I think the circling work we did last time on the slope helped Mocha understand her balance a lot more this time on the hill. For the first time since we’ve started riding down that short little slope, she’s moving more like a horse I’d feel comfortable riding on trails.
The big problem has been that she’s been slamming down hard on her forehand, letting gravity carry her downhill instead of taking short, careful, balanced steps and using her rear end. While it’s been suggested that I lean forward downhill, um, no, not when she’s moving like that. I don’t want to encourage that method of downhill movement with a rider. She’s also really fussy about weight on her shoulders sometimes, and I think that’s another issue she’s had to adjust to because she’s been hollowing out her back when she slops around going down (saddle does not slip forward but it does slip back, her breast collar is always loose when I put the saddle on her but not when I take it off, otherwise it fits her well).
That changed today. She arched her neck, rounded her back, shifted her weight to her rear, and FINALLY started taking short, careful, balanced steps instead of plopping down the slope, mincing along carefully but in control, using her rear end and back correctly. There were a couple of instances when she started to rush again and I stopped her, paused, and then we went on. I could feel her shoulders work through the saddle and braced myself up a tiny bit to unweight her back, and moved off of her shoulders while leaning forward from the waist up. Balanced and controlled. Yay!
Then we circled in both directions going uphill, and again, I could tell that she was more confident in her balance and starting to understand where to put her feet better. She was not hesitant at all about turning in either direction and in fact felt more and more confident the more we did it. Not a whisper of any issue with that right side. So we circled about halfway up, then two-tracked a little bit before just walking up the slope.
Not sure how much more hill riding I’ll be able to do before the rains set in. I really don’t want to ride her downhill on blacktop when it’s wet–that would undo a lot of this careful working with her to understand her balance. I go back to work next week and it then becomes a race against the dark before we go back to Standard Time and I lose that extra light. But I am very, very glad we’ve gotten to this point before I started up work again! If I can get a couple more sessions like that, then I’ll be happy to let it rest until spring. Yay.