Since I started using the soundproof ear covers for Cisco last spring, I've had a different horse. He no longer splats every time he hears a sound, and thus no longer spends his time in the arena tensely waiting for it to happen because it happened last week so it's obviously going to happen again and he'd better be ready for it because he needs to make sure that he wasn't going to be the one eaten by the horse murderers that hide in the corners at the end of the arena.
|The chances of horse murderers jumping out at you are less when wearing ear covers, but never zero.|
Now, I generally get onto a llama for the first lap around each way, but when the horse murders stay hidden, he stops worrying that death is imminent and releases the tension in his body.
And, it turns out, Cisco is actually quite lazy.
I don't know how to ride a lazy horse. I've always had pretty forward horses.
The theme of the year so far has been to get Cisco thinking forward. We finally have relaxation, now I need to put some energy back into him.
It was a bit of a struggle. We had many rides of transition after transition after transition, insisting on a forward reaction from a light leg. He'd do it, but wouldn't maintain it. It was exhausting to ride.
About a month ago, I had an epiphany.
I needed to take my legs off the horse.
Huge difference. Yuge.
You've probably heard the mantra "Keep your legs on a hot horse, take your legs off a lazy horse". I've generally always ridden hotter horses, so I've always kept a light feel with my leg. Until recently, I would have said that Cisco was a hot, reactive horse, so he needed my leg on for reassurance.
But now he's not reactive. And I want him to be hotter. So I have to keep remembering to take my leg off, only use it when I need to apply an aid, then take it off again.
It has helped with the forward immensely. I am much less tired after my ride. And Cisco has started offering much bigger trots with much more impulsion. Two rides ago as soon as we picked up our trot he trotted big and relaxed in his body - he used to always start off forward, but very tense and up and down. This was a trot that was taking me somewhere. It felt great.
The forward with less tension has also made a big difference in straightness. I can finally ask for flexion and not have him fling his shoulders in that same direction.
We've also started to work with the counter-canter. And whoo-boy, does that make him work. We're going to be doing a whole bunch of that!
We're finally at the point where I feel I can really school my horse. I don't really think I've changed a whole lot on my end (other than taking my legs off), it's just that Cisco is finally relaxed enough that I am not fighting negative tension for most of a ride.
Thank god - it's only taken five years!!