May 9, 2019

Day 1 Mary Clinic: Firehose

[I am really struggling with how to write up this much information, so apologies if this is a little more literal and less organized than my usual writeups]

Within seconds of seeing me walk and trot Connor in my warmup, Mary called me over.

"We're going to shorten your stirrups, probably a couple of holes."

Turns out having your leg this straight:


is not productive.  She shortened them by two holes on Friday, and actually shortened them one more hole on Sunday, but we'll get to that later. 

After doing that, she said that my thigh blocks are now a problem, and I agree.  This saddle has to go - but I had been feeling that way for a while now, so no big deal.

Thigh blocks very much in my way

After she shortened my stirrups, we spent the next 20 minutes at the mounting block.  She diagnosed that I like to be tall in the saddle - too tall - and I press down into my feet, which is pushing my body up and away from him.  She helped me get into the right position, slowly.

First, she had me put my thighs over my thigh blocks, and used her hands to manipulate my torso into the right position and to help me identify and activate the right core muscles...which is not at all where I usually sit or the muscles I usually use.

I am not kidding when I say the position in the photo above feels like the fetal position to me.  It feels like my nose is in his mane and my shoulders are rounded and I'm leaning forward.  I knew when I watched the video that it would not look like that, but I was honestly shocked just how badly my brain is tricking me into thinking I'm vertical when I'm really typically behind it.

Getting me into position - "resist my push"
Next, she worked on the concept of internal pressure with me, something we had explored in the off the horse workshop a few hours before with the help of, yes, blowing up balloons.  This is something I have literally never done on a horse before.  Even when I think I'm using my core muscles, I don't have any internal pressure. 

The only time I typically have any internal pressure is when I'm weightlifting and wearing my belt, because that's exactly what the belt is there to remind you to do.  Turns out, your default state while riding should be a state of high internal pressure.  This is what a lot of trainers refer to as "use your core" but that's a lot less descriptive than a short British lady actually touching the muscles you should be activating and telling you to say "psh psh psh" while you're riding around to find the right muscles.

"Pull your tummy in to make a wall and push your guts against the wall"
After an eternity, we were finally cleared to walk in a 20m circle, where I tried to maintain the position I had at the mounting block while in motion.  She started to talk about how 80% of my leg pressure should be in my thighs and 20% should be in my feet.  I'm often the exact opposite of that, pressing hard into my feet, partially because I did have a bad "clamping with my thighs" problem at one point.   This was extremely hard for me to remember to do.

"Put more wrinkles in the front of your breeches"
She diagnosed my pulling hands - no surprise there.  She did an exercise with me where I push into her hands, but the real changes to my hands didn't come until Day 2.  But we'll get there.

Pushing on Mary's hands
After that, we went into posting trot mechanics, where she said I wasn't completing the top of my post - wasn't doing a full wipe of my windshield wiper, as she put it.  This is something Megan saw too in my lesson with her.  Just to give you an idea of how much touching is involved in a Mary clinic, this is Mary working with me on that:


After the change, my crotch was over my pommel with each rise, which is a dramatic change from where my post ended previously, but it made me feel like I was more in sync with him than normal:

Literally before - before my lesson started, before my rise changed, before she shortened my stirrups, before anything Mary

Day 2 preview - big changes in internal pressure, posting mechanic and obviously stirrup length.  Still haven't really paid attention to Connor at this point.

At the end of Day 1, I got some time in the hotel room to review my footage, where I was absolutely floored at how not-in-the-fetal-position she had me.  I also digested the internal pressure thing more, which really helped me on Day 2...

35 comments:

  1. I love this! The woman I rode with all through high school (who sold me Promise, etc) taught just like Mary and really employed her way of thinking. I seriously enjoy this style of teaching. The woman I'm riding with now is not AS hands on, but she does teach in the same way and I am so, so happy I found her!

    The difference in the last clip is amazing. Cannot wait to read more!!!

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    1. That's awesome! He WAS warming up in the first GIF and really rolling in the last GIF to be totally fair to Connor, but the difference in ME was very evident I think!

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  2. Thank you for being so descriptive with this. I'm hoping I can glean some stuff from it!! It's very apparent your thigh blocks are in the way now, unfortunately for your wallet. Shall the tack ho hunt be on for a brown one??

    Connors expression in that gif is hilarious. "This is the weirdest lesson I've ever been to."

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    1. I'm trying! It's so hard. Sigh...brown...maybe...lol. That whole give-a-mouse-a-cookie cascading tree down from the brown saddle is tough to stomach when I'm facing potentially buying a NEW saddle for the first time in my life...

