Finally!!! It feels like forever since I've swung my leg over a horse! After the birth of our third son last month, I'm back and ready as ever to be riding. Knowing my time is extremely limited and there are not too many barrels races around here the next few months, I've devoted most of my riding time to my 4 year old and next year's futurity prospect, Honey. She's just as broke as the last day I rode her, not to mention just as fun!
She had around 30 days riding on the barrels, but last winter I devoted most of my riding time with her to just getting her super broke and handy. I focused on having her ride between my hands, being soft and supple, moving her hips and shoulders, using my whole body to ride her and just having a good understanding of what I asked her to do. Its one of my favorite parts in this horse training journey is getting that foundation solid. My time and work with her last winter yielded me one of the greatest compliments I've received, "If you're not careful, you'll get that colt too broke to run barrels."
Training her the way that I did presents a challenge when you're out of shape, balance and timing. As I started Honey back on doing some slow work on the barrels, I could feel her wanting to drop in on the second barrel just a step. It wasn't until I watched a video of someone running barrels on a horse that I trained and seen them drop their shoulder and hip into the barrel and seeing how that horse responded did I put two and two together. I was doing the same thing.
The next day when I worked barrels, instead of drilling her on keeping her shoulders up and staying forward in the turn, I focused solely on me and my body position. Sure enough, by just staying straight in my saddle, driving forward with my hips and keeping my shoulders square and relaxed, Honey stayed correct and never gave it a thought about dropping in.
It's amazing how many problems were created just by our body position. Had I not watched that video or seen it in myself how my body position was affecting my horse, who knows how long I would have been having to "fix" my horse. Losing my core strength and riding horses too powerful that when I ran I safetied up just so I could get by, have led to me to have an array of bad habits.
I feel like I have to start back at ground zero and learn how to ride all over again. Thankfully I have a winter to get back to the basics and focus on my balance, my riding and my body language. In high school, I rode my barrel horse bareback to leg him up so that I was in perfect synch with him. He was not an easy horse by any means to ride bareback, but it gave me an edge by knowing and feeling his every move and knowing how to stay balanced enough to stay with him.
I'm not sure that I will get to where I long trot my horses a couple miles every day bareback like I did back then, but I will definitely be spending more time saddle less and more aware of my equitation. Rather than jumping and correcting the horse if it's not doing something exactly how I "want" them to, I will be looking first at just how I "asked" them to do it before making that judgement call that they did something wrong. I've been taught all my life how to ride and use my body to help the horse so much that it was natural. However, time off has left me dull. It's time to sharpen those edges by going back to the basics.