Dressage is the return of freedom to the horse under the rider. Herman Koopman
Wow... Val and I had a super pleasant ride this morning. Nothing special in terms of what we did, but more about how we did it. Nice, calm, free movement... willing turns and transitions, reaching and stretching down and a happy playful attitude the whole time. Such a pleasure.
I believe there are a couple of reasons why our ride went well:
We tried out the new girth I ordered this week. I read about the Le Tixerant Dressage Girth in a blog I follow (Thank you Grey Horse Matters!). After researching further, I thought this girth might help with some of the issues I've been having with Val, which I hoped were physical rather than behavioral. I have definitely had trouble with saddle placement, both deciding where to place it, and keeping it there. On the rides where Val has been a bit resistant, even offering to buck occasionally, when we untacked after riding, the sweat marks showed the saddle had slipped forward, probably impeding his shoulder movement / pinching his withers. When I would tighten the girth up enough to keep the saddle in place, it was likely too tight.
The Le Tixerant girth is designed not to pinch or constrict breathing and movement, as well as to keep the saddle in place - front to back and side to side. Val was extra sweet and affectionate after we rode... I swear he was letting me know how good he felt. We heartily recommend this girth :)
Aside from the new equipment, I had an epiphany about how we train. From now on I resolve not to have any agenda for our sessions... not to be goal oriented. I will go with the flow - staying in the moment - so that my decisions are appropriate for both Val and for me. It's all about the process. I knew these things intellectually but have failed to put them into practice on a consistent basis. Having my horse enjoy himself so much today really helped this lesson sink in.
Enjoy the holiday and thank you to everyone who serves or has served our country in the military.