I experimented with getting the bridle on—she turned her head but I didn’t want to cue her mouth open with my thumb and so I just waited and she nearly fell asleep with the bit up against her teeth… yeah, nope. So Karen had mentioned teaching horse you take off the bridle helps, as well as putting on the bridle wrong in every which way until the horse is like, here, and opens his mouth, saying “the silly bit goes here!” I did this for a while and she did start to realize that the bit/bridle is most comfortable in the right spot in her mouth vs hanging off one ear/pinching her lips/etc. She never quite just grabbed the bit for me but did open her mouth.
She bridled better today! I spent a few minutes putting on the bridle in the most bizarre and awkward ways and instead of getting ticked she just kept trying to help in this hilariously patient, endlessly longsuffering teaching mode that I’ve not really seen from her before… lowering her head… turning towards me… getting calmer and calmer and calmer… and finally the bit got up against her teeth and she just opened her mouth a hair and let it slide in like, “oh, really now, this is where the silly thing goes.” And what was amazing is that I have never, ever seen her so calm in bridling. Her head was almost to the ground, eye so soft she was almost asleep, and her mouth was dead quiet and completely closed around the bit—she was actually holding it there for me! I couldn’t believe it.
When I offered the bit to Maia she right away cracked her jaw! She didn’t open her mouth but the offer of ¼” was nice. ;)
Spiraling and energy when riding
• Karen suggested an alternate way to get a spiral out is to
turn your shoulders straight and open your outside toe (versus “taking the space” at her inside shoulder, which gets dangerously close to driving her over vs. releasing her). This worked beautifully! Maia didn’t seem overly upset before, but this way she just glided out in a leg yield with total peacefulness, a very different feel. Sooooo light…
• The releases off your heels need to come up your whole leg and body and up and forward through your core, not just a “kick in reverse.” ;)
• Karen rode Maia to help feel why I wasn’t able to release her forward. Her shoulders were a little dropped so she did a little wither jump and then really emphasized the release in her core for forward. Maia got clearer and clearer even though she would still swish her tail some in anticipation of pressure. But that soon stopped as she realized none was coming. Her upward transitions got more and more fluid and released until she started actually lifting her back visibly and even lifting her tail too as she did them. Karen didn’t have to use legs at all, just a release in her core.
|This was the sort of transition Maia was moving towards -- back lifted, forward, confident. Except without the pressure I'm showing here and the unhappy expression by Maia. ;)|
• We found that my energy is constantly up (no big surprise there ;) ), which is why Maia both is hypersensitive and dulled down. Meaning, she’ll buzz along with way more energy than needed, but, at the same time, not respond to my releases forward. Essentially she’s responding to my constant “go,” but then desensitized to when I actually say “go,” because I’m always saying “go”!
• Karen mentioned when I release my legs, because of all the dressage training, most likely my seat deepens and actually kills the forward movement. So I got on after Karen and started practicing releasing my whole core and lightening my seat. Maia was anticipating pressure I think, so we had a tougher time at the beginning figuring out the right feel, but I tried tying it in with a squeeze-release, and that seemed to pop through something in her and after that she was starting to respond to my core alone. She even got her back up a few times in the transitions!
• When you sit during the posting phase, take up the weight on your outer thighs instead of your seatbones. Maia really rounded up and slowed her tempo while keeping the same amount of ground cover when Karen did that. It was beautiful. Doing this transfers the weight to their ribcage vs back.
• Make sure you are clear about acknowledging the smallest try to develop the horse’s clarity. Meaning, Karen released Maia forward the first time and Maia did the tremendous huge release of… stepping her front foot 2” forward. ;) But Karen accepted that as just exactly right (it was forward!) and then the next release a minute later Maia marched off at a good walk.
• Sometimes I get a little over-zealous about Making Progress and Working Hard. :D :D Trying to work on too many things at once when Maia is clear on so few things just confuses us both. Also, trying to move too quickly or to higher speeds/difficulties also just makes us both unclear. These little things are the progress, they are making unbelievable differences in Maia—feel/release is not stressful horsemanship. If I feel stress, it’s not feel/release, so change my approach.
So overall, a great lesson! I’m finding out how to release Maia to lateral moves while maintaining calmness and roundness, both through my mental attitude (“buzz”) as well as seat (keeping the weight on my outer thighs) as well as my releasing (allowing the movement versus “pushing through release”).