January 14, 2019

Lesson Wrap-Up: Megan Lesson (With a Guest Appearance from Kate)

One thing I've always wanted to do on a work trip is take a lesson - both to take advantage of briefly being local to other instructors, and to feel like I'm accomplishing something while I'm away from Connor for five days at a time.

Nothing productive ever happens without alcohol in the high tech industry.

Last week, Megan, Kate and The Ginger Pony were kind enough to make that happen for me.  Technically Megan taught the lesson but Kate jumped in with some really insightful stuff too.

The only photo I could find of Ginger, shamelessly stolen from Kate's blog.  She's second from the right.

(And we took zero photos, like the experienced bloggers we are 😂.  All of the following photos in this post are from weeks before this lesson, courtesy of Austen.)

If you were an outsider looking in at that lesson, it probably didn't look like much more than an up-downer on a school pony doing 20m circles until forever.  I have no ego, so I didn't care what it looked like, or what I looked like.  I was there to learn and that was it!

The only pictures I took in CA were of my hair, which decided it likes the sea breeze and curled like crazy!

It took me a while to write this post because it took until my ride yesterday for me to really "get" some of the things I learned - and boy did it make a difference for me on Connor.  This is by no means an exhaustive list of things I learned, but they are the ones that most hit home for me:

I'm (Still) Pulling ARGH
In the lesson: I KNOW this has improved by a lot, but the extent to which it's still a problem surprised me.  Megan described my tendency as "You pull, and you pull at the worst possible moments, like right when she is about to come onto the bit."  She is not wrong!

On Connor: That was a really helpful description.  This is going to sound weird, but I can't identify when I'm pulling, but I can sense when the worst possible moment to pull in a movement/stride/exercise would be, so I'm able to think "hands forward" at the moments I would otherwise pull.  This is always going to be a problem for me, but thinking that way helped so much.

Seat Things, Part 1
In the lesson: Megan described getting Ginger to lift her back using my seat "like a suction cup," which I admitted I didn't really understand.  We stopped, and both she and Kate helped me identify which muscles I should be using for that - and the fact that I was almost incapable of using those muscles independently from my glutes.  Hmmm.

Hoo boy this is some good eq.  Turns out my suction cup isn't even on the horse.

Seat Things, Part 2
In the lesson: Kate pushed the outside of my boot heel and asked me to resist.  When I did, the whole inside of my leg made even contact with the horse from top to bottom, and I was able to understand the "suction cup" muscles a little better, along with what my leg should feel like.

On Connor: Those two things combined led me down an interesting and ultimately super productive path.  I thought "push into Kate's hand" while in my saddle, and suddenly my stirrups felt way too short when they had felt fine seconds earlier.  With my stirrups one hole longer, I could both "push into Kate's hand" and get my upper inner thigh on him.  Connor responded so well to this - turns out I have had no upper inner thigh contact since I shortened my stirrups earlier this year.

Leg not on horse.

"You have no abs over here!"
In the lesson: Kate had me stop and asked if it was okay to touch me, Mary Wanless-style.  She poked and pushed and suddenly said, "You have no abs over here!" talking about my left obliques.  Suddenly a lot of things made sense.  They are definitely weaker and smaller than the right and need to be strengthened, but I "fixed" this by getting firm in my core as if I was wearing a weightlifting belt.

On Connor: At the walk it's very noticeable.  He's able to "push" me to the right farther than the left when my abs are not engaged, because that's the stronger side.  If I engage my core like I'm wearing my weight belt, it evens the "push" out.

We are the picture of evenness /s

"You're Not Engaging Your Lats"
In the lesson: Megan pointed out I wasn't engaging my lats enough.  This is more of a problem on the left than the right, both in and out of the saddle.  From one Dressage CrossFitter to another, I was able to ask "How much should they be engaged?" and got a really helpful answer.

On Connor: Between engaging my lats evenly and not pulling, it was the most balanced he's been in ages.  Looking down and seeing his shoulders working evenly on both sides of his body without one popping out was just astounding.  Super helpful.

Pretty obvious that there is zero lat engagement here.

In the lesson: This was at the end and we really didn't get to explore it enough for me to get it completely, but Megan pointed out that I was following the motion with my seat instead of influencing the motion with the way I sat.  I'm not even going to try to half-ass explain her explanation here, but I did physically understand it.  I would love to explore this more at some point.

On Connor: It seriously made a difference.  I had him on a pretty long rein/wasn't pulling and was able to adjust the canter just by changing the way I reacted to his motion.  As the person who has spent the last year interrogating every 3rd+ Level rider I've met on "How do you collect the canter?", even this rudimentary level of understanding on how to influence the canter with my seat is important.

All in all, I'm thrilled with that lesson, and I seriously wish I could get them both out to Indiana so they could help me explore this with Connor.  Plus, I can't argue with the evening ending with getting to meet TC and eating fish tacos!  (The only two food groups in California are sushi and fish tacos, as far as I'm concerned!)


  1. Ahhhh soooo interesting! If we could just import them on the regular that would be so nice!

  2. Megan and I should hit the road as a combination comedy sketch and biomechanics peddlers. I'm excited to explore some of these ideas more deeply next time I see you!

    1. Uh yeah I'd totally buy tickets for that, haha. The horse world takes itself too seriously. And you guys complement each other's teaching style SO well.

  3. THey need to come to Indiana!! and KY!

    1. I mean, I feel like we need to strongly discuss this at some point. :D

  4. That's really cool they tag teamed you lol

    1. Haha, right? They are a great teaching team.

  5. Wow, sounds like you really learned a lot in one lesson. I travel a bunch and now I totally want to start finding lessons too. That is such a great idea!

    1. It can be hard because not every instructor is down for doing a one-off, but if you can find the right trainer, it's a great way to stay active while traveling. It's like a little clinic.

  6. Wow! Sounds like a really great lesson! It's so hard to feel when something is wrong if you've been doing it forever. Fresh eyeballs are so helpful with stuff like that.

  7. That's so cool that you got to take a lesson with Megan (and Kate)!

  8. That sounds like a really interesting lesson!

  9. Ok, seriously can we get them to Indiana? That's at least 3 of us!