Getting Our Wires Crossed

The day after my last NK lesson in April, I had a lesson with my regular trainer.  Let's call her RT so I don't have to type "regular trainer" a thousand times in this post.

Having two trainers can be difficult.  I like NK because RT used to have her in as a regular clinician before RT went down the JLC rabbit hole, and I know fundamentally NK's teaching won't be diametrically opposed to RT's teaching.

I've posted all the good photos of the clinic so now you get less good photos (Er, not that Leah's photos are bad, my riding is bad!)

But, I do need to learn from someone who's gone up the levels herself before, which NK has done and RT has not.  RT is an eventing trainer, even though she's got a keen eye and strong focus on the biomechanics stuff.  NK can say things like "This is going to come back to haunt you when you get to [insert upper level thing here]," and I crave that.

However, that means poor RT regularly gets my incorrect interpretations and often poor implementations of things that NK taught me, which led to this terrible lesson from a few weeks ago.

I was trying to implement a feeling NK had shown me, which I interpreted as "point the front of my right hip bone down."  That was NOT how NK said it, but it's how I interpreted it.  Connor had also woken up on the wrong side of the bed for whatever reason that morning, and wasn't giving away anything this day.
Connor: "...nah."

What we did in the lesson doesn't matter, but by the end of it RT said, "I'm worried, because I feel like you've undone all the position progress we've made over the last year.  Something isn't right."

Cue internal panic from me.  What had worked so well and was literally life changing with NK was now ruining my position?!  I was devastated.

Choosing to look at the positive side of this picture and say my position is so much better than it was even a year ago, even though there's clearly so much yet to fix.

The next day, I rode by myself, and realized I had misinterpreted what worked with NK.  It wasn't that the front of my right hip bone needed to point down, although it kinda felt that way.  It was that my pelvis wasn't level in the saddle from side to side.  Connor constantly tosses me gently onto the left seatbone, so that my right side is shortened and the right side of my pelvis is floating above the saddle.

This is a pretty great example of that, really.  Right leg totally straight and not in contact with his body, right side of my body short, right side of my pelvis higher than the left.

Since then, we've had some amazing rides, and no, I have not ruined my position.  It's crazy what a big difference something that small (and that strong of a habit!) can make.  I said (and RT agreed with me) that I need some time on my own to process NK lessons before my lessons with RT in the future, so that I have a better grasp on what I learned.



WPCSA Spring Show

Last weekend, Connor and I attended our first Welsh Pony and Cob Society of America show in quite a while.  I have to say, it's weird to pack for a show and not bring a saddle.  There are WPCSA under saddle classes, but we chose not to do any of them this time and just show in-hand.

They've redone the covered at the Hoosier Horse Park and it looks AMAZING compared to what it looked like in seasons past - although the new footing is DEEP (this is typically a rodeo ring, so not sure if they care like the Dressage folks would)

Showing this horse is so fun these days.  He doesn't even scream anymore at shows, even when he's all by himself overnight:

Although he did have one "moment" where something scared the bejeezus out of him and he skittered sideways, stepped on me and then scrambled backward as fast as he could go while waiting outside the show ring.  He's a weird one to be sure, but THAT was a really unusual move for him.  I had flashbacks to hanging onto horse kite racehorses in high school for a second.

We ended up taking first (out of 2) in the Section C/D class and reserve champion (out of 3) in the all sections/all sexes WPCSA championship class.  Small classes for the WPCSA, but that's what happens out here in the heartland.

I know it's not our primary goal in life as riders, but if you get a chance to support your breed organization by doing in-hand classes ever, take it!  It's fun and it helps support the breeders too.  In addition to earning points for himself, Connor also earns points for his sire and I think dam too when he shows in WPCSA-sanctioned classes.

The next WPCSA in-hand show at the Hoosier Horse Park is the last weekend of August, and showing the in-hand classes only takes a couple hours of your Saturday morning (we were home by 11am!).  Classes are $7/class and there's more than just Welsh classes there, since it's held in conjunction with the Indiana Saddle Horse Association Shows.

Hope to see some of you out there next time!


Free Weekend in California

California ladies!  I'm going to be staying in Palo Alto for work from June 10-20, and I have the entire weekend of the 16th-17th free.  I also have the afternoon of June 10th free after I land, and I shouldn't be nearly as jet lagged as when I got up at 2am Eastern to come out last time 😳

Since that is a reeeeally long time to be away from Connor, I would love to find something horsey to do on the 16th-17th weekend within a couple hour radius of SF  - a clinic to audit or a show to spectate at would be perfect, but I'm open to anything - and I would LOVE to see as many of you as I can too!  The only thing on my agenda right now is eating my weight in delicious Bay Area tacos and sushi. #priorities 

Shoot me an email at my spam account if you know of any shows/events/clinics/other activities going on that weekend: jalean one one at gmail dot com.

10 days is a long time for this little guy especially.


The Interesting Effects of CrossFit and Dressage

I had to take a little time off of blogging recently.  I'm just now really getting into the full swing of things at the new job, and it took me a couple weeks to adjust to the life of regular air travel and pretending to be an expert in things no one is an expert in 😄  But I've gotten settled into the groove now. 


I didn't ride a whole lot lately and Connor got a lot of trainer rides, but what was interesting was what happened in the saddle when I stopped working out temporarily.  I've now been back at CrossFit just 2-3 days a week for a few months now, and I took 10 days off recently due to life and travel.

