June 30, 2011

Back in the Saddle

I'm back!

It was so good to ride again.  From the moment I sat in the saddle, (first time in two months!) it felt like greeting an old friend - I had to tentatively figure out what to do with my body and where everything went.  I never felt the total-body coordination at any point in this lesson that I did in my last few lessons before the hiatus.  But I know it will come back.

In the first part of the lesson, we worked on driving the trot forward from the hind legs using the leg aids.  I never really got this, though I got close a few times.

The second part of the lesson, though, was a lunge lesson based on some of the things she read in Training the 3 Day Event Horse and Rider, by Jimmy Wofford.  She spent her month away devouring materials to help her riders out.  She said she was especially excited to use these techniques with me, because she thinks they'll help my problem with jumping, in which I unknowingly tense up, take up on the reins and cause every horse I ride to rush every fence I jump.  In order, this is what we did:

At the trot:
1. Arms straight in front of me, palms down, crossing in front then swinging them around behind me
2. Windmill arms, one forward and one backward simultaneously (This was such a difficult concept for me, she actually had to stop the horse and demonstrate before I could do it correctly)
3. Arms out straight off my sides, twisting (controlled) until I could see the horse's opposite hip.

Then we did that at the canter.  Exercise #3 was terrifying at the canter for a split second, and all my former insecurities about not having reins at the canter were magnified by spinning around and looking at the ground every stride.  But then I sat up, manned up, and did it right, and you know what?  I felt so in control.  I felt really good up there, really balanced, and part of what will solve my fences problem is being balanced like that.

We ended trotting and cantering over ground poles, and she had me do something different with my arms each time - one arm out to the left, next time hand on my hip, etc, and it was amazing what focusing on something else like that did for me.  Mac didn't rush a single fence, and I really felt like I was moving with the horse.  It sounds stupid, but I had an image of a trick rider standing on a horse's back when I had the reins in one hand and was moving over the poles like that, because I could feel my pelvis moving with him in the same way a trick rider's does.

She has hit on a great idea to rewire my habits, and I'm very excited to see what she has in store for me next week.

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