In that CR clinic, with Susan Harris and all the others watching and critiquing each other and ourselves, we had ridden two hours in the mornings and two hours in the afternoons. We had done lots of work over cavaletti, low jumps, and grids. We rode with our arms crossed over our chests, we rode with only one stirrup, we rode in two-point, over and over. We rode with only one hand, the other arm stretched in various positions. We did the Three Seats exercise, wherein you post ten strides, sit ten strides, and two-point ten strides, the goal being to be able to do these position changes without any change in your horse’s way of going. We also spent a lot of time riding with a soft/loose leg, seeking a connection from the rider hip to the foot/stirrup. Susan would come up to us while standing and run her hand from the inside top of our thigh down to the lower calf, then softly pull/allow our leg to be longer and more draped. Then she would tap the bottom of our feet. It was really crazy how different this made my legs feel.
All of these exercises were extraordinarily revealing. It was particularly helpful to watch the other riders and to see how their horses responded to the work and the position changes. Remember, I was watching people riding horses I had ridden and taught on for several weeks. I saw the horses respond, change, get softer, rounder, more forward. I admit, sitting and watching and listening to the riders exclaiming this and that would never have done it for me. In fact, some of the Navel Gazers were embarrassing. "Yes! Yes!" they'd cry, as they experienced some sort of real or perceived breakthrough. Oy. There was always a lot of 'Me! Me! I am SO CENTERED' hoopla going on. I had to give Susan credit. She kept everybody focused on their positions and while encouraging to all the Gazers you could tell she wanted them to keep the focus on *riding*. No, it was watching the *horses* respond to the position changes that was the shocker. Horses don’t lie. Ever. Nor do they have agendas or placebo effects or Things to Prove. They just are. And I could see, over and over, how they changed when the rider body changed. And it’s not like half the time you could even really see anybody do anything. But you saw the horse change, and then you realized that the rider body had changed. Wow.