I didn't get to ride for the first few days after the clinic. This is a good thing as I came home frustrated and disappointed. By the time I was finally able to ride, I had had a chance to talk to JL about the clinic and come up with some riding goals for the next six weeks; that's a post for another day. I also had some time to let go of my frustration and move forward. In the end, I had a great ride on both horses.
I ended up using several of the exercises that Susanne showed other riders. I didn't take notes, so my explanations are probably going to be a bit off, but the exercises do work. The biggest component to doing the exercises correctly, is to do everything to the horse's rhythm. That means you can move any part of your body almost any way you want to as long as you stay in rhythm.
Exercise 1: Up, Up, Down
This exercise can be modified by doing a down, down, up rhythm as well. Essentially, you rise for two beats and sit for one. The purpose of the exercise is to firm up your lower leg and control the rhythm of your posting. Sydney loved it and responded immediately by releasing a great deal of tension and asking to stretch over his top line.
Exercise 2: Juggling
I didn't actually see Susanne show this to anyone, but I watched her do it, and she later showed it to me while we were in the the barn. Basically, as you trot, you send one hand up and then the other hand up, back and forth. Don't pull on the reins, just lift your hands alternately to the rhythm of the trot. This helped me focus on maintaining the rhythm without needing to pull back. Both horses responded really well, Speedy especially.
Exercise 3: Land Your Seat Bone in a Different Place
Holy hell! This is the best exercise I have ever done on horseback. I can't believe how it instantly released my lower back and the tension around my pelvis. I can't guarantee that I did it exactly right, but I don't care as both of my horses loved the sensation.
Susanne had all kind of visual images: imagine your seat bones are providing a massage; where does he want you to land?, and so on. As I rode, I kind of danced with my hips to the rhythm of the trot so that I truly landed in a different spot each time. Susanne's explanation was that this encourages the horse to lift his back as you aren't pressing down in the same place every time you sit.
Exercise 4: Move Each Part of Your Body Individually
I didn't do it exactly like Susanne instructed. When she asked riders to do it, it went like this: at the trot move just your head to the left, center, right at the rhythm of the trot. Then pick other body parts; move your rib cage to the right, center, and left; move your shoulders to the right, center, and left. You can go all the way down your body to even include your legs. Instead of doing it like this, I just did my whole body to the right, center, and left. It was incredibly liberating to dance to my horse's trot rhythm! I also did shoulder rolls, one of her other exercises, and hip wiggles (my words). Basically, you should be able to move your body all around your horse to his trot rhythm.
I might have looked goofy doing all of this, but both of my boys moved better than they ever have before! It was so much fun that I didn't want to quit riding. And it wasn't just relaxing for me; both of my boys moved better as I was moving. Instead of toting around a block of wood, my boys were carrying a rider who was matching their own movement. I was helping them to keep their balance!
But ... there's even more!!!!! I'll share my Monday lesson tomorrow.