If you haven't read the previous post, take a minute to read it now - otherwise what I'm about to say isn't going to make much sense. Dawn and I had a fabulous work session today, because I paid attention to the things I was talking about in my prior post - flow, connection and mirroring.
Here's what I did and what happened as a result. (The weather today was much cooler - temperatures in the low 40s, and it was still quite windy - with a lot of gusts coming in the doors of the arena as we rode. I didn't lunge - Dawn told me two days ago that lungeing wasn't really necessary anymore, and I took her advice.) My goal was first, to connect my legs, arms and head and neck with my core, and have everything flow together - no disconnected aids, and second, to concentrate on releasing tension in my problem areas - particularly my jaw, neck and shoulders and arms. In order to do this, I brought my chin in and kept my eyes up - this brought my head back over my spine and didn't result in my driving the energy down with my eyes; I consciously relaxed tension in my shoulders, particularly my left one, and kept my shoulders open and elbows close to my sides, with hands in a straight line from bit to elbow - not too low as I'm prone to do ("hunter hands"); and kept my hips open and legs relaxed and draped. I also focussed on not pulling, but that was rarely an issue as my postural and relaxation changes pretty much eliminated Dawn leaning on my hands or bracing or diving.
The change in Dawn was dramatic. We were able to do a lot of very nice trot and transition work without her getting revved up or pulling or diving with her head, even with other horses trotting and cantering in the ring. With my weight and focus not down on her head and neck, and with my hands in a more connected position, her head position was higher although her face and jaw stayed mostly relaxed - she tends to dive and curl up - and she started really using herself - she did some wonderful, forward and rhythmic but pretty relaxed trot. Corners were much less of an issue - I worked on keeping my hands apart enough that the straight line to the bit wasn't disrupted and just kept my eyes up and stepped lightly into the outside stirrup - it's more like I'm stepping to the outside and turning with my own body - and she came right up under me, even when we were tracking right. The quality of her trot was greatly improved - she started to stretch her back and engage her core.
Whenever she started to rush or lean at all, I kept going and just thought about relaxing my neck, jaw and shoulders, and she was able to come right back to me. We also did some nice loose rein figures with tight turns guided only by my slightly turning my eyes and hips - no leg or rein aids at all. To finish, we did a series of lovely walk/trot/walk transitions with only a few strides at each gait, followed by a beautiful 1-2-3-4 square halt. I jumped off and praised her effusively - she was great! It's all there - it just depends on me.