Johnny has been riding Moe about once a week for maybe six months. The two of them get on really well- Johnny is delighted at Moe’s antics on the ground and feels safe on his back (probably because he can touch his feet together under Moe’s belly). Moe loves that Johnny lets him do things I would never allow, like vigorously scratching his head on my back or wandering around the outdoor arena at random.
When we went riding yesterday, I was surprised to see just how well Johnny had Moe going. Johnny’s not some kind of riding savant (although he has finally conquered the posting trot), so what’s going on? I parked Gina in the middle of the ring and observed.
Johnny rides Moe the way Moe prefers to be ridden. He has very soft hands and rides on a very long rein. Instead of taking advantage of this and zipping around the arena with his head in the air, Moe stretches down to find the contact. Once he’s found it, he happily stays there until something changes (Johnny’s balance, usually).
Johnny’s lower legs don’t have a lot of contact with Moe’s sides: they are a hilariously mismatched pair at 6’6 and 15.3 hands. He grips with his thighs and uses his seat to communicate changes of direction and speed. Moe listens surprisingly well.
As I was watching them yesterday, it occurred to me that Moe really is a mirror of his rider. Gina lets me cheat a little; Moe is so honest that it’s impossible to ride poorly and not have him tattle on you, at least on the flat.
So when Moe and I are spending chilly mornings on improving our dressage, I’m going to think of Johnny, calmly trotting around on Moe with a loose rein and soft hand and active seat. And I’ll be trying my hardest to ride that way, too.