Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Chicken or the egg?

Yesterday we rode outside for our lesson, taking advantage of some of the nice weather before it turned.  I haven't ridden Panama outside as much lately as I should have, mainly because I've been going to the barn late in the evening and riding inside well after dark.  He's very easily distracted outside, and tends to speed up a lot, especially down the straight side of the arena heading towards his corral.  We've struggled with this for a long time, and part of it is my own fault for not riding outside more so that he gets used to all the distractions.

My trainer brought up something interesting, though.  She observed that my posture changes as we get to the point where I know he usually speeds up.  I anticipate him speeding up by rounding my back, changing from an "I'm in control of this ride" posture to a "hanging on for dear life" posture.  We also tend to get into a tug-of-war at this point, where I pull on the reins and he pulls back, until we're bracing off of one another.

So which came first?  Probably him speeding up, but that scared me and I started riding defensively when I knew he was likely to do it.  My trainer says he's likely responding to my anticipation now when he speeds up.

It's obviously something we'll need to work on, outside of lessons as well.  My trainer had a few tips — don't change my posture, obviously, but also make sure to follow up with a full halt if he blows through the half-halts.  I inadvertently discovered another way yesterday: Control my breathing better.  I realized I was breathing in time to his steps, but very quickly, only a couple of trot steps per breath.  I purposefully slowed that down, stretching it to 4 or so steps per breath, and he didn't speed up at all when I did so.  I wonder if, in addition to my posture changing, my breathing is also quickening when I know we're getting to the point where he usually speeds up, and he's just automatically matching his pace to my breathing.  It's worth experimenting with!

Unfortunately there will be no experimentation for a little while: It's snowing now.  It's very wet and heavy, and though we haven't gotten as much as the forecasters said we would, it will still be a few days before I can ride outside again!

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