      He really did think it was the weirdest clinic. "Ok I hauled two hours in the rain to stand at the mounting block? Cool I guess..."

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  3. I'm so glad you're posting this recap (even tho it's a hard one to write-up). I've been really looking forward to your thoughts on the clinic! :)

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    1. Really hard to write. I think it's even going to take me a while to formulate my own thoughts on this. It'll be an on-going study from here on out I think.

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  4. I'm glad that you recapped about 80% of leg pressure should be in the thigh. My daughter and I were discussing that just the other day. Great write-up. I'm looking forward to reading more!

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    1. That is a really challenging concept for me! Hopefully I'll have more next week.

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  5. I love it! The "day two preview" looks fantastic!

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    1. I would LOVE to have a call with you sometime to talk through this but I know better than to try to figure out a time that works with both of our schedules three time zones apart :( :( :(

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  6. ugh I wish I could have gone. maybe next time! The change is super dramatic even though it doesn't look like a lot of "Different"

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    1. Come in October! She's having trouble filling these clinics which does not bode well for them continuing to happen.

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  7. Touched by an angel! Sorry I could not resist. Seriously though, this seems like complete game changer experience.

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    1. Lol! It is an absolute game changer. And I'm stoked that my trainer is on board with these changes also. Should really help me nail them down going forward.

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  8. so interesting! can't wait for more Thank you for sharing!!

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    1. You're welcome, glad you're enjoying!

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  9. Ooh I've been waiting to read this write up. For not touching Connor, there sure is a difference in him too. The brain can really get off about body position and speed, I am always wrong about my speed.

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    1. I mean, he WAS straight out of the stall in the first GIF and warmed up in the second but other than that, he was basically a mechanical horse dummy for my position changes haha. The brain is really a big problem in all of this, it's surprising!

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  10. Super amazing how much your changes changed him! Mary is truly a wonder.

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    1. Ughhhhhhhhh I know I love her. All thanks to you that I was here at all!

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  11. I think I have most of the opposite problems to you - I love to lean forward, post over my pommel, and let me reins get floppy :/ But I totally agree when I do something correctly it feels really weird and wrong, and like I've gone way too far the other direction!
    I haven't heard that 80/20 thing, is that something she says in general or an exaggeration for you to think about to get you to land somewhere in the middle?

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    1. She covers riders like you too! Honestly if you liked this post at all you should get her book(s). The 80/20 thing is a standard rule and not just an exaggeration, although she does love to tell you to exaggerate things in the beginning.

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  12. my coach has had me put my legs in front of the blocks lately too! it's crazy how even just the smallest adjustment makes such a huge difference in feel...

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    1. Totally. I wish I could chop my blocks off my saddle today but sadly that would affect resale value, ha!

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  13. Wow, the difference is amazing already. I'm dying to ride with her after reading about everyone's experiences.

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  14. Whoa that's a huge change already! Super neat!

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    1. Yeah! You should come audit next time. The auditors honestly got a ton out of it too, more than most clinics I've been to.

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  15. Organizing the information on the page is almost as hard as taking all the information in! You are doing a great job though and I look forward to the rest of your experience!

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  16. This is so interesting to me! I have a question though (and I don't ride dressage, so maybe I'm just ignorant... probably in fact!), in the after footage, your lower leg looks a bit far back to me. Is that a result of the saddle not working, or is that actually where it should be?

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    1. Good catch and good question! Yes my lower leg is too far back, as a result of the knee blocks being in my way. She said ideally I would be in a saddle with a more forward cut flap and adjustable thigh blocks.

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    2. Thanks for clarifying! Fighting your saddle is so hard.

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  17. 1. It should be illegal for a horse to be that adorable. ;-)

    2. Ahhhh, so much touching, all my arm hairs are standing on end!

    3. I would love to audit one of her clinics. There's no touching of auditors, right? Heehee.

    Thanks for writing these up -- I know what you mean about hard to contain everything to write it. Part of the reason that my posts are infrequent now is because every post I think of is approximately 80,000 times too long, I am struggling to moderate my brain drool into bite sized pieces.

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  18. Thank you for doing this recap. So many great visuals! I have a student who will benefit from a lot of what you wrote here, particularly the blowing up balloons to engage the core. Coincidentally, she is also struggling with knee blocks that are impeding her position (but is not in a place to buy a new saddle right now).

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  19. It's taken me ages to have the proper time to read this. Thanks so much for writing it up and sharing. I think I can imagine the proper internal pressure "use your core" thing you describe. I think I'll torment myself tonight when I'm riding and try it out lol

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