This week I had the best feeling in my seat while riding. Judy gave me a lesson about keeping the inside shoulder blade back during the turns. Of course I knew I was supposed to be doing this, but she had me exaggerate it. I could finally feel the inside hip really open up and deepen into the horse. This allowed my leg--especially my inside leg--to be closer to the horse and on. I also felt a nice stretch all the way through my abs and a deeper connection to the rein through my shoulder bland and into my seat, instead of just through my arm.
Once I had that one feeling, the quality of the connection of the horse I was riding went from OK to amazing. His name is Ecco, and he used to be an Advanced Level event horse. The tales goes that even though he was brave in the cross country and good in the dressage, he had no respect for the show jumping fences and would knock them down. So now he is a dressage horse. He is super fun because he is sensitive, and when I rode him this way in the sitting trot he started to swing into the passage.
I had another great lesson on Ecco afterward. He was getting tight in the neck and Judy had me drop the reins completely and just find the balance in my seat. Luckily his head went down, but no matter where it had gone I needed to find my seat in the saddle and my balance on it. Then, I picked up the reins with soft hands, thinking of keeping the length in the neck I had while Ecco was stretching. He reconnected at the exact right spot, and was thereafter reaching out toward the bit. If he gets tight again, for whatever reason, I now can recreate the feeling in my seat and hands without dropping the reins completely and help him avoid tension in the neck and topline.
Each of these little epiphanies go into my “toolbox.” As I ride more horses in the day and the week, I try to memorize the feeling I liked and the skills I used to find them so I can pull them up as needed.