I learned something from my four year old horse today. I am supposed to be the teacher here, and yet anyone who has ever taught anything to anyone knows full well that the teacher learns as much from the student as the student learns from the teacher. Frisco is still learning to be straighter, better aligned, and more balanced. He is young. This problem generally reveals itself when tracking right. He leaves his shoulders left. I am very careful not to fall into the trap most people fall into, which is to bring the right leg back in a vain attempt to get the haunches to move more to the outside. If I want right bend, I have to keep the correct right bend position and not fall victim to his lack of alignment. Eventually he will balance himself under me and straighten himself out, with repeated corrections every ride, every day, for a lifetime. That said, he still often gets on the forehand to the right even though I am careful to keep the correct right bend position. Today, it hit me like a truck, how I could better help him. We all like to think we have great hands, don't we? We know we aren't supposed to pull back, and yet, we do. That is human nature. I try very hard not to ever pull back with any horse, but especially mine, because his poll is so flexible and his neck shortens easily. But I realized today, when he gets out of alignment, and those shoulders start getting left to the left :) because he isn't engaged enough with his right hind leg, I exacerbate the problem with my hands. I DO pull back, whether I want to admit it or not. For some reason, I decided to put my hands markedly forward today, and voila. He was able to find his balance and get back into alignmment. I absolutely WAS pulling in my horse just as he was attempting to make the leap...even though I knew better. How many times have you been absolutely convinced you were doing all you could to help the situation, only to realize later that you were doing one crucial thing that was constantly causing you to paddle upstream? By shortening his neck in an attempt to achieve a better alignment, I was causing him to tip further onto the forehand, making it even more difficult for him to regain his alignment. I was thinking too much about the front of my horse, and not enough about allowing him the space to balance himself with his own neck, and just keeping the hind leg active. What is that zen saying? Do not forget what you already know??? I was instantly reminded of this sage advice below today, when my horse went from somersaulting over his forehand into a nice, uphill, 10 meter trot circle, just because I simply gave him the space to get it done. We have to learn from our horses, we have to learn to read them and understand what works and what does not. Nothing you read in books is useful, if you are not able to also read your horse and make the necessary adjustments, and respond to the feedback your horse is giving you. As Alfredo Hernandez said when asked what books he recommended: "My book has a mane, a tail, and four legs. You need to learn to read your horse."
Half the failures in life arise from pulling in the horse as he is leaping.
~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two