Today I rode a headless horse . . .
Now that might take some explanation . . .
I know that one of my worst riding faults has been staring at my horse's head as I ride - this puts my focus and weight down on the horse's forehand, making it hard for the the horse to carry itself properly. It also means that I'm not looking where I'm intending to go, which makes it hard for me to give the horse direction and hard for the horse to figure out what I want. It tends to result in riding too much with my hands, which is a fault of its own. Looking at my horse's head is a fault I've been working very hard to correct, and fixing my posture and focus to achieve this is something I work on during every ride. It takes a long time to establish new habits, particularly when you're trying to break an old habit of long standing.
Today, in addition to working on keeping my posture open and erect, with my chin and focus up, I tried something in addition - riding a headless horse. Dawn and I worked on this during our early-morning ride (the boys are having a well-deserved day off). (Dawn walked away from me when I went to bring her in, so that's back to normal.) To do this, I imagined that I was moving around the arena, using her hind legs as my legs, and with my eyes and focus being her eyes and focus. So all she had was hind legs - no head. This was very much a matter of thinking about, and feeling, only what her hind legs were doing and paying little or no attention to the front half of the horse and especially paying no attention at all to the head. All I did with my hands and shoulders was to provide a stable place for her to find a soft contact, and to give direction if any was needed in addition to the moving we were doing with "our" hind legs, guided by "our" eyes and focus. If I were a creature composed of her hind legs and my eyes and focus, I certainly wouldn't be able to look down - I'd have to look where I was going or else I was going to trip and fall down.
The exercise was remarkably successful. All I had to do was change my focus and send "our" legs somewhere, and there they went. All I had to do to change speed within a gait or change gaits was to bring up my energy and take "our" legs into the new speed or gait. This worked even for halting, or for staying halted. Most remarkably - I was surprised by this - it worked for backing, on a completely loose rein, and with no change of my posture and no cues - I just thought about "our" legs stepping backwards, and backwards they went.
It was a pretty magical experience. Now I have to try riding a "headless" Red and a "headless" Pie . . .