Lesson Wrap-Up: Lesson with Nancy K

I first rode with Nancy K in February of 2012, when I had just owned Connor for a few months.  We were...a lot different back then.

Not from the clinic, but same time period.

I've always liked her teaching style.  She has such a keen eye for ways the rider is blocking the horse's energy, and such good ways of describing what's happening, how to fix it, and why it's important.  It's biomechanics driven, and emphasizes that a good position is not just pretty but also effective and has a big impact on the way the horse goes.

(Sidenote, her bio: USDF judge since 1995, "L" judge with distinction, silver and bronze medalist)

She asked me when we got started what my biggest issues were.  I normally refrain from giving clinicians/one-off instructors too much info, but Nancy and I have a history, so I felt okay saying several things, including:

- Our Dressage tests always say "not enough crossover" in the leg yield, "needs more" in lengthenings, and "needs more push from hind end"
- He likes to lay on the right shoulder.

Connor in the crossties at Nancy's barn
This lesson was AMAZING.  Within minutes, she identified the root cause of most of my problems is that I'm blocking the energy from his hind end with my bad and frozen position.  She pointed out that I was not walking my hips with him in the walk at all, that even when I felt like I was sitting straight I was really hunched forward, and that his "point of resistance" in my body was in my arms instead of my core.

She had me make some big changes in my position.  I really tucked my hips underneath me, put my shoulders behind my hips, lifted my chest, shortened my reins and thought about moving my torso forward through my arms using Connor's energy - and it was amazing how big of a difference that made and how quickly.  I had so much power coming from his hind end all of a sudden.

Spoiler alert: it helped at the show.
All show photos by Lisa Brezina. Thank you!!

Where normally my warmups are ugly clunky things, he immediately got soft, round and forward.  She also had me ask for more push and speed than I have become used to after working under the JLC method for so long - and it really helped.  I heard "THIS is your medium trot/walk" a lot.

We moved on from that - still focusing on maintaining that position - and worked the leg yields.  She helped me with my timing and preparation - pony needs to turn more effectively into the leg yield and not blow through my outside aids - but really just pointed out that enabling the energy created by the hind legs to go somewhere fixed that problem too.  They really were miles better.

Finally, we did a bit of canter.  He started out with the dolphin canter.  She pointed out that it was because he was pushing straight forward off of the outside hind to pick up the canter, instead of sitting back and pushing up off that hind leg.

The most amazing thing happened when she asked me to fix that by sitting hard on the outside hind: he responded with the most amazing canter, not dolphin-like at all.  Nancy was practically jumping up and down and clapping with glee when she saw it.  Of course I couldn't duplicate that at the show, but once my position solidifies, I'll have it.

Spoiler alert: example of the dolphin canter.  He uses his head and neck for balance instead of shifting his weight back, so it goes from this...

...to this in one stride.  At least I'm not following him down anymore with my body.  Internalizing what I learned in my lesson will help a lot with this - I only had one day between lesson and show to work on it.

"You've done a good job with him, I remember when he leaned so hard on your hands, but he doesn't do that anymore. You still ride him like he's going to lean on you, but he won't.  There's no reason you won't get at least to third, he's built for it."

That definitely won't be my last lesson with her - and next time, I will video it - can't possibly remember everything she says!


20 comments:

  1. Love this!! So glad you guys had such a good lesson!
    A tip: When I didn't have anyone to video, I used to lay my phone on the arena ledge so I could at least capture the audio. I learned so much by listening back before my rides!

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    1. I had that thought after I had already gotten on, will do that next time!

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  2. Awesome! I hope you're able to take many more lessons with her!

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  3. I wish my pony was as cool as your pony. I love your ride recaps; I wish I was that body aware, and aware of what was going on underneath me!

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    1. You can get there! I am in reality the least body-aware rider out there. My CrossFit and riding trainers actually have to pick up my body parts and move them for me to feel things. It doesn't come naturally for me, but I have good coaches to get me through it.

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  4. Talk about good timing! So cool you can ride with someone who knew his early years.

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    1. Definitely! I like to ride with clinicians I have a chance at repeating with. It's good to have a trainer that sees him every week, but it's also good to have someone that only sees him every so often.

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  5. Of course you two will get beyond 3rd level! Thanks for recapping your lesson - I am writing those body position tips down to post in my tack room. I thought your position was very solid at the show!

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    1. Thank you! This stuff is so hard!

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  6. Sounds like a great lesson. Nilla has a similar desire to dolphin in her canter. I can get her to sit up nicely, but it's only for a few strides right now. You guys look great at the show.

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    1. Thanks! The dolphining is so hard to fix. I hope we're on the path to it now, but it is a long path.

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  7. Ah so exciting! Can't wait to see you guys climb the ladders

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  8. This sounds like a fantastic clinic. I'm definitely of the good position = good riding camp and I love when an instructor or clinician really focuses on the nitty gritty to get some big changes out of horse and rider. I can't wait to see what kind of progress you guys make with that new info!

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    1. Thanks! Yeah, she definitely does. And she recognizes when you're ready to fix multiple things at once, which is nice. It's a lot more obvious of a change when you change a pile of things and the change is huge than if you change one thing at once and get incremental progress.

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  9. You guys looked so great at the show! Infact I remember thinking "Wow, they have such a lovely, forward rhythm the entire test!"

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  10. This sounds like such an amazing lesson!!

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