I've been doing some of the usual work with Laura lately(tacking up and grooming mostly). Last week, I had a short but productive walk lesson on BB, her First Level mule. Laura wanted me to learn rhythm, and because BB has a big, rhythmic walk, she thought it would be best to learn on her. Before getting on, I had to count out the rhythm of BB's walk while Laura rode. I found it difficult to count out the beats of her footfalls, so Laura had me break it down. Each time BB's right front hit the ground, I said the word "tic." Once I found that rhythm, I began saying it twice as fast, counting the beat of both front legs.
At last I mounted, riding without stirrups. BB's walk is quite different than Lucky's. BB has long, reaching strides, while Lucky usually takes slower, smaller strides. I entered the arena and began to say "tic" each time one of BB's shoulders came forward. Though I had to glance down at first, I could feel each stride once I started. As I rode, Laura had me play around with changing the length of BB's strides just by moving my hips. To open up her stride, I let me hips go more forward with each stride. To collect her, I blocked my hips and made smaller movements with them. It's pretty amazing how sensitive horses(and mules) are to slight changes in the rider's body.
Another day, I rode Lucky around the property with Laura, who was riding BB. I learned about how to safely trail ride so that I could soon ride on the actual trail, a dirt road nearby Laura's ranch. As I rode, I attempted to keep just beside Laura, with my knee at her one, like riding a pas de deux. I had ask Lucky to speed up often, because she slowed down and began falling behind many times. We rode around the entire property, and even through one of the front pastures, which is currently empty. All this prepared me for my first real trail ride, which I will write about soon.