Finding balance

Johnny and I both had a little lightbulb moment today. After volunteering as a bit checker and jump judge this weekend and watching some of Eventing’s top stars ride (from a very up close and personal viewpoint), I was ready to put in a solid ride on Johnny. Unfortunately, the weather was not willing to cooperate with my hip this morning; the blinding wind and cold effectively froze my hip into place. But, after lolling around on the couch all day, I managed to warm up my hip enough to swing into the saddle. I started off with my new warm-up routine: Johnny on the longe–a single side rein on the right side. By the time I climb up, he’s warm and ready to go into a little light stretching before we begin real work.
Finding the balance point on a horse who’s not naturally balanced is pretty exciting. It’s not something you understand until you feel it, and then you’re constantly trying to keep it. The awesome thing about today’s ride was that Johnny seemed to have a little lightbulb moment of his own: he felt what it was like to be balanced as opposed to continually running forward trying to find it. Sadly, he was still fighting as I tried to help him stay there, but he’s starting to understand that my half halts and legs are applied to help him. By the end of the ride, as I closed my legs on his sides, he sort of grasped the concept that he could stay straight (relative, as we mostly stayed on a circle) between my aids and step further under himself, pushing from behind with the same tempo instead of falling forward. It was awesome! I mainly focused on trying to keep him on the aids and relaxed in the upward and downward transitions, and although the trot-canter transition was still kind of goosey, we got a couple of decent ones, and the downward transitions are becoming so effortless.
I guess rides like today are why there are so many dressage riders. When everything falls into place, and you get that truly effortless feeling, it’s a pretty amazing feeling. Though, don’t look for me to give up jumping anytime soon. I still enjoy flying over fences at ridiculous speeds. That’s a pretty amazing feeling, too.

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