling forwards (the foetal crouch) was because I was thinking about trying to control that front forward third of the horse, and forgetting about all the horse that was behind me...! So I tried to think about keeping myself much further back, and I tried Hannah's recommendation of singing 'row, row, row your boat', which worked brilliantly well for feeling the rhythm of the canter... I was feeling that I was bumping a bit hard into the saddle for my liking, but the horse was cantering nicely, I didn't feel that I was unbalanced on her, and I felt much more in control than last week - so all in all very good! We even had a little look sideways halfway through the final canter when she was worried by some kid on the path right next to the horse track, who was doing a kind of staggering run from side to side that Star obviously thought looked wrong! But she didn't spook, and she did keep going in canter, and when she dropped out of canter at the end, I managed to get a transition back to canter from walk, which I was pleased about.
So all in all, a very good ride! Still got a lot of work to do on that canter, I think, but I've got some techniques to practice now! I've got a lesson booked tomorrow morning, and I'm going to try and get R to take some video footage if possible. So that will be interesting... R threatens some riding without stirrups, which I'm not so keen on, but he's right that it's what my seat needs! Hmm, bring it on!