At this point, my horses are usually teaching me, not the other way round. My ride with Pie today was a good case in point. It's no longer me training Pie to bend deep into the corners and engage his inside hind leg, it's Pie training me to ride so that it's easy for him to bend deep into the corners and engage his hind leg. Puts a different spin on things, doesn't it?
Today, the indoor arena footing, while still a little deep, was at least safe to do some trot work. So, after our day off, Pie and I worked some more on what we'd already spent two days of walk work on. See this post if you want all the details of what we were doing, and how my posture and body mechanics were interfering with his ability to bend and step under with the inside hind.
We started with a review of our work at the walk, including lots of small circles and changes of direction. I still find that, unlike turns to the left where my body mechanics are now automatic - no fussing with the horse's head at all, turn my head, keeping my eyes and chin up, slightly bring my inside shoulder back and slightly open my inside hip - turns to the right are still hard work and I have to concentrate to ride them correctly. But I did it, and Pie's response at the walk was approval, and a lovely, cadenced, lifting, forward walk.
So we moved up to trot. Voila! Perfect corners and turns, including on the transitions from long diagonals into the corners, which have been a particular issue for us. Pie is strict - the moment my concentration lapsed and I wasn't riding forward and up and out, he would lose his straightness. Any time I tilted my head instead of turning it, or even worse, did that while looking down, he fell in through his shoulder. And any time I failed to open my inside hip, he didn't step under with the inside hind.
But when I did ride correctly, Pie gave me beautiful releases - lovely, forward, cadenced, lifting trot, with lovely bend in the corners and circles and an engaged inside hind. It was wonderful. His releases reward my behavior and motivate me to do more of the same. I'd say he's a better trainer than I am - his attention and response to what I am doing is more consistent, and the timing of his releases is just about perfect. This means I can really learn and progress.
I must say, he seems mighty pleased with himself, and his relationship to me is changing. Pie has always been somewhat reserved, even standoffish, and would even pin his ears at me if I were interrupting an important Pie activity like eating or napping.
But lately - just this week since we've been working hard together on my position - this is the face I'm likely to see, alert, interested and friendly:
This is true even in his stall, where he's always tended to be a bit grumpy. Now, he often notices my arrival in the barn, and comes to his door to greet me - which means leaving his hay, which for Pie is a big deal as he's very food-oriented. I think he's coming to approve of me - I'm responding to his teaching, and he now thinks I may just be worth bothering with . . .