A reoccurring trend in my training with Naia is that I will be taught how to introduce certain aids and concepts to Naia and we will break things down into teeny tiny steps until she learns the concept, but then at some point I need to just "Ride her like she's broke", meaning just use the aid like I would with a normal trained horse.
Almost without fail, every time I treat Naia like she's broke, she responds excellently and I'm reminded that she does know things. However I frequently get too in my head and keep riding her like she is super green.
The first example I can remember was a simple halt to walk transition. To ask Naia to walk my process had been to first make sure to hold my hands forward to give her lots of rein, then squeeze with my leg, being ready to follow it up with a bump and a cluck. Then one day I was chatting with some other people in the arena so was distracted, while still talking I asked Naia to walk without thinking and it was one of her best transitions yet. My trainer noticed it as well and remarked on it. In hindsight, I asked her to walk on like I would have with Kachina, keeping a normal contact with the reins, and using my seat together with a light squeeze of my legs.
|Random photo to break up wall of text
The same thing goes with turning. Initially I introduced the aid by using only my inside rein and opening it wide, I would ask for a bit of turn, then release, then ask, then release. Now, I notice that my turns are much more precise if I support with my outside rein and focus on keeping my center of gravity in the middle of the saddle while looking where I want to go (I think using the big opening rein would sometimes throw my balance off a bit). So basically, she turns better if I ride her like she's broke.
In these cases, my muscle memory is my friend and my brain is my enemy. If she is struggling with something like turning, my head will focus back to early lessons and I will break it down into even more basic steps, instead of using the more advanced balanced combination of aids. If I turn off my brain, I will instead default to the way I have asked a horse to turn a million times which will usually work better.
|Using some outside rein, but I need to bend my elbows more here
Because of this, I have actually made a point to do several of my rides with Naia while listening to an audiobook or podcast. Focusing on listening to something has the dual benefits of making me more relaxed, and also making me default more to muscle memory.
Do you ever find you ride better when you get out of your own head a bit?