And so, I went home. The next day, I got out the Tuck.
Everything was like it normally was, except me. I got on, went to the field that served as my ring, and rode him around with no stirrups, then both directions without my left, and both directions without my right. All I concentrated on was feeling my legs be long, my knee soft and open, my ribs up, and my pelvis following the movement. I’d always been taught to have my knee *in*, my thigh *on*. I gave that up and pretended Susan was there, stretching my leg down. I rolled my thigh back throughout, and could feel how that opened my hip and allowed my leg to be even longer.
It was all so antithetical to how I had always ridden in tack. But since I had spent so much of my riding life bareback, I just tried to feel that same sense of drapey hanging leg, but with a saddle. I practiced picking up my stirrups, one at a time, then both, then dropping them again, and trying not to let anything else in my body change in any way. It was funny how hard that was to do, when I broke it down like that. I could also tell that Tucker could feel my shifts, no matter how slight. So I kept at it till I could drop both or either stirrup, and pick them up again, with him on the buckle, in either direction, and not changing in any way.
And then, picking up both my stirrups, I channeled Susan. Tummy up and back, pelvis tilted, no squeezing thigh, a nice deep connection to the stirrup, knees soft and bent, and after a moment, just a little inward press of my lower calf. Nothing else.
Unlike most of my friends those days, I had started always riding in a helmet. Sue Payne required it, and I’d promised my husband when the girls were born that I would always ride with one. And I was riding in grass, so my landing was soft.
With my body *out of his way*, and *asking in a way that was physiologically correct* that horse shot forward in to the giant floaty trot I had seen him do. It was so unexpected and I was so unprepared that I went straight off the back, the proverbial Tea Kettle Over the proverbial Arse.
I can’t say which of us was more surprised. He trotted back over to me as I lay there, laughing to myself.
Well, I *had* asked for trot! And finally, for the first time, I asked in a way that told him *what* I wanted, but more importantly, *allowed* him to perform the requested task.
I was on to something!