Dawn and I did more "headless" horse this morning. We did two exercises using the "headless" technique - I'm trying to turn it into a habit instead of just something I have to actively think about to do. Dawn and I did "go there" and "fast and slow". "Go there" involves my sending us to a particular spot, or object, somewhere in the ring, by using only my eyes and focus and "sending" "our" hind legs there, by treating them as if they were my own legs and feeling them. The effect, if successful, is that the horse does what you're thinking as if it were his/her own idea. Dawn and I did things like "Hind legs, take us to the coffee cup on the windowsill of the viewing room (and touch the cup with your nose)". When she got there, she actually touched the cup (which was at about the height of her ears) with her nose! "Hind legs, take us to the blue barrel in the corner." When we got there, Dawn asked me "now, why are we at this blue barrel?" "Hind legs, take us to the cone I'm looking at." It was really less like my telling the hind legs to do something than like my using Dawn's hind legs as my own. We had a lot of fun with that.
"Fast and slow" is the same sort of thing. Dawn and I did transitions and shortening/lengthening within a gait, just by my thinking and feeling the hind legs into a different gait, or taking shorter or longer strides. I was able to vary our stride length at the trot, at any point in the ring, or after any particular number of steps, just by thinking/feeling "our" hind legs doing it. Dawn was very forward and energetic, and this was a great exercise to maintain our connection and feel as we worked.
Red had a much better day today - no lungeing going on. Part of the ride we were by ourselves, and part we were with one other rider on her mare. We did headless horse, and as I expected, we found it easy to do together. "Go there" was no problem, and he also found "fast/slow" to be fairly easy, although we didn't too much of that as most of our work was steady medium trot and some canter. His soundness seems to be improving, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed about that.
Pie and I also had a very good ride. We had the arena to ourselves, which improves my concentration. We struggled a bit with "go there" - Pie's aim isn't always quite where I'm trying to have him go, but I expect we'll improve as we do more of it. He's very good at "fast and slow", although we need to work some more on the softness of the changes. His bending into corners today was excellent - I think headless horse is helping us a lot with that, mainly because my posture is upright and focus up and out, and I'm actively thinking about how the hind legs are stepping into and through the corners. And his canter work just gets better and better - his departures were very nice, he was balancing well around the corners and we even did some large circles without bulging or falling out of canter.
Headless horse is a great way to gauge the degree to which the horse and I are connected by live feel, so we can act as one. I only use aids - reins, leg or seat - to give the horse guidance if the feel alone doesn't do the trick. I'm hoping headless horse will become our usual, continuous way of working together. Headless horse does a good job of correcting my errors of posture and focus and keeps me thinking about the feel, all the time.
All horses were lavishly praised, and they seemed to feel pretty pleased with themselves. It was a very good day with horses.