A few weeks ago I took a couple horses out to a different public use arena. First off let me say that it is a quite Beautiful facility! Covered arena that is worked quite regularly, wash racks, bleachers, a consession stand and even a playground. The horses and I had the place to ourselves the whole time too, which was beyond awesome.
I have been helping the one lady at the barn with her new filly and she told me to take her to the arena and put some miles on her to see how she would do in a new place. She loaded like a champ and was well behaved the entire time. Under saddle though she had some new quirks. Of course she stared hard at the watering contraption at the other end of the arena and gave it plenty of room in case it would jump out to get her, but soon she settled right down to walking past it and ignoring it altogether. She did really good warming up.
When it came time to work on our trotting and loping a new problem came up. She was fine going to the left, but to the right she would pop her left shoulder out and seemed to be evading the bit altogether. Then she would turn her head but not her body. She would not commit to the turn or stay on a circle. I brought it back down to a walk and got things sorted out, she was relaxed and soft, giving to pressure and accepting my cues, but at the trot it all went south again. I wasn't even going to try asking for a lope, especially since we are still working on picking up the right lead. Left is fine, right we have issues. I was riding her in my western saddle. I fixed things at a walk again while I cooled her out and put some thought into what was going on, why??? and How to fix it.
Then it came time to get on my OTTB mare. I would be riding her english and since she is much further along in her training, I would be able to sort out more of MY own issues. We walked around the arena and she did give the sprinkler the stink eye, but igored it rather quickly. I was able to stretch my legs out and down, my arms up and out and found my right shoulder and neck had become really stiff and tight. This is common for me and has been an ongoing issue since back in the day when I rode my mare Tess.
When it came time to do some trot work, She had the same issue with popping her left shoulder out when going to the right. That was one of those WTH??? moments. Thing is, riding the filly and her being smaller (13.1h), yes the shoulder was noticeable. Getting on my mare and her being so much bigger (15.3h), that just magnified the issue and made it all the more obvious that the problem was me. I didn't get it sorted out for the day and it left me wondering what was going on and and how to figure out what to do to fix it?
The next day I rode my mare back at the barn. We did the same warm-up routine of big circles to help her stretch and loosen up while I did my own stretches to loosen up and relax. I thouht about the previous rides and thought about getting it right this time. When we started to trot, I remembered to breathe, I sat up and looked ahead at where I wanted to go. Then I asked my mare to trot as I picked up my diagonal and began to post. I sat up straight and my mare traveled straight. That left me wondering why she hadn't been doing that the day before? We had a good ride and my mare did really well.
As I untacked my horse and put things away, I looked at my western saddle. I remembered feeling like I had been reaching for my stirrups while riding so I decided to move them up a notch. One side was already up as high as it would go. The other side was on the second hole down. Well no wonder why my horses had been traveling 'crooked'! I was sitting crooked in the saddle, throwing everything off balance for them, DUH!!!
Sometimes it is simple, minor things that cause us bigger issues. Fix the little things and the rest will follow. Also the size of the horse you're on can show you where your problems are too. The horses aren't blaming us, they are just doing what they are being asked so don't take it personally.