Since I started back at CrossFit in February with my fitness level down to zero, I took the opportunity to do everything with very light weights and to focus on my form.  Not like I had much of a choice - I am WEAK now - but I chose to focus on form before focusing on ramping up the weight.

Using a selfie to explain to my husband that yes, I did need to shower before going to dinner at a friend's after my CrossFit workout

In focusing on form, I came to realize that I had never engaged my upper back muscles for anything in all the years I've done CrossFit - aka, the muscles that are very important to help you sit upright both on the ground and in the saddle.  I effectively isolated them with poor form and posture all those years. 

Looking back on where certain lifts stalled out back when I was really consistent (snatch, for example, I could never break the 85lb mark despite definitely being strong enough to go higher), things start to make a lot of sense.  At some point the rest of the muscles can't compensate for other muscle groups that aren't working and should be.

I didn't think my fitness had improved that much since February, but when I rode Connor in the middle of that 10 day stretch of not working out, I realized the new muscles had been making a huge difference in my ability to sit "with him" instead of "against him", and in my ability to sit up straight in the saddle. 

I was keenly aware that I wasn't sitting well after not working out for a while, but since I'd lost those baby ab and upper back muscles I'd developed, I couldn't do anything about it.

That was a good realization to come to - just like asking a horse to do something it hasn't developed the muscles for, people are the same way.  I can know I'm not doing something well, but if I don't have the muscles to do it, I can't do it. 

And now that I felt the night-and-day difference between riding with muscles and riding without those muscles, it's redoubled my commitment to keep doing CrossFit.  It's also surprised me that my "lazy" 2-3 day a week workout schedule (compared to the 4-5 I did years ago) has made such a difference in the saddle - all the more motivation to do whatever I can, whenever I can, even if it doesn't feel like a lot.


Building a Desk That's Helping Me in the Saddle

So I recently finished building a built-in short person desk for my office, and my fellow shortie Nicole was like "You HAVE TO write a blog post about this!"

At first I was like, "No, this is not horse related," but then I remembered L. Williams recent post in which she quoted Mary Wanless: "...we should work on our postural problems the 15 waking hours we are not in the saddle rather than the 1 hour we might actually be in the saddle. It goes a long way farther to fixing our problems in the saddle too. " and I realized it totally is related to riding!

I loved my old antique leather topped desk (it has a built in type writer!) and it never bothered me, until I took ergonomics training for my new job and realized it was way too tall for me.

Also, because the opening was too narrow for my chair, I was constantly slumped forward to reach my keyboard - putting my shoulders in a position very similar to the way I usually ride - slumpy.   Hmmm...suddenly this became a major priority for me to fix, since working from home is looking like a life sentence at this point.

Fold out typewriter!

Armed with the desk height number I needed from the ergonomics survey, I shopped for a new desk online, but quickly realized it's pretty difficult to find off-the-rack short person desks.  I also wanted to greatly increase my work surface.  All signs were pointing to DIY.

For inspiration, I finally settled on Lindsay's desk built out of IKEA Besta cabinets and boards:

I chose Besta cabinets for a couple of reasons:

- Height - they're 25 1/4" tall, which is just about perfect
- Options - Drawers, shelves, baskets, the options were endless
- Doing IKEA was faster than DIY'ing all the cabinet carcasses (yes, they are really called carcasses!)
- The IKEA Besta Planner - I was able to input my exact room dimensions and play around with it until I had exactly what I wanted, and a shopping list to go with it:

I didn't intend on blogging this so I don't have a ton of photos from the build process, but this is how it ended up:

The steps involved were:
1. Remove baseboards
2. Build IKEA cabinets
3. Buy and cut tabletop - 3/4" red oak cabinet grade plywood, one 4x8 sheet, purchased at Lowes
4. Iron on red oak pre-glued veneer edge banding to all visible edges (plywood edges are ugly because you can see the layers of wood.  Edge banding puts a pretty edge grain on the visible edges

Edge banding, which looks exactly the same as the table top because I used the same wood species

5. Stain (2 coats, plus pre-coat) and poly (3 coats).  Stain and poly gets applied to both the tabletop and the veneer edges.  Sand lightly in between.
6.  Wait forever for the tabletop to dry and cure, because you have a bird, and birds are super sensitive to things like poly.  I waited 16, long, excruciating days.
7. Install tabletops by drilling pilot holes and securing them from underneath the Besta cabinet tops with whatever random wood screws you find around the house that aren't long enough to poke through the tabletop
8. Use a 1 1/2" spade bit to drill two holes for computer cables (hole saw would also work, and would be the right option for anything bigger than 1 1/2")

9.  Insert 1 1/2" desk grommets into the holes

10. Install drawer handles (I bought these at Lowes.  Also, don't do this without a drawer pull template!  Makes life so much easier!)

It's still not totally done.  I need to add baseboards and trim to make it look really built-in, and I'm debating whether I want to add an IKEA Besta TV stand (without legs) to the left of the drawer unit, with a cushion on top so I can use it for shoe/boot/gym bag storage and putting barn boots on.  I also want to make the back of it look more built-in somehow - maybe cabinet backs underneath the desk surface on the back wall?  Not sure.

That said, I am soooo happy with it.  My feet rest on the floor, my arms are at the perfect height, and I can get my chair so far under my desk, I no longer slump.  I do tend to sit cross legged in my chair a lot and shouldn't, but that's on me, not the desk!  This desk plus some changes to the way I do CrossFit have really helped me develop the muscles I need to sit up in the saddle - more on that in another post, but it's really amazing how much things outside the saddle can help riding.


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