"What I notice is that no matter how much I give to animals, I always get more back." Anna Blake, Author and Equestrian
Over the past year, my co-worker Mary at the stables has been trying to help me get Sportie off his forehand and make more use of his powerful hindquarters. She discretely offers a suggestion here or there as we both exercise our horses in the arena, being extremely helpful without making me feel extremely stupid. I appreciate her so much, because I’ve tried to be helpful to others in various situations and I know that’s a hard balance to maintain.
I can tell that the riding adjustments I’ve been working hard to make are not lost on Sportie. I’ve slowly earned his respect by refining my basic Western riding style to incorporate more empathetic Dressage techniques. Mary has taught me that my body should move a little more and my hands a little less. Instead of pulling on his mouth to make a turn, I slide my leg back on Sportie and give his hips a slight push in the opposite direction with my heel. In turn he responds much more smoothly with less resistance, and sometimes will flick his ear in my direction in surprise as if saying, “Wow, very good!”
As both Sportie and I work more from his back half and I get the response I want out of him, the extra energy that comes from his hind end is impressive, like a racing motorcycle capable of doing a 'pop a wheelie.' I tell him “Wow, very good!” and I relax into the saddle, and he relaxes underneath it. Mary tells me engaging the hindquarters is definitely worth the effort for many reasons, but especially because it increases the longevity of his riding career.
And the longer we have together, the better.