Shoulders and Core

In place of my normal lesson on Tuesday, I had an "off the horse" lesson that really reinforced and took further what I started working on with NK last week.

One thing I intentionally left out of my NK lesson recap was that she told me me shoulders are tense.   I really didn't know what to make of that at first.  Now, I've spent much of my life fighting the "slump", so this completely surprised me that I've taken it too far in the opposite direction.  My shoulder muscles are also getting strong for the first time in my life, after I realized during CrossFit last winter I've effectively neutralized them my entire life.

My shoulders were still pretty weak when I did one of the longer CrossFit workouts in May (Murph), so I switched grip regularly throughout it on pull-ups to give them a break.

NK told me to "let go" and when that didn't work, to "have a soft, gooey back".  My regular trainer identified the same thing on Tuesday when she had me sit in my saddle on a saddle stand and she stood in front of me holding the reins as if she was the horse's mouth.

It was interesting, because that exercise on the ground made it very clear that the difference between him pulling me forward and not is very subtle - just a couple of degrees difference in my pelvis.

Or, you know, many degrees difference in my pelvis 😂
August 2014, Leg Up
PC: Connor's breeder

And WHERE I resist the pulling makes a gigantic difference in the contact.  I can resist it in multiple places - my shoulders, my lower core, my elbows - but anything except the right resistance makes the contact feel harsher and less following.

I also felt the different degrees of lower core engagement in the ground exercise too.  I think up to this point I've thought of it as "on" or "off", not with degrees of engagement.  But I put that into practice in my ride last night and:


In the past when his canter has been that controlled, his throatlatch would be closed and his head would be nodding because I was creating it through holding him with my hands.  But I got that canter in the GIF through just my core, which is mind blowing for someone who literally cannot figure out the aids to put him together in the canter (which you guys know because I've asked!).  It ain't perfect, but it's progress, and that's all I want.

When I was on my own last night, I thought about not letting my pubic bone touch the front of the saddle, because every time he pulled me forward, that's what happened, and it was a clear boundary I could set for myself in the absence of a trainer.


It's going to take a long time to change something like this, but it's clear it makes a difference and I'm committed to internalizing it!

12 comments:

  1. Whoa damn girl, lookit that collected canter! YOU GO!!!!

    Your core is an amazing tool, and also hella hard to figure out how to use. But it really does work! So excited for you!!!

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    1. I mean, have you ever sat down and thought about how unfair it is that we ALL INDIVIDUALLY have to learn this feel when we start Dressage? Like I guess that's true for most sports, but all a coach can do is try to figure out a way to explain it, and in the end, you just gotta stumble your way into doing it right.

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  2. Really great nuggets to digest (and seriously this is one of my favorite things about blogging is insights you and others get in your lessons I get to stew in for a bit and see how it translates to my own riding). Right now I think I do a lot of resisting with my shoulders and elbows. I'm all locked up and I totally blame desk job life.

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    1. For real, you and me both. Especially since I started WFH and I don't even get the benefit of walking from my car to my desk anymore, I'm so tight everywhere.

      Yeah, that's really the main reason I started blogging, I have a hard time remembering what happened in my lesson even 10 minutes later, it gives me a chance to sit and think deeply through what happened and try to rationalize everything so I can remember it. Glad it helps!

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  3. Very interesting post and you guys are looking good in the GIFs! You can't overestimate the different ways to use your core or use the correct muscles to achieve a certain thing. Looks like you are on a good learning curve...

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    1. Thanks! Yeah I'm learning there's a lot more subtlety to it than I thought. I hope so!

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  4. You're looking great! The light bulb is finally clicking for me too on my coach's horse...I think how sensitive she is plus the bigger movement is making it more necessary that I really follow her. I especially notice it in my shoulders and lower back. I have been short changing Bridget all this time :( Resisting subtly since she's smaller and quicker and tends to pull, and that moment of softness is so fleeting sometimes. "Feel" is such a tough thing to describe...love your blog partly because you're so good at breaking these insights into understandable, relatable pieces.

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    1. You're so lucky to have Audrey to ride, I bet that is helping a lot. You're so right, feel is so hard! Don't feel bad about shortchanging her, clearly I've definitely shortchanged Connor in the past, look at that photo from 2014, lol. All that matters is we keep trying to improve and do right by them.

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  5. Girl... one day you are going to make my head explode hahaha. I have a lot of the same issues with my horse as you have with Connor, so that means that, tonight, I am doing to see if I can feel the "right" place for resistance at the canter. hahahaha Thanks for the post!

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    1. Haha! You're welcome! Welcome to me overthinking everything. You'll have to let me know how it goes!

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    2. Shoulders and core.. my current battle. I hear you.

      Looking good!! I was thinking about you the other day. I know someone looking for a second level horse, not to actually do 2nd on, but was helping look. It is surprising the number of horses listed as schooling 2nd. Then I thought of your weed out level post. Easy to say schooling 2nd but none looked as good as you guys! So, it is a general level people (esp jumping people) like to say horses horse is accomplished to. But I don't think average nondressage people understand the true grit of it.

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  6. You guys are looking so amazing! These things do take such a long time for so little initial reward but I feel like they pay off tenfold down the line.

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