For reference, here are a few pictures of the first time I rode Chester. I still had that awkward newbie style because I had only been riding off and on for six months at that point, with rides spaced a week or more apart. Below them are pictures from my last ride on Lucky.
|Chester in June 2014|
My most recent lesson with Laura was a ground lesson on lungeing. I was working on getting myself in the correct position while lungeing, as well as getting Lucky to bend to the inside and use her body correctly. The major takeaway was that just like in riding, when my body is correct, it is easy to get Lucky's body to be correct. It took until the end to learn this, but it was a great lesson to learn.
|Lucky May 2015|
I started by directing Lucky's thoughts in the direction I wanted her to go. Gently, I pointed her face out and to the left, then let her go out in a small walk circle around me. When I started lungeing her, Lucky was for the most part not really focused on me. She listened, but she wasn't "with" me. I held my hands with my elbows at my side, just like when riding, and squeezed the lunge line to get Lucky to bend her head to the inside. It was important that when I did this, I released the pressure the moment Lucky flexed to the inside so she understood that she had done what I wanted. This was something that I had to do almost every other stride throughout the lesson.
|Lungeing Lucky the other day|
When Lucky was correct in her body, it just felt amazing. She was soft in my hand and moving freely in her body. Of course, this didn't happen the entire time. Mostly, it happened in brief moments. It was(and is) important that I waited until these moments to ask for a transition, down or up. Staying round through transitions is important because it builds the correct muscles, and also because you don't want the horse hollow through the transitions. Many horses and riders struggle with this. Of course to stay round through a transition the horse needs to be round in the first place, so I waited until one of those moments when Lucky became round to ask for any transition, up or down.
|Lucky is bending her neck here|
It can be difficult to know when a horse is correct in her body. However, one trait that Laura has told me I have is "feel." I can feel when both the horse and I are right in our bodies, even if I don't know exactly how to make things right. I could tell when Lucky was balanced and correct in her position, so I when I was ready to ask her canter, I waited until I saw that she balanced.
I also tried to be as do as little as possible when asking her to trot and canter, and only needed to touch the ground with the whip to encourage her once or twice. The lesson was very productive, and I'm so happy how things just clicked. Position and balance affect your horse too, and for the better if you are in balance.