“If I could but know his heart, everything would become easy.”
― Jane Austen,
known discovered that Spot is quite a sensitive mare over the past few years of having owned her, but in the last couple of months or so I’ve really become to realize how sensitive and in-tune she is with what my body is doing. When she was a full fledged polo pony, she was quite particular with the type of rider, ie: soft hands, good seat, and NOT A MOUTH YANKER. Sadly enough, many polo players do not have those things.
Anyways, since having embarked on our dressage journey, I have had frustrations with getting Spot to be relaxed and to move more fluidly over her back. She would get tight in her neck and jaw and be determined to fulfill her destiny as a giraffe. She was plenty forward (she always has the forward), but just wasn’t willing to relax her back and soften.
At first I thought it might be a muscle soreness problem, chiro issue, saddle fit, or teeth thing so I went through and got them checked out. Everything came back pretty good. Maybe a bit of stiffness, but that could probably be fixed with stretching down when riding to relax. Which of course is the thing I’m trying to achieve! Frustrating.
But then, we had a pretty amazing breakthrough. During one of our rides I was super tired and while walking around I decided to just close my eyes for a second or two and take a deep breath. Immediately I felt Spot’s walk become more “swingy” and when I opened my eyes she had dropped her head a bit more. O_O
I thought, “huhh….” So then, when we picked up the trot and Spot was bracey, I tried the same thing. Lo and Behold, I open my eyes and Spot has softened through her poll and is rounder.
Then I realized this is what Trainer A has been trying to tell me for forever. She is always calling out during our lessons to “breathe” through my upper body but obviously I didn’t quite get what she meant. It took taking away one of my senses for a second or two for me to see how tight I was. Doh!
From there, I realized that maybe I had been too stiff or tense with all of my aids and applied the same idea of being relaxed in the upper body (without closing my eyes) to my seat and leg aids. BOOM! Softer and more willing Spot. The more relaxed and soft I was the more soft and relaxed Spot was. The whole rest of our ride was amazing and ended with me being on Cloud 9 and Spot being relaxed and happy.
On Friday, I had another lesson with Trainer A and when she asked me to see if I could get Spot softer through her poll I took a deep breath and thought about relaxing my upper body. I felt Spot lift more from her withers and she came more round than she ever has before. Trainer A said: “Omg…she looks fantastic! I’ve never seen her so fluid and through! Whatever you did just now don’t stop doing it!” I told A that I was doing what she had been telling me to do forever: Breathe Through My Upper Body.
From what I could see from the arena mirrors we looked pretty freaking amazing. I’m pretty sure A and I both looked like this:
I wasn’t able to get any video of this amazing miracle, but hopefully all of our rides will be much more soft and relaxed now. Video next time!
So, if next time you are riding and you’re getting frustrated because your horse is being tight, try a quick deep breath and relax your shoulders. If you trust your horse, try a quick closing of the eyes with a deep breath for just a second. You might be surprised with the results!