What happened was: we were down in the lower arena, and the going was great after a rainy winter and myriad puddles, doing a short course of low fences to work on sustaining our rhythm and finessing our lines in.
The car park is directly adjacent to the arena hosts horseboxes.
I had William, who is a spooky character.
As we jumped the fence at B, heading towards C, where we were taking our line onto the diagonal from H, I felt William bunch up, then pick up speed.
I sat back and turned him in a circle; he slowed down. I saw a person walking their horse across the car park. They couldn’t have been further away, only if they weren’t actually there.
I sat back some more, we made the turn, took the fence, finished the course.
The sitting back and the circling part was accomplished without conscious thought.
I wrote about the first time I sat back unconsciously/consciously in MBF:
Two lesson groups were stuffed into the indoor arena due to the bad weather. Even though there were eleven of us, adults and children, plus an equal number of horses, we mostly managed to remain contained…except for one mare, Bounty, who was showing her youth and freshness by skitting about the place. I kept a prudent distance: we were right behind them, and Maverick habitually liked to get up-close-and-personal with the lead horse.
We all began trotting in a twenty-meter circle, in which lay two sets of poles to go over: one set of three on the track side of the circle, and another set at X, both of which added negotiation in the curve. Bounty didn’t like this. She jigged over the poles as though they were set on fire, and took every approach to them as if it was her last action as a living, breathing creature.
On one such approach—one in which, in fairness, we were indeed a bit too close to her—she got spooked, and so Mav got spooked, and he leaped and jittered out of the line and started to buck and I…
…I sat back.
No one yelled at me to sit back. I just felt my pelvis tuck in—ah! He stopped bucking. I walked him in a circle, and rejoined the group.
In that moment, there was awareness: I felt it deep in my muscles with some input from my mind, but not much. I didn’t tell myself, Sit back! I just…did it, and even gave Maverick a squeeze to keep him moving forward. As quickly, quietly, and simply as that, I had a major breakthrough.
The unconsciously/consciously sounds tricky, but it’s kind of not. I did what I did in response to William’s reaction; the first few seconds were a spontaneous (unconscious) response to William’s actions, and the result was my ability to consciously correct his actions — in a way, to assuage his fear — and carry on.
I guess this seems like a big deal to me all over again because I’ve been riding Cathal for so long. I think in our entire career, he spooked… once? When we were doing a test and one of the barn cats, then a tiny black kitten, streaked across the entrance to the arena. Cathal, who has been known to mooch past noisy, moving, ginormous tractors without even twitching an ear, nearly hopped out of his skin. I’m laughing now, but the test wasn’t great and in retrospect I should have taken better care and let him walk it off before I guided us in to the start.
Living and learning! That’s why this never gets boring…