Last week I briefly touched on how I've been starting to play with biomechanics with Royal, trying to get him to relax and unlock his body. I think the underlying tension in his body is what preventing us from having a really good connection with each other when riding. I've talked about how he can hold tension like nobody's business, probably because that's how he's lived his life. I recognize that tendency in myself as well, so I'm trying to work on that too.
The first step is helping him to be "let loose" in his body, completely free of tension. It looks something like this:
Obviously this is a tall order for the Fuzz, and we've had a few interesting sessions so far. Our ride on Tuesday was one big experiment, some of which went well, some didn't. I tried a few different exercise, mostly relating to the Basic Alignment Exercise and melting brace. The hypothesis behind the Basic Alignment Exercise is that somewhere between crooked and the opposite of crooked the the place of alignment. So if your horse is falling in with their shoulder on the circle, instead of trying to get their shoulder on the angle of the circle, yield the shoulder past the circle for a bit and see what happens. By going to the opposite of crooked, you and your horse go through the place of alignment, which feels good. Eventually, after doing that enough, you find where you and your horse feel balanced and good.
Of course, I can't explain all of this to Royal and have to try to help him find it. So on Tuesday, I mightily confused him by asking him to yield his shoulders, barrel, and hindquarters this way and that, hoping to help him unlock and relax. The only problem of this was that a confused Royal is often a tense Royal, and he kept locking up and refusing to yield. At one point, he almost reared, which lead to an emphatic discussion of "forward means FORWARD." After both of us were tired and confused, so I tried to fix it by doing the brace dissolving exercise. It's kind of the opposite of the GoC, where you're constantly ready to take the contact. In brace dissolving, you establish a connection with the rein, and then send you energy forward through the reins to the horse. Instead of potentially creating a brace, you basically sent yourself up as a fence post, albeit a very giving one, that it uncomfortable for the horse to brace against. That seemed to work very well, and soon Royal was reaching into the contact and pushing well from behind. It was only for a few steps, but it was among the best he's ever felt. And when we stopped, he yawned and yawned and yawned for a couple minutes. Very good result.
Although I felt like an idiot because I set up my cell phone record it, and I accidentally turned it off before we even started. So no video. *headdesk*
We had a much better OnLine session a couple days later. After playing with attention and focus (be more interesting than the cows!), we did a bit more BAE. As before, he started off very confused and tense, but then something interesting happened: he started to relax. He put effort into the yields, instead of fighting them, and starting doing little bits of stretching. Then after a bit, fully stretched out for half a circle, completely let loose and relaxed. And more yawning. We're off to a good start.