Vaquero - where are you and with whom do you ride? Feel free to PM me with that, if you'd prefer. I live SE of Albany, but know a fair number of folks in the central NY area. Assuming your mare is QH? Or western breed? Is she yours or just one you ride?
@ccoronios: I sent you a PM. Also, I'm hoping to get to #2 on your list, but I don't think we're at that step of subtlety yet.
@mvp: I could kiss you. However, if that doesn't float your boat, how about your body weight in your favorite beverage?
My left leg feels like somebody tried to forcibly remove it from my body at the hip joint, but huzzah! While not perfect, it's about 80% better in a) I could actually use my leg as an aid and b) no super drunken monkey driving and we were straight a good portion of the time! I re-corrected my position every time I stopped, or sometimes while just walking, and for the first time, both legs (and butt cheeks) felt absolutely even in the saddle.
I'm going to need to research some stretches -- I was giving myself hip and groin charlie horses after a bit, but getting the leg open and turned worked. The hamstring is definitely tight and so is the hip tensor. If I can keep this up, I think the rest of the straightness will come with practice and finesse.
It's scary to think I've been this unbalanced for close to four years now. It's making me feel really bad for all the times I followed through when told to reprimand the horse for drifting off the rails when really it was my fault all along. I guess I owe some patient horses oodles of cookies and beg for forgiveness.
Hells bells, I wish I could take to my bed for two weeks (does it come with a masseuse?) and do nothing but vegetate, but alas, someone has to earn the paycheck to buy the cat food.
So pleased to hear that you were introduced to both of your sitting bones. It's long overdue, no?
You will get tired (and maybe tight and later sore) way deep up there near your hip joint. That's fine, but you have to work around that at first.
That looks like:
You ride with your leg in the correct position for the time you can, at the speed you can. Yup, stop, stretch and rearrange as needed during your ride.
Carry a whip in that hand (left?) so that you can back up your new, rather flimsy leg. It's important for your riding to do this because when you get tired doing it right, it will be easy to do it wrong. That will happen before you notice.
(We are so much stronger kicking our legs backward rather than closing our thigh and adding a little calf. Don't believe me? Ask yourself how you'd stand if you were trying to scoot a bag of grain over with your foot.)
Also! You need to ride in the correct position because it's just as important to be able to relax your leg and melt on with the inside of your thigh as it is to add leg. If you get tired or cramped, you can't relax the right way on the horse. When you do have the right relaxation, you'll feel dead even on your sitting bones and butt cheeks.
Oh, and if you want a nice, slow "Am I even and using everything correctly?" exercise, ask your mare to leg yield a couple of steps one way and then the other. Do this at the walk so that you can feel. Put your whip in the "inside" hand and switch as you need to. If you are doing it right and your mare is listening to your leg, it should take the same gentle feel from both legs. If you don't get a couple of steps sideways, tap her with the whip, don't grind with that leg since you'll be undoing your training and hers.
The beauty of finding your sitting bones is that then you can really start to use 'em. You want that because they become an aid in themselves. When you get you and the mare broke to your bootay and you do that leg-yielding check, you'll be able to ask first with your seat, then with your thigh and way last, with your calf, heel or whip.
It feels all centaury to ride a horse this way-- like the bones in your a$$ are fused to the horse's back. Don't need no stinkin' legs of your own; you can use the horse's hind ones.
You've gotten some really great info here! I just have a couple of additional exercises that will help you develop more "control" over the whole guiding situation, sharpen your horse up a tad, and get you both progressing toward better leg-based steering.
1) Put her nose in the corner of the arena. Use your legs to swing her hips a couple of steps one direction. Stop and relax. Go the other direction.
2) Back her up with her tail in the corner. You can use two hands if you need for now, but try to use your legs to move her shoulders over a step or two. Stop and relax. Do it the other way.
3) Set up a row of cones (or buckets, etc.) so they are more than a horse-length apart. Try to use your legs only to guide her through, weaving through and then circling around the ends. When you are comfortable at that, try sidepassing between the cones instead of weaving (sidepass over, walk past the cone, sidepass over again, etc.).
You'll feel a LOT more secure with riding one-handed when you have confidence in your seat and leg cues. In fact, the majority of western show horses are trained to steer off of legs--those reins aren't used for much steering! They are used more to control forward motion while the legs and seat handle steering. Does that make sense?
As you gain confidence, you can set up cones all over and give yourself an obstacle course to practice steering at all three gaits.