I was lucky enough to get another private lesson this week. This time, instead of the towel, we used a medicine ball. I've ridden with the medicine ball before, but we really focused on making sure that it was my core that was getting worked and not my arms.
Besides the obvious benefits of nice steady contact (you can't adjust your reins when you're holding the ball) I found another hidden benefit.
Tessa was very hot and spooky, even though she'd been ridden every day. I think she was mostly trying to get out of work since she hadn't gotten to go to turn out yet that day. So, at one point, she did a jump, whirl and tried to bolt. I couldn't do my usual flailing again because I held the ball. Which was even harder than the towel since my hands couldn't adjust the rein length. So, without even thinking about it, I just tightened my core and shut her down. My trainer actually applauded because without using ANY REIN, I had shut down a bolt in two strides.
Sometimes I think trainers must have something stronger than coffee in their thermos, because I don't know how else they put up with the learning process. Oh sure, we all nod and go "Right. Use my core. Uh huh." and then we get right back to fiddling with our hands. And when a horse takes off, we pull back on the reins. Because how else will those horses stop? And the whole time, somehow our trainers manage not to roll their eyes and sigh in exasperation. We pretend to believe them when they tell us that you can stop a horse with no reins. We know that wouldn't work on OUR horse. It's got to be perfectly trained before you can do THAT.
But then, every once in a while, something like my pony's spook and bolt happens and you DO use your core (even if it's on accident because you can't physically move your hands because you're holding a heavy ball) and it's effective. And for a brief moment, the light bulb is on and it all makes sense. Here's hoping I can keep my light shining!