Bar and I had our long-awaited lesson today and I spent much of it convinced I had bent elbows.
The photographic evidence, however, proves me so very wrong. I don't understand how I can tell my body to do one thing and have it completely disregard my commands. Bah.
Luckily, Bar was gracious and charming and tolerated my ramrod straight arms and odd attempts at posting with quiet dignity and patience.
The lesson was good, and gave me lots to work on (as you can see), but the very best part was working quietly past my fear that Bar would act out when he got tired of all of the boring circles. Though he did get tired (as did I), he just kept at it with only a need for minor encouragement a few times. Not one buck or bolt manifested, though it was also 90 degrees outside so some of his enthusiasm may have been diminished.
What do I need to improve? Everything, of course. But in particular: keeping my elbows bent, shoulders back, and hands soft; keep the pinky off the reins so they don't get broken if he tosses his head; relaxing; consistency. And all of this is worse when we go to the left, for some reason. I could blame it on the twist in my pelvis (caused by a slight curvature in my spine and compounded by an old rowing injury), but both Steve and Peter say I just don't look as relaxed that direction.
The perspective from astride my wondrous steed is one of feeling more out of balance going to the left (clockwise). That probably makes me tense up more, which in turn tightens everything up. Peter says my inside (left) arm drops and to just keep reminding myself to lift it (and Bar's shoulder) up. I don't see why I can't just put my body in the right place and have it stay there, but the evidence in the photos is hard to refute. It doesn't stay and I will have to practice, practice, practice to retrain those muscles to obey.
Recalcitrant body aside, my horse and I did a good job today and made a few more strides towards learning to ride better together. He even pretended to be a Dressage horse a couple of times, dropping his beautiful head and neck into a nice arch and giving to the bit. (By then Steve was tired of being my staff photographer, though, so you'll have to take my word for it.) I'll bet it was one of the few times I bent my elbows, too.
I am encouraged, and that helps in so many ways. I'm not perfect, he's not perfect. I twist funny, he doesn't always get into frame and he drags his feet. But we're figuring this out together--one small step at a time--and we've come to some sort of agreement that what we're doing is good and helpful and a vast improvement of where we were.
He nuzzled me at the end of the lesson today, staying close and wanting reassurance that he'd done okay. I told him with pets and a cookie that he had done just fine. He told me I'd done okay, too--straight arms and all.