The Last Three Weeks

This is going to be long and winding, but I need to internalize this both physically and mentally, so here goes.

Wet pony after a bath!
The last three weeks have represented the most dramatic position changes I've ever made as a rider, and they paid off today in an unexpected makeup lesson that was the best ride I've ever had on any horse.  The way I sit in the saddle, and the way it feels to hold the reins, have both completely changed in the past month.

I'm sitting up, I'm sitting deep, my shoulders are back because I'm engaging the underdeveloped muscles between my shoulder blades, my core muscles feel like they're three inches longer than normal, my legs are longer around his barrel, my hip angle is more open, and I'm coming through my arms with the motion of my torso rather than going backward and tensing in my lower back.

A month ago, when Connor felt my hands take up contact, he would lean on me because my shoulders were round.  Now, he feels the muscle between my shoulder blades (which was VERY atrophied before I started this) and softens, relaxes and carries his own weight.  It's sort of miraculous, I'm still amazed every time it happens.

Then when the reins are free to do things like effective half-halts that encourage him even more to sit back and lighten his front end, my seat becomes so much more useful - halts are a matter of closing my leg and stretching my already tall core muscles just a bit taller, instead of "no brakes!"  It's not been easy.  I hear things like "Take your right hand away from your body, you're blocking him from being able to do what you're asking, you'll feel like you're able to do that more when you're using the outside rein properly" and "Walk his left side up with your seat," and "Sit over the right side too," from my trainer - lots of body awareness stuff.

My trainer kept gushing, "Jen, this is AWESOME!" and it really was.  I've never felt him so supple before, and knowing that it was the culmination of a LOT of hard work on both of our parts made both of us feel good.  Knowing that I'm carrying my weight physically so that he could carry his weight physically made me feel good too.  Three weeks ago the lesson after mine canceled and we ending up going for an hour-and-a-half long lesson that ended in the dark, in which both my trainer and I swapped off several times, just working on suppling him and getting me to feel how to make that happen.

From that point on, it's been one intense practice ride after another, even though all we did was walk (plus some hacking in between, of course) and NO jumping or even riding in my jump saddle.  My practice rides consisted of never letting him take a step that wasn't completely controlled from beginning to end by me: lots of lateral work, suppling work, quicker aids, and demanding sharper reactions.  Three weeks of that and I have a supple, sharp pony.  Three weeks plus the last two years, but you know.  Still feels like we've been on learning overdrive since I really started to internalize those position changes.

12 comments:

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    1. I'm a really bad commenter, but your posts always make me think of the lessons I'm going through right now, and help give me another perspective. Thanks!

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  2. Sounds great Jen. I have dumped jumping all together and gone back to straight dressage work with Rory. Riding with Nichole Smith (she comes from Steffan Peters) on her school master pony and learning tons. I will start bringing Rory to her next month for lessons...can't wait:)

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    1. Very cool!! I've found that jumping helped my Dressage as far as Connor's confidence in himself goes, and that Dressage always helps my jumping. There are some things that Dressage can't help with, like teaching him what to do with his feet on takeoff, but overall, it's really helpful.

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  3. Lovely! Glad you're feeling the difference. I'm sure the fact that you reflect so much on the changes will help you remember them and stick with the different ride :)

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    1. Hope so, thanks for putting up with my ramblings! This blog really is valuable to me for that.

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  4. So excited for you - now maybe it will rub off on me! I really know what you mean about never letting him take a step that you are not controlling (last year, I would have had no idea what that meant).

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