The first week I moved into the dorms my freshman year of college, a new friend recommended a book to me. I can’t remember the name of book or author any more, but it was a kindof philosophical exploration into taking mind-altering drugs in ceremonies reminiscent of Native American rituals and the mental, physical, and spiritual results of these endeavours. I only got partway through the book, so I don’t know the extent of what the author discovered or wrote about. But one thing that did stand out to me in the first third of the text was the idea that (even while not high on peyote) one could sense the energy of an empty space and find places in that space that were more or less “welcoming” to the spirit. The author described slowly crawling around a mostly empty room in the dark, and finding that he was constantly repelled from a certain area of the room by feelings of cold and hostility that crept over him while he was there. In one specific place, he was overcome with warmth and tranquility whenever he sat there.
So of course my new friend and I took it upon ourselves to find “our spots” in her dorm room. We asked her roommate if she could please give us an hour of privacy, as we were going to be exploring spiritually and finding “our spots”. Peyote-less, we turned out the lights, crawled around in the dark, bumped in to things, and proclaimed that we felt positive or negative energy in certain areas. I don’t remember if I really did ever find a space in the room that felt peaceful and welcoming — probably not, we do have a raging skepticorn over here — but I do know that it never amounted to much, since it wasn’t my room anyway. Upon emerging with dirty hands and knees, when asked by other people on the floor what we were doing, we exuberantly exclaimed “finding our spots!”
They were thinking of totally different spots.
Not unlike this mystical experience, though, I found a pretty magical spot in my saddle earlier this week. Murray and I were working on walk-trot transitions while I listened to the Dressage Radio Show. The guest on at the time was talking about being able t control the placement of the hind feet, and really being able to sense the placement of the hind feet as they move through space. The idea being that you can only influence the foot if you know where it is in space, so you can time the correction appropriately, and exactly where it is and where you need to move it.
While thinking about hind feet in the transitions, I also started to think about the transitions themselves. I always want Murray to move up into a more forward trot, but what that sometimes results in is him pulling himself into a messy, downhill trot that I then have to work to correct. Instead of letting him dump forward in the transition, I kept the contact there and asked Murray to come up right after each transition if he ran down through them (um, I think? I don’t totally remember).
I was also focusing on my leg position throughout the ride. My left leg has been hurting after riding lately, and I noticed that I weight it differently in the stirrup, putting more weight on the toe of my left foot. This stretches out the tendon (or whatever) on the outside of my leg, and makes it difficult in general to use my lower leg. So I was working hard to keep the weight even on the ball of my foot and bring my toes in.
At some point in all of this I brought both of my legs back a touch to help turn my toes in, and suddenly my position felt perfect. My whole leg could be on Murray without gripping or squeezing or flailing, but if I needed to, I could pressure my calf or my thigh independently or together. I was balanced through my thigh and knee, but I still felt like my heel was sinking down. I felt like I was sitting in the deepest possible place in the saddle, and felt connected to Murray’s back more thoroughly than I ever have before.
IT WAS SO. FREAKING. COOL.
Murray maybe liked it too, or at least had gotten to the point of the ride where he was willing to just acquiesce to my requests, because we had some fantastic trot transitions in both directions. Toward the end I decided to throw in a canter transition too, and he just rose up under my seat like Poseidon out of the sea and stepped right into a killer, uphill canter. I wasn’t even thinking about keeping him ahead of my leg, and there he was — right on the aids.
only, think of him as a benevolent poseidon
I’m not exactly sure how I did it, or how to make it happen again. I tried a bit in my jump saddle and couldn’t quite achieve the same level of zen. But now I have a new feeling to chase!