Straight Like An Arrow (more like a broken arrow)
My horse is more crooked than a corkscrew. It's sad, but true.
|So cute. So crooked.|
This crookedness really came to a head a few weeks ago when I asked him to flex left, and he reared, nearly fell over, and I fell off of him. (More like bailed so he wouldn't fall on me ...) The whole thing is getting a little dangerous, and it's really difficult to fix.
We've managed to pinpoint the two bases of the issue:
#1. Guinness does not step up and under as much with his right hind as he does with his left.
#2. He carries all of his tension in his neck, and locks up at the shoulder. This makes him feel precariously off balance and causes more tension. (Or as I like to call it, The Horrible Tension Spiral of Doom!)
The first issue has an easy fix. If I keep my right seatbone forward at all times (even going to the left), and keep bumping Guinness every time I feel him slack with that right hind, he will step forward with that right hind. However, fixing this issue does nothing if there is a locked and tense wither/neck/poll area blocking all the forward energy a newly stepping hind leg creates.
Of course, as everyone who has ever ridden a nervous and tense horse can tell you, you can't simply "fix" tension. You have to massage it out. You have to be encouraging. You have to stay positive. You have to stretch it out. And? Most importantly? You have to wait it out. You would think after all these years of riding a tight little stress ball I would be used to this. Of course, I am not.
|Ball of tension! Can't you just see the blocked/tight wither/neck/poll area?!|
What's working right now is a concert of things. To start, I'm keeping my elbows loose and absorbent, and keeping the left rein constant and forgiving. I'm establishing a half-halt (which sometimes requires a bit of "sit-down-right-this-second" halting to get him to pay attention to), and riding tons of transitions off my seat (mostly walk/trot). In every transition, and anywhere else I feel him tense and stiffen his neck, I ask for a little flexion with my right rein and immediately push my right hip forward and bump with my leg to get him to step up into that slightly relaxed neck.
It's really not pretty, it's creating the hottest horse in the history of horses, and it takes an immense amount of mental awareness from me. But, it's working. It's really working... just slowly.