I had a lesson with Samantha Allan last week and it was exciting and informative. Birdie, being the high anxiety, energy driven equine is probably the last horse you'd choose to jump without reins, but he is the horse I have. Sam decided it was a great time for me to experience jumping without reins. In the indoor, trotting poles to a one stride was the setting. I learned something about my riding that I hadn't realized. I also faced a fact head on, (not literally) that I already knew.
First, Birdie approaches and jumps beautifully without any input from the reins. Imagine that, I have proof that if I would just leave him alone, he would jump beautifully. That's a great thing to know. Second, my tension or anxiety when approaching the jump has nothing to do with the approach at all. Apparently I know if I leave him alone, he'll approach correctly and jump beautifully. I, being a human though have a desire to have too much contact on approach. Now I know why. After the jump when the Bird is free, he has a YEE HA, good time. He sort of cuts and runs. He did it even better than usual when he realized I had no reins. It was obvious that I approach the jump anticipating the depart from the jump. This in not rational because there's nothing I can do on the approach about the depart except muck it up. Having this information moved my riding up considerably and I never knew this before that lesson.
This lesson was an exhilarating learning experience. It had moments of mild terror as the wall approached. You see, having come from a race track riding background, I'd have been much more comfortable in an open field jumping without reins. There I would have all the time in the world to get them back and slow my Bird. In an indoor, THE WALL IS COMING!! They keep solid objects to a minimum on the race track and that's the way we like it. When I told Jim Wofford what I had done in my last lesson with Sam, he got the biggest, cat that ate the canary grin and said, that Sam is a good girl.
I told Sam I feel I need a lot more of this. Not to worry, she has many more exercises in store for me. I am lucky to have such great people to work with.