You know that Sydney and I have been struggling with developing a balanced, right lead canter. Way back when, his work to the right involved a serious, inside barrel roll with no inside bend. Over time, JL was able to help me to pick him up so that he wasn't tipping over. Little by little, I've also helped him develop some inside bend so that he now carries weight on his outside hind and can actually yield from my inside leg.
I finally have him balanced on both hind legs and both front legs with a correct inside bend. We were so put together on Sunday that he repeatedly volunteered the right lead canter. In fact, I started to worry about whether he would quit cantering to the right so we could trot.
And that's when it hit me that I had finally developed my aids sufficiently to cue my horse and then help him through the transition. At my lesson the next day, JL helped me work on trot/canter transitions. What a difference from even three months ago.
JL remarked several times that I was more effective because I no longer pull back and "hold" the reins; I move and support. That's when I realized that I've also developed an independent seat. I don't think I truly understood what that meant until this week.
I don't need my reins for balance. I think JL was trying to show me that recently while also teaching me a way to release and reward Sydney. When he lets go, even at the canter, she has me reach forward and pat, pat, pat his neck to the rhythm of the gait. I don't fall over, I don't lose my balance, and I can even keep riding while I am in two point. My seat has become independent of my hands. That was a huge AHA moment.
It's funny, but I was watching another rider a few days ago, and I thought to myself, oh … she's really balancing on his mouth. I could actually see that her seat wasn't as independent as she'd like (and no, I am not talking about you).
When I rode Speedy on Wednesday, I had one of the best rides I've ever had. With my new realization about my independent seat, I focused on riding from my core and seat. I could really sit tall because I wasn't letting him go with my arms. When he pulled, I resisted, but I didn't pull back. Instead, I added leg and thought about pushing with my seat and belly. My seat felt plugged into the saddle. It was an amazing experience.
Of course, both boys were stinkers by the end of the week, but it didn't bother me as you can't unknow what you know.
Besides taking regular lessons and riding the heck out of my boys, I know my improved fitness has really contributed to my developing seat. I've lost 15 or 16 pounds AND strengthened the heck out of my core. For months I've been doing planks and push ups in the morning, and at the advice of a friend, I've added several other core strengthening exercises to my routine; one I do while brushing my teeth!
Don't get me wrong. I am not a perfect rider, but I am going to give myself some credit here. My riding has improved dramatically over the last year, and I am really excited about where I can go from here.
Now if the sun would just get up, I could head out to the barn!