As Nick and I trotted around the arena, I leaned back, moved my feet forward a tad, and rotated my toes out. I touched him with both spurs and he gave me a burst of "fast and furious" trot...not what I wanted. I remembered Dave saying "Leave your heels there-keep asking", so I did with more determination. I consciously relaxed everything but those heels and gave a kiss. There! Nick lofted into a lovely, round canter which he held for more than one circle. My feet came back a little, and he dropped into a trot and then halted square, breathing a little hard.
These cues are not at all what I am used to-but they are the cues my trainer used to teach Nick to lope correctly. This man rode broncs when younger, and worked cattle his entire life. Who am I to question his methods? He taught my reluctant to canter pony to GO...and for that, I am thrilled. The cue could be anything-inside leg on the girth, outside leg back; turn into or out of a corner; or even just a vocal cue. I watched a rider on YouTube wave an arm in the air, and I'm convinced he was using the arm to cue lead changes.
We all fall prey to complacency sometimes, and this summer and fall has been my time to set aside complacency in my riding, and work my ass off learning new skills. My own skills and competencies were not enough, and neither was the equipment I was using.
Lesson #1: We show horses what we want by applying a pressure, and then rewarding the horse by removing that pressure when he/she does what we want.
Simple, huh? But what if the pressure you apply makes no difference? In my case, I haven't used spurs in oh...20 years. Yep, just leg with an occasional light touch with a dressage whip. So, I hunted up my old spurs, and strapped those babys on. hahahaaaahhhhaaaaa.
Nothing. Nada. No response.
It was at this point that I thought I heard a very slight chuckle from Nick.
So I tried a bat (short, noisy whip)--->
Definite chuckles this time. I was starting to wonder if I had somehow had my experience sucked out of me-I was feeling like a pea green rider.
After many different techniques, and lots of round penning etc...here is what works:
Now, I have ridden in some variety of an English saddle since my 20s, and have spent countless hours practicing dressage and classical training techniques. I know there is attitude on both sides of the aisle-->western riders think English riders are sissy, and English riders think western riders are too insensitive. At this stage of my life, I just wanna ride. If Nick needs me to turn up the volume on the cues, I can do that. In fact, if he wants to go as a western horse, I can do that too.
Here is my new saddle!! I'm going to need to sew some western shirts :-)
Here is a close up of the tooling motif:
Now, I need to find an Aussie hat with a helmet inside.