I started working on riding one-handed in my last lesson a week ago at the walk and jog. Abbey is really doing well with this because she so trained to move off the leg that for the most part the neck reining is just a little reminder to stay in her lane with her head and neck. That is unless we are doing more maneuvering, then I sometimes have to pick up a rein to reminder her.
Tonight we had a lesson, and other than having a really crowded arena with two or three hay wagons on one end, an F350 parked on the other, two young, relatively green horses in there with us, what seemed like a pack of crazy dogs (my trainer has two Aussies and they can be quite active when there is a strange dog at the barn, which there was of course!), and a loud thunderstorm, things were relatively calm. I try not to get aggravated with having to share space when I am taking a lesson, because we all do a good job of sharing the space, but I was a little annoyed tonight since we were learning something totally new that involved our steering. On the bright side, these types of conditions don't allow for any day dreaming at all, and you really have to ride every stride and pay attention, so all in all it is a good challenge. Just a little nerve racking at times.
To start the lesson K taught me a new trick for teaching neck reining, where you take each rein and make an X with them under the horse's neck before taking them back to your hand. This way you have the effect of a little direct rein in the direction you need along with the indirect neck rein. Think of a bitless bridle with the cross-under straps, only its the reins attached to the bit and not part of the headstall. It works really well, until you forget that right is left and left is right when you switch back to direct reining to make larger corrections. I really confused both of us a few times, and got stuck in more than a few tiny circles from pulling on the wrong direct rein. Something to work on for sure.
After working at the walk and jog, we moved to the lope, and for this we uncrossed the reins and went back to normal one-handed. I had to get used to not having the reins flipped over the top like I am used to from years of English riding. K didn't really give me a lot of time to think about it, just said, "are you ready to lope?" She wouldn't ask if she thought we weren't ready, so of course I said, "Yes?" (I know, so confident!)
I struggle a little with my departs, because I way over-think, and sometimes hold on too much in the face and that shuts her down and gets her a little stuck and resistant, but we worked through it and were able to get some nice departs both directions and some really nice trips around the arena, even avoiding the aforementioned obstacles - didn't flatten one dog, which is always a good thing. Riding one-handed is really amazing for making your ride through your legs and seat, it's a lot like being on a lunge line. I was able to really sit up, get my shoulders over my hips, drive through my seat, and make corrections with my legs when Abbey wanted to lean on her inside shoulder and swing her hip out to the rail. The reins are really more to aid in collecting her up when she gets a little strung out, and to bring her head back up and squeeze her back together when she wants to drop her neck too low (no peanut pushers here!). The feeling when she was balanced and collected underneath me and between my legs was awesome, just really rocking and effortless. Granted, this ride on cloud nine only lasts a few strides at a time, but I will take it! We will eventually be able to make multiple laps around, but I know that is some ways in the future yet.
K told us we did good, really good, and that is high praise from her. She is a really honest even-keeled person, never gets really high on the highs or low on the lows - good traits for a horse trainer, I think. It also means that she doesn't dole out praise lavishly. You really have to earn it. As someone who is big on feedback, it can be tough not to hear how well I am doing all the time, but it sure makes it special when I do hear it. I have earned my spurs, and now I will work to earn the right to ride like a real cowgirl, reins in one hand eyes up, and feeling each shift in direction through my seat.
As I cooled Abbey down, we sat and chatted about life a little, and K mentioned that she was feeling a little down with some of the new steps she is taking in her life right now. I totally get it, and it goes back to really wanting something to hurry up and happen so bad it hurts, and being angry about changes happening around us that aren't desirable. We all have times in our lives like this, and sometimes it all just piles up. She said she really needed to see a rainbow to make her feel better about all the junk that just won't get out her path. Well, someone heard her and blessed us with a big, beautiful double rainbow where we could even see the violet - really rare. We sat and breathed it in for a few minutes, I snapped a quick photo for her because her phone was dying. I hope the rainbow was for her like my ride was for me. Can't have rainbows without a little rain.