Leg Position Success

Delicate flower pony has started requesting
 that I braid his forelock
and the first part of his mane for every ride
so that his mane doesn't touch
his ears when we trot.  I kid you not.  
I can tell my instructor has been struggling lately with how best to explain to me the leg position she's looking for - she comes to each lesson with a different attempt at explaining it to me - which is why she actually forgot to continue teaching when things went right yesterday.

She started my bonus lesson (courtesy of some bonus stall cleaning) with physically picking my leg up and putting it where she wanted it and explaining that my leg is normally always moving, braced and out in front of me, so it's ineffective which is why Connor's hind end gets sluggish and he gets heavy on the bit.  Then she raised my stirrups another hole to make that new leg position easier.  For those of you that are counting, we're now back to where we were originally, two holes higher than I was riding at two weeks ago - which is "still where you'll end up eventually".  Dressage, so mysterious.



Time for some poorly drawn Microsoft Paint drawings!  This is where it felt like my leg was when it was in the correct position that she has been asking for all this time:




And this is where my leg actually was (I didn't believe her when she said my stirrup leather was perpendicular to the ground, but she says I'm so used to my leg being braced in front of me I wouldn't know what that felt like):
It felt like my foot was pressing the stirrup iron backward (it wasn't), it felt like my heel was creeping up toward my ears (it was, but she said that my heel would go back down in due time when the new leg position was internalized - one thing at a time) and it felt like I could finally keep my leg on Connor throughout every phase of the stride.

And then Connor started giving me that amazing, light, engaged-from-the-hind-end work he'd done the past two rides (hello, my leg is finally effective for the first time ever!), and my trainer fell silent as she watched us spiral in and out at the trot.  A couple minutes later, she apologized and said, "I'm sorry, I'm just enjoying watching him work like this.  You're going to get a gold star from [semi-resident Dressage clinician] next time she sees you."  Awed, or savoring her hard-won leg position battle, or just taking a moment to appreciate all the work she's put into us paying off, she just stopped teaching and enjoyed watching - I think it's the best compliment I've ever been paid.

Hack today, lesson tomorrow, day off Friday - it's nice to have a full week of pony time!

24 comments:

  1. The forelock tickling phenomenon is not all that unique. I see a lot of horses in the dressage warm up flipping out when their forelock gets in a funny place on their ears.

    Why not try to tuck his forelock under his browband? That would save braiding time (and cold fingers).

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    1. It's too short to do that, I've tried. I would love a solution that didn't give me cold fingers! And it's actually more of his mane than his forelock - this started around the time I gave up on training it for the winter and it split over his poll on either side. It flies up and tickles his ears and he starts slinging his head around until I growl at him and he quits. I'm considering a fly bonnet...but that would look so weird in winter.

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  2. Fiction is the same way with his head! He also -hates- sweat so by the end of the lesson he flips out bc of all the sweat on his face.

    Also, we have the same leg issues haha. That's what my lesson was about last night, though I've managed to keep my legs where they should be in my dressage saddle. In the jumping saddle however....

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    1. Interesting! I've noticed we're in a very similar spot from your lesson posts. That's funny about the jump saddle, I also have been banished from it for about two months now. Haha. I'm not worried, Dressage is where you win your events anyway and horses like Connor and Fiction are good with like a Jumping bootcamp before the first event.

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  3. oh the elusive lower leg...a lifelong battle for me!

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    1. Me too...now that I'm doing it right I'm realizing what that must have felt like for Connor. Poor guy.

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  4. I so wish I knew what my body was doing, but I rarely do in the saddle. My new rule from Trainer is "everything starts with sit back." I practice at work while typing, and it feels odd. How come straight feels like falling?

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    1. I know what you mean, it's really hard to know what your body is doing. That's a good thought on the sit back, I've heard that a lot lately too - open your hips up, point your bra clasp down, that sort of thing. I've found that that's the value of lessons for me - I'm doing something one way, and she points out how that must feel, and suddenly I can feel it for the first time ever, and only then am I able to make the change and correct it.

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  5. Replies
    1. Thanks, I am embarrassed to admit that I even freehand drew those with a pen instead of using the mouse. This ain't no art blog!

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  6. Mohawk it! rhyme looks beast with a mohawk

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  7. If it's the mane--have you considered just cutting the bridle path far enough back that it can't reach him? If his mane is pulled, that wouldn't really be too far.

    Dressage leg position is so challenging. It's completely different from jumping and it looks so easy when the DQs do it. It's not.

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    1. Well I was going to reply that Connor's breeder and the Welsh Society would kill me if I gave him that much of a bridle path, but then she commented on this post and gave her blessing! Haha. It's something I'm going to consider, the Micklem really needs more of a bridle path anyway, I'm sure you understand that.

      Yes, I'm beginning to see what you mean about Dressage position. I think it's only getting harder for people because of how sedentary we are at work these days - hip flexors are typically the tightest muscles I see on my clients at the gym due to all the sitting they do, and they need to be so open in Dressage.

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  8. Don't braid it and make a mini bun? Haha - Sumo pony! ;)

    Oh the joy of dressage position. Hard stuff to master. I feel your pain.

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    1. Hahaha, I have an image of Connor coming out for a lesson with his mane banded into straight up and down spikes. Think my trainer would kill me?

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  9. Yep, those are great stick figures. When friends first ride in our Isabels, they are amazed at how they feel since the saddle puts your leg right where it needs to be. Love that saddle for helping my muscle memory.
    I am mean, I just tell Rosemary to deal with hair tickling her ears :)

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    1. I'm mean too, and thankful that I can growl "Connorrrr" and he understands to knock that off. I'm glad I'm not the only person with a horse with ticklish ears.

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  10. Wow. What a lovely compliment from your trainer. I love the illustrations! You are so blessed to have such good instruction. Way to stick it out while the finances were tight so that you could keep Connor at his current barn.

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    1. Thanks...I don't take it for granted for a single second I'm out there. She's worth every stall I clean and every mile of my drive.

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  11. Wow, you just brought back some long forgotten memories. I was a barrel racing, usually bareback riding teenager before my first Dressage lessons from a German Instructor in MN. I remember my leg feeling exactly how you drew it, like it was waaay behind with heels pointing up. This is where I was introduced to Eventing. BTW, I cleaned stalls for every lesson, but it was worth it. Sound familiar? I also learned vaulting under this instructor (never heard of in our area at the time) and was his star vaulter. We did a lot of demos. Fun times. Thanks for the memories, and you have my blessing to make a bridle path if it helps you & Conner.

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    1. Wow, that is so cool, I didn't know any of that - especially that you did vaulting! Yes it does sound familiar. :) Thanks for sharing, that's really awesome. I feel like I'm in good company.

      Also, I was going through these comments in chronological order and I got to Aimee's post about giving him a bigger bridle path and was thinking "I'm going to reply that Connor's breeder and the Welsh people would probably kick me out" and then I got to your comment and laughed. Thanks for the blessing. :)

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  12. Its funny that you posted this because just tonight by pony decided that she didn't like her hair flapping on her ears either. I swear nothing has changed in the past year that I've had her but suddenly it is unacceptable!

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    1. Seriously, isn't it weird? They go so long without it being an issue and suddenly, they can't stand it. My trainer said sometimes horses develop habits in response to the work getting harder, like coughing or tossing their heads, so maybe it's that.

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