I missed two weeks of lessons and was huffing and puffing last night. Sometimes, taking an extended break is helpful though. Last night we identified a key problem area for me. It's been a problem from the get go, but now that it's not mixed with anxiety and fear, I hadn't noticed it as much. It's my Superman arms.
Arms of Steel. From my shoulder blades to my fists, any time things aren't working my arms turn into steel rods of tension. Here comes the scary corner. Tight reins, arms of steel! Canter transition where she might throw her head at my nose? Arms of steel! The dreaded tranter? Arms of steel!
Linda gently chastised me because Tessa was cranky and sucking back again. She said "It's time to look at what you're doing to prevent her forward motion." I know, I'm a little late to this party. But now that my tension is not fear related, it's time to let it go.
We worked on keeping my legs beneath me and my muscles somewhat relaxed. Letting the motion of the horse carry me forward and being soft and supple. Keeping Tessa's ears pointed the direction I'm going. Oh, she's looking to the outside? Arms of Steel! No, wait, relax. Relax. I started muttering it under my breath. Relax. Hands down. Relax. Legs beneath you. Relax. Keep your rein length. Relax. Following hands.
The arena was super busy (six horses in a 70 x 120 covered arena) so it was more of a challenge than usual. We didn't have a whole lot of great moments, but I started to recognize when I was tensing up. My goal for this week is not to worry too much about changing it to something effective, but to notice it EVERY time. If I can then relax, great. But I want to know every time I do it. Including in my non-pony life. My shoulders have long since shouldered (hahahaha. this made me happy) the burden of my stresses. Sitting at my desk. Problem solving. The tension starts in the middle of my shoulder blades, draws them together and eventually travels down the length of my arms. It's time to recognize those moments. Just by identifying them, I will start to change my behavior.
I'm excited that though I have tension in my body, there isn't the same tension in my brain. Tessa bucked and kicked and threw her head to nose breaking heights last night (thank GOD for the martingale!!!!) and I was frustrated with myself but not afraid. And in the end we had lovely forward motion and one ear flicked back on me all the way around the arena.