Do you have a plan when you want to work with your horse?
Do you decide what to do before you start? Or do you work it out as you go along, depending on how the horse feels from moment to moment? Or maybe you have a rough plan - and modify it if needed, to cater for the horse's behaviour on the day.
Today I was planning to work on canter balance while changing neck position, ie from a higher neck with shorter strides to a longer neck with longer strides, and back to higher again, as this is what I think needs improving at the moment. But, it didn't happen. We did manage a canter both ways, but only in the last 10 minutes, as we barely had straightness let alone rhythm, balance or lightness in the canter. Why? Well it was very windy, and we have a visiting horse that was pacing around the outside of my arena, upsetting the horses and popping in and out of view, distracting my mare.
So - change of plan - I had to accept the situation, and tell myself that I have to ride the horse I have on the day, its all good training in the long run, regardless of how talented she is on a good day - today we have a ball of tension with no steering . So I needed to find something settling yet challenging enough to keep her relaxed and attentive while we waited for the other horses to calm down.
I find that most horses have an exercise or two that relaxes them and helps them focus on the job at hand. For Alita, its turns in counter bend, or lateral work. I find that lateral work in walk is usually relaxing for both of us - doing a figure eight in walk: with shoulder-in on one circle into renvers on the other, then counter shoulder-in into travers. These lateral exercises are fabulous because with this pattern we can progressively work both reins and move the shoulders around the quarters and the quarters around the shoulders shifting the balance to one particular leg at a time.
And gradually her focus returned, her breathing became longer and louder, her neck and jaw relaxed and she started to 'join me" and forget about the other horse and the wind.
Every ride I try to learn something - to discover something about my riding or about my horse, about my aids and her responses. I'm always challenging myself to do less and be lighter but more effective. It was interesting today because I decided to put my seat to the test in terms of how much I could "hold her balance under me" with my own seat bones. I found that by focusing on relaxing my lower back and lower legs, but keeping a stable core, a centred upright balance and strong focus on my line I could keep her relaxed and attentive for longer.
How do you engage and connect with your horse, to keep your horse inspired and interested in being with you, listening to you, and keen to please you? Can you design work or play that is related to your horse's physical and emotional needs and character.