May 21, 2019

Working on the Mary Stuff

Yep, I know I still owe you all some more clinic recaps.  Honestly, I'm waiting to write them until I review the videos during my next couch lesson.  Since the clinic, I've substituted lessons on the horse for lessons on my couch (with wine because duh) where my trainer and I go back and watch my clinic videos together. 

Enjoy some pictures of Connor, who is ridiculously gorgeous right now

The couch lessons ensure:
  1. I won't totally butcher Mary's theories when I recite what I learned back to my trainer
  2. She gets to actually see what Mary did with me
  3. It gives me more time to play with Mary's concepts on my own and hopefully solidify them before riding in a lesson setting
 And I think it's safe to say we are both enjoying the couch and wine time!

In the meantime, I've been riding on my own.  The things I am mainly focusing on (some of which I've written about and some of which I haven't and you'll have to wait for an explanation on) are:

  1. High internal pressure
  2. 80% of my weight in my thighs, 20% in the feet/bring knees closer to chest
  3. Lean into Mary's hand forward/accurate vertical balance
  4. Holding the reins the way she showed me (she totally changed the way I hold the reins!)
  5. Keeping my seatbones paddling like a duck (yes I will explain this later)

Almost at the very beginning, Mary's first book talks about identifying which new positional cue you're most likely to cheat on, and focusing on that one.  For me, that's internal pressure.  I forget about it constantly, but when I remember to do it, a number of other things naturally fall into place, such as accurate vertical balance (it's very noticeable when I am not upright when I have high internal pressure) and not pulling anymore (I can feel my high internal pressure holding the resistance that my arms otherwise would be). 

(I don't feel like it's totally accurate to use high internal pressure the way I am here, most people would say "core", because there ARE active muscles down there and it's not just the pressure, but that's what's working for me so I'm rolling with it)

The other thing I've done is stop riding in my Dressage saddle.  I can't ride in that and work on what I learned from Mary, as scary as it is to ride in a setup she hasn't seen (my jump saddle).  My jump saddle isn't ideal, but it gives me a lot more freedom to play and adjust and make mistakes than my Dressage saddle does. 

Plus I may or may not have a test ride scheduled for a Dressage saddle built on the same tree as my jump saddle so...😁  (Yes, that is the sound of money being sucked out of my bank account, pray I luck into another CWD unicorn like I did with my jump saddle or this is going to get expensive fast).

If you know of any children or small adults in need of a Dressage saddle, send them my way!

May 20, 2019


Well I did it - I finally signed up for LASIK! 

Not the worst prescription, but not the best

I'm doing it Friday which means I'm going to blow up my three day weekend, but it also means I get an extra day to recover before I have to stare at a computer screen at work.  Having LASIK is going to require an extended period of time away from the barn and CrossFit, sigh.  If I had planned better I would've done it over the winter, but hey, here we are.

I've stocked up on special sweatbands that divert sweat away from your eyes, goggles that keep dust out, sun hats (no sunscreen on my face for a while which is terrifying to me since I wear it year round!) and sun glasses.  I'm going to take it easy and follow orders to a T, but I'm also going to do whatever it takes and buy whatever it takes and look as ridiculous as necessary to get back out there as soon as possible.

(Related: does anyone know what the definition of 'light exercise' is because running and CrossFit have totally blown up my level of effort calibration...)

So knowing I'm going to be out of commission next weekend, I used this past weekend to get stuff done around the house and horse:

Breaking sod to create this:

which got mulched the next day
Mulching.  So much mulching.  Also some new plantings ($1 clearance section hostas FTW) and some transplanting stuff that wasn't thriving.

Things that are totally thriving: $5 clearance section roses from three years ago

I also gave Connor a bath after a great ride on Sunday.  I've been giving him one weekly bath with soap so far this year and I'm so happy with his coat condition.  I've always been a soap minimalist, but I found one that's not super harsh, and weekly baths are really helping keep his mane/tail/feathers staining at bay:

Not super thrilled about it, but not enough of a bad boy to make his feelings known

And finally, I scraped the paint off five out of six transom windows this weekend too.  That concludes a project four years in the making that took several weekends in the end, but I couldn't be happier with the results.  #6 is intentionally not getting scraped yet pending a couple of other projects.

Gorgeous wavy leaded glass with seed-like imperfections. No one has seen them in decades before now. <3

Anyone else have a productive weekend?  Anyone have any thoughts on LASIK and horses and/or exercise?

May 9, 2019

Day 1 Mary Clinic: Firehose

[I am really struggling with how to write up this much information, so apologies if this is a little more literal and less organized than my usual writeups]

Within seconds of seeing me walk and trot Connor in my warmup, Mary called me over.

"We're going to shorten your stirrups, probably a couple of holes."

