Well the famous saying goes "less is more" but I’ve found that, with regards to what you’re focusing on when you are riding, the opposite is true! This seems obvious now, but I honestly thought that having to focus on our direction alongside all the other things Pip had taught me in my last lesson was going to prove far more difficult. I hadn’t realised in the past that I was just going in the same general direction all the time and that Bronson had merely been following the tracks that we had left before, but having cleared up the trench we had left in the menage last time, I was determined not to make the same mistake again!
Much to my surprise the opposite of what I was expecting happened. Because I was focused on everything Pip had taught me AND direction, so we weren’t leaving tracks, Bronson listened more beautifully than ever before! We had extension, collection and even our first ever controlled canter on both reins with no falling in on the corners. I also inadvertently discovered that just a weight change asks Bronson for canter which explains why he often pops into canter at a certain point in the menage when I didn’t think I was asking for it. I am amazed!
I had videoed the session on my gopro and looking back over the footage could see that Bronson was coming into an outline up one side and across the top of the menage and sometimes when we were on a circle. I asked Pip why that was and what I could do to achieve more of that. She explained that he was engaging his back end as he came up the hill on one side of the menage and then on the down hill we were losing that. On our circles I was managing to engage his hind quarters some of the time, apparently this is why we work in circles as that makes it easier to achieve, and so the trick is to get engagement in these areas and then it’s down to the skill of the rider to keep themselves and the horse balanced to keep the engagement continuously. So more practise is the answer.
Another surprising benefit of my new level of focus has been Bronson picking up his feet more easily and holding them up himself rather than leaning on me when I am picking out his hooves! It really seems that all the strands of learning are coming together and I’m delighted!