One of my goals this year is to improve my riding dynamic. Cricket is coming to a point where it's not just all about her and sometimes it can be about me. I'm becoming increasingly disillusioned with the Parelli approach to riding. I've never felt secure on my balance point. I always felt I was behind Cricket's motion. I don't believe you adopt totally different posture for riding freestyle vs. riding finesse. It just doesn't make sense. It's not supported by correct biomechanics for either the horse or the rider.
So in searching for an alternative, I decided to try Centered Riding. Not far from me, we have a Level IV apprentice (Level IV being the highest level instructor). I had heard very good things about her from several sources. I rounded up four friends and got them to commit to a lesson with an instructor none of us had ever seen. Just so I could see what it was all about.
The lesson was nothing short of phenomenal. I don't know if I can adequately describe what happened. To be honest, I haven't really started reading the book so I don't have all the correct terminology.
We started, unmounted, doing an exercise to "wake-up" the pelvic floor. This, in turn, affects all the postural and support muscles for the abdomen and the spine. It brings us into a correct and erect position, without having to do much of anything.
Once mounted, we began with a warm-up so the instructor could observe how we moved together. After that, we began specific visualizations and awareness exercises and just played with how it felt in my body and how it affected Cricket in hers. Here are some things I learned:
- Just taking my awareness to a place behind my seat bones, caused Cricket to lift her withers almost an inch. This had nothing to do with rolling onto my pockets but rather feeling my seat bones and just thinking about the place behind them.
- Grounding my knees in time with the swing of her belly without following the swing with my pelvis caused Cricket to move more forward in a better stride. I have to resist the seduction of allowing my pelvis to be rocked side to side with her back.
- Playing a video of what I want in my mind, starting with my body and then the affect on Cricket's body caused much better movement from my horse. I actually caused Cricket to lift her belly and depart from the halt with her hind leg under her.
- Using energy down the back of my leg to cause forward and energy down the front of my leg to ask for backward
- Changing my "grip" on the reins had an almost magical effect on my horse.
- I need to be aware of my negative focus. Cricket cannot differentiate between "don't go to the gate" and "go to the gate." She just knows I'm thinking about the gate and that's where she heads.
- I gained some insights and tools to avoid arguing with Cricket when she doesn't do what I want, when I want.
- When I get a little wadded up, my instructor gave me a simple exercise to reset my body to a better position and not worry so much about what I was doing.
And the feelings were mutual amongst all of us who took lessons. In fact I'm already chomping at the bit to ride my horse and to play with some of these concepts. I wonder when we can get another lesson scheduled . . .