the weather was weird the other day, even for Indiana. more backyard to follow…
The Thursday before the clinic- so, three weeks ago now – I had a lesson on Jillie and was discussing current goals with trainer. Recent instructors have focused on how the horse underneath me is going, so if I ride better –> horse goes better. This is well and good, but I don’t know what I’m doing, body wise, when I get that result. When I’m riding something where I don’t stumble upon what makes them happy/willing, this obviously creates issues. We’ll get through a ride, but I’ll get off wondering where my miscommunication was. General endurance? Hands? Legs or seat? Shoulders and back?
it then started hailing…
What I really want is an independent seat – improving my position and using that to be more effective/efficient with the aids. Following this, trainer asked if I wanted to do a lunge lesson, which I enthusiastically agreed to. Letting someone take control of your horse is great for getting an idea of where each of your parts are at, and of the few I’ve had, the last was 10 years ago now. One with my very first instructor, and then a handful during my Arabian days. While initially writing this, I wondered why that trainer hadn’t worked more on details with those sessions, but I’m realizing it’s not because we weren’t going to, it’s simply because I wasn’t there yet. And what better way to instill balance than putting a sheepskin bareback pad on a barely-broke squirrely Arab mare? Because if I slipped, that pad was going with me.
For this lesson, trainer had me start off trotting with my arms out to the side, then at my hips. No problems there. Then I dropped my stirrups and continued to post, first with my arms out and then on my hips. Then she had me sit the trot, which really, did not go well at all. I know what it feels like when I get it right (or close to right?), but I’ve never been able to do it more than a few strides either because I don’t have the strength, or the stability (or both). After a walk break she had us canter a bit and then remarked that “no wonder you don’t fall off, your leg is solid!” which I was happy to hear. Except, I still lose my stirrups way more than I’d like. I can pick them up, but I’d rather not lose them in the first place. I told her this and asked if it was because I was pinching from my knee for stability.
She said it could be, and that after this next walk break we’d do an exercise that would help with a few things. It’d tell if I was relying on my legs to keep me in the saddle, help me get a better awareness of my seat bones, and also put me in the right position for the sitting trot. So I put both my legs in front of the saddle flaps, which was definitely a weird feeling at first, but once we got walking I quickly adjusted. Before we started trotting trainer told me I might want to start out holding the front of the saddle. I did so and once we were going I was immediately more aware of where my seat bones were and how I was (or wasn’t) absorbing the momentum. Trainer told me to think about my hips going side to side rather than up and down, and I was (again) able to get a few strides, but not much beyond that. She also had me try cantering with my legs ‘up front’, just to see and I ended up finding that more do-able, to where I was able to take my hands off the saddle. Trainer noted that where my back was in this exercise (which did feel like leaning way back) was more where I need to be on a regular basis. Overall, it seems like I have a decent awareness and center of balance, but I really like how I had this lesson, which exposed the weaknesses in my core and knee, and then had the clinic a few days later where I ended up getting more feedback on my upper-half.
Of course, now going on a week since last riding (and pretty much zero other exercise) doesn’t do much for setting this stuff in. I was going to try today but little sister, who is home from college for spring break this week, wanted to get lunch and make a day out of going to the fashion mall an hour away. Seeing as she’s a senior and her post-grad plans may have her moving away (although who am I kidding, ‘planning’ for her rarely goes farther than the next day), I’m trying to make the most of having her home.