November 8, 2012

The Awesome Train Keeps on Rolling

At my lesson tonight, my trainer asked how my practice rides went this weekend.  I told her about riding bareback in order to feel myself using my body unequally, cantering bareback and how much that helped me when I went back to riding in a saddle on Sunday.  Intrigued, she had me drop my stirrups at the very beginning of the lesson and I ended up never picking them back up during another spectacular lesson.
Connor pre-lesson, untethered and falling asleep in the wash rack.

This wasn't a physical fitness challenge.  Taking my stirrups away took away my ability to brace against something and contort my body into strange shapes while asking for the lateral stuff.  It also made it very obvious that I brace in both stirrups when doing a downward transition, causing him to fall out from under me rather than rise up under me. She had me keep my calves on him, and to do that I had to hold my legs where they normally would be in stirrups. This revealed that I like to keep my leg off of him, as a result of him liking to shoot forward when I try to put a different leg aid on him (lateral or holding).  When I kept my inside leg on him while I had the outside rein, boom, instant connection.  I would never have realized that in stirrups.

She also had me work on being "lazier" with my body.  She asked me to sit longer on him at the trot, and he responded by sitting down and really engaging with his hind end.  We got the same quality of trot that we got out in the field in the indoor, and then some.  "He is really moving totally differently!" my trainer said.  I focused on engaging my core, but relaxing my lower back, and also letting my elbows feel heavy so that my hands could raise and encourage him to stay up with me.

Yes, that is a curved line that should be straight.  Can I call it 'art'?
I also had a revelatory moment with trot transitions, in which she pointed out that I was...busy...with my upper body during the upward transition, causing him to shoot forward.  When I stilled my upper body (I still don't know how I was active, though I definitely felt a difference when I thought "still") he moved off quietly and roundly into a trot with magnificent impulsion.

Finally, we ended at the canter, and he was so on the bit at this point that he made my job easy.  I asked for a leg yield just before the transition, and had him so well packaged that several times he stepped into a wonderful canter.  He then promptly lost it within a few strides, but hey, that's the first step, right?  He would also get it back right at the end when I first thought about bringing him back to the walk.  Note to self, for future lessons: think walk, continue cantering.

I feel giddy.  I love this pony so much!  The best part, honestly, is that he is so happy doing the work and he's willingly offering everything to me.  He's got that sparkle back. 


  1. Sounds like you guys are totally on the right path - congrats! I think that's 95% of the battle.

  2. Whoo Hoo!!! I am so happy for you.

  3. So awesome. Good thing you're Ms Crossfit--I think I'd die in a whole lesson without stirrups, wow.

  4. So fun to read your enthusiasm! You and Connor are making such great progress - enjoy and be proud :)