November 24, 2020

Buckling Down Pays Off

I talked a lot about Connor yesterday, but I want to talk about me today.

#1: My abs were sore the day after my lesson, which has never happened before.

#2: I don't even recognize my own riding in the videos.

#3: Connor didn't get mad at me a single time during this ride.  

Remember almost a month ago when I vowed to buckle down on core activation and Pilates after my last lesson? When Connor was mad at me for not riding as well as CGP? Since then, I no longer let myself lounge around in bed. Every morning, five days a week, I'm up as soon as my alarm goes off to get at least a half hour in at home, with one session a week being 50 minutes long with my instructor in her studio. 

Every morning, I lay there and think "I don't want my horse to hate my riding," and turns out that's pretty damn motivating even when bed is warm and cozy, the sun doesn't rise til 8:15am (thanks, Indiana) and our bedroom is a delightful 59 degrees.

Reminder that I am not too far removed from riding like this:

PC: Connor's breeder, I think?

PC: Austen

So to see and feel myself with my core engaged and my front line generally shorter than my back line, well, it's just amazing.

Even when my body was exhausted and my core could not stay with him anymore at the end of a long diagonal in his new big medium trot, I still didn't completely fall apart or start pulling. In fact, I realized after this ride that CGP didn't yell at me for pulling a single time.

Peep that pony-sized reach, yo!

When I engage my core on him now, it feels like I'm wearing a corset, or a back brace or my weight belt. It feels like two solid iron bars start below my nipples and tie in between my hip bones. I can feel my pelvis "sit deep" when my core is engaged like that, and while I can't say I can maintain it every moment of every ride, I'm aware of and annoyed by the instability created when my core isn't engaged, so I'll usually fix it pretty quickly.

This rider, from two years ago next month, had no awareness of that instability...clearly, lol:

Poor, poor, patient pony

A lot has changed for us this year, and certainly Connor being more responsible for himself makes it a lot easier for me to work on me, but Pilates has had more of an impact on my biomechanics than all the lessons I've taken this year combined. 

It feels so good to know that it wasn't my inability to learn all these years, it was my body literally holding me back from implementing trainer feedback. (Well, I'm still a slow learner, but at least the deck isn't stacked against me physically anymore!) 

Me: "I don't need another hobby, this is temporary." Also me: "Whole room for my new hobby, don't mind if I do!"

I shudder to think what my lease with Aeres would