One thing I've been working on is keeping my legs long and loose without pinching my knees and thighs. Since my knees aren't pinched tight, I am finding that I am able to drop my heels as I post. The benefit of that is that I now have more control over which seat bone I am weighting. I can actually step into my inside stirrup.
The last time I rode with Dr. Christian Schacht, he worked on me a lot, and one thing he kept saying was to drop my weight through my heels in the up phase of my posting. As I was trying to lengthen my spine, rock my coat buttons, and not fall off, I simply couldn't understand how my heels could go down while my body rose off the saddle.
A few weeks ago, as I was allowing my seat bones to rock back and forth in the walk (as instructed by Chemaine), I started to feel how much tension I do hold in my lower back and pelvis. For weeks I have been focusing on allowing my pelvis to move no matter what my arms or leg are asking. I discovered that when Speedy gets "sticky" - won't move off my leg for example. I freeze my core while I am focusing on "fixing" something. Now, I keep it in my mind that my pelvis MUST move. When my pelvis doesn't rock or swing, Speedy can't move freely either.
When I rode with JL last week, she even commented that my position was much better. I explained that I had been working on letting go with my knees to get a longer leg.
My rides are also taking longer because I spend so much time suppling Speedy at the walk. I looked at my watch the other day and realized that we had been working on the walk for more than 15 minutes. I am asking for a lot of counter bend and walk to halt where he needs to soften through the poll before we walk on. All of these suppling exercises are definitely helping as we move on to the trot or canter work.
So how has all of this improved our canter work? With JL, I worked on developing a better feel for pushing Speedy into the outside rein, especially to the right. With a more relaxed seat and the ability to more correctly step into my stirrup, I discovered that I can actually feel his inside hind leg stepping more deeply.
We've been doing a lot of trot to canter transitions to the right. The first day that I felt the difference, I literally felt his back come up under me. It was the first time that I've felt him lift his back at the canter to the right. With his motor totally engaged, I could move in and out of the canter without him hoisting his front end up. He pushed into the canter with his hind end. It was a remarkable feeling.
We're not getting things perfect every time of course, but I feel as though we've pushed through to a new level of understanding. I have definitely felt a change in my own position, and most importantly, it's a change that I know how to influence and recreate.
Show season is about to start. While funds may be a little tight this spring, I an definitely eager to get out there and see what we can do at First Level.