August 15, 2012

Body Awareness, Muscle Memory, and Walk-Canter Transitions

In any physical activity that involves a learned skill, we're trying to do two primary things: develop finite body awareness, and commit meaningful actions to muscle memory.  Pick anything from marching band to golf to deadlifting 195lbs and setting a 20lb PR (Yeah, Crossfit!) to riding and you'll see it's true.  When you're first learning, though, you've got to have laser focus in order to consciously remember all the things you're trying to put together.

Finite body awareness and muscle memory: not just for riders.  Also, the same fundamental principles of good biomechanical balance are as important underneath a barbell as they are on top of a horse.

This was never clearer than last Sunday, when I got a walk-canter transition from Connor that was so good, I yelled out joyfully to the empty arena around us and blue sky above us.  We'd already done many trot-canter transitions (I see a very common theme setting up for this winter...), and after giving him a walk break, I thought, hey, let's see how this goes.  We'd done it before, but not since his trainer rides.

Because I wasn't expecting it to go well, I was hyper-aware of every little movement my body made, and my cues were precise.  Because of that, he gave me a precise transition that involved him actually rocking back onto his hocks (for the first time, really) and stepping off into a round, controlled canter.  I couldn't believe it was my horse for a moment.  Buoyed by our success with that, I wasn't as surgically precise with my aids the second time, and it wasn't nearly as good.

That's how it will go, though, just like the five fantastic trot strides were were able to get in an entire lesson last winter.  Now that we're doing entire lessons of great trot, it's hard to remember those days, but as we go through the same process with the canter, it's important to keep the process in perspective.

Nancy K clinic/lesson tomorrow night, late, at 8:45pm!  Yikes!  I'm so excited for it, though, I've cleaned all my tack and my boots.  Can't wait to see what she says about my new-and-improved Dressage pony!


  1. do you have time for all you do?! Seriously impressed that you ride, work out, full time job, and newly married! You have major time management skills :)

    Looking forward to the clinic/lesson post and hoping for pictures. Canter from walk - I would have squealed too!

  2. Awesome!! Love those moments. Really makes you consider how you balance yourself through the rest of your day, doesn't it?