Turns out having your leg this straight:

is not productive.  She shortened them by two holes on Friday, and actually shortened them one more hole on Sunday, but we'll get to that later. 

After doing that, she said that my thigh blocks are now a problem, and I agree.  This saddle has to go - but I had been feeling that way for a while now, so no big deal.

Thigh blocks very much in my way

After she shortened my stirrups, we spent the next 20 minutes at the mounting block.  She diagnosed that I like to be tall in the saddle - too tall - and I press down into my feet, which is pushing my body up and away from him.  She helped me get into the right position, slowly.

First, she had me put my thighs over my thigh blocks, and used her hands to manipulate my torso into the right position and to help me identify and activate the right core muscles...which is not at all where I usually sit or the muscles I usually use.

I am not kidding when I say the position in the photo above feels like the fetal position to me.  It feels like my nose is in his mane and my shoulders are rounded and I'm leaning forward.  I knew when I watched the video that it would not look like that, but I was honestly shocked just how badly my brain is tricking me into thinking I'm vertical when I'm really typically behind it.

Getting me into position - "resist my push"
Next, she worked on the concept of internal pressure with me, something we had explored in the off the horse workshop a few hours before with the help of, yes, blowing up balloons.  This is something I have literally never done on a horse before.  Even when I think I'm using my core muscles, I don't have any internal pressure. 

The only time I typically have any internal pressure is when I'm weightlifting and wearing my belt, because that's exactly what the belt is there to remind you to do.  Turns out, your default state while riding should be a state of high internal pressure.  This is what a lot of trainers refer to as "use your core" but that's a lot less descriptive than a short British lady actually touching the muscles you should be activating and telling you to say "psh psh psh" while you're riding around to find the right muscles.

"Pull your tummy in to make a wall and push your guts against the wall"
After an eternity, we were finally cleared to walk in a 20m circle, where I tried to maintain the position I had at the mounting block while in motion.  She started to talk about how 80% of my leg pressure should be in my thighs and 20% should be in my feet.  I'm often the exact opposite of that, pressing hard into my feet, partially because I did have a bad "clamping with my thighs" problem at one point.   This was extremely hard for me to remember to do.

"Put more wrinkles in the front of your breeches"
She diagnosed my pulling hands - no surprise there.  She did an exercise with me where I push into her hands, but the real changes to my hands didn't come until Day 2.  But we'll get there.

Pushing on Mary's hands
After that, we went into posting trot mechanics, where she said I wasn't completing the top of my post - wasn't doing a full wipe of my windshield wiper, as she put it.  This is something Megan saw too in my lesson with her.  Just to give you an idea of how much touching is involved in a Mary clinic, this is Mary working with me on that:

After the change, my crotch was over my pommel with each rise, which is a dramatic change from where my post ended previously, but it made me feel like I was more in sync with him than normal:

Literally before - before my lesson started, before my rise changed, before she shortened my stirrups, before anything Mary

Day 2 preview - big changes in internal pressure, posting mechanic and obviously stirrup length.  Still haven't really paid attention to Connor at this point.

At the end of Day 1, I got some time in the hotel room to review my footage, where I was absolutely floored at how not-in-the-fetal-position she had me.  I also digested the internal pressure thing more, which really helped me on Day 2...

May 8, 2019

Mary Clinic: Overview

Last weekend Connor and I rode with Mary Wanless over in Ohio.  On the third day Mary walked over to Connor and said, "I'm sorry little Welshman, this is the first day of the rest of your life."

"Wait, what now?"
At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, she's not wrong: I can't overstate how helpful this clinic was.  The way I ride changed so drastically over the course of three days, even just sitting in the saddle feels different.  If you get the chance to ride with her, TAKE IT.  Yes it's a lot of money, but more than any clinician I've rode with before, she's worth every dollar.

I need to blog about these rides for the same reason I blog about all of my lessons and rides, it helps me process, but I'm struggling to do it because you just get SO much information from her!  Strangely, I'm not having any trouble running through a list of "Mary sound bites" in my head during my rides on my own, but sitting down to sift through all the info and coherently blog about it is a monumental task - all the more reason I need to do it though.

Also: there was JAN and there was HORSE WINE!
So cute, I die <3

Look for some recaps to start coming out soon!  But don't expect them quickly - they are SERIOUSLY hard to write!

May 3, 2019

Happy Birthday, Connor!

Today my little buddy is 13 years old!  I can't believe he's a teenager.  (That also means it's been 13 years this month since I graduated high school but we won't talk about that...)  We're celebrating by shipping over to the Mary Wanless clinic where we're going to hang out with Jan all weekend!

Here's one picture from every year of the little guy's life except his third year because I don't have anything from then.  Happy birthday, Con!

6 months






Five days before his thirteenth birthday