In the middle of my ride last night (I'm usually alone, thus time for reflection) I started thinking about how important it is to be able to let go. Our natural tendency as humans, when we are scared, is to tighten up the reins and turn our legs into a vice grip, holding on for dear life. Our horses interpret this as "holy sh**! my rider is freaking out, time to flee!" A panic reaction by the rider does nothing to reassure the horse. Now instead of looking to you for guidance and reassurance in a scary/unfamiliar situation, they return to their instincts which inevitably tell them to flee/escape at the first sign of trouble. In order to reassure the horse you have to be able to take a step back, ask for a stretch and let go even if you think he/she might spook again. I see this as the ultimate balance of trust. You show the horse there's nothing to be afraid of by letting go and asking for relaxation and the horse shows you he/she trusts you by obliging. The ability or inability to let go can make or break the rider/horse relationship.
Obviously this is easier said than done. When Alex is in one of his moods where he's looking for anything to spook at, I even have moments where I think twice about allowing him to fully stretch for fear of losing control. But if I don't allow him to stretch, he can't relax and so we never correct the problem. Fortunately, last night even though there were monsters aplenty, I was able to let go and Alex was able to accomplish a fair measure of relaxation in his flat work, even though it wore me out to get him there :-)
We also had another first last night, our first tiny jump. No I am not kidding, this might have been the world's smallest cross rail.
He tried to stop at it once and got a spanking then tripped over and banged it a few times, next decided he would just pick his feet up higher, but still treat it like a trot-pole and finally jumped it, letting out an unceremonious groan on the landing. Overall considering the start to our ride, he really was pretty good about it and I was very pleased. Next time I think we'll go up a hole and see if we can't get a little more "jump" going.
It's been so many months since I jumped anything, this is very exciting!
Alex had today off and tomorrow he gets his feet done, so we'll just work on the lunge. Back in the saddle Thursday, we'll see how the jumping goes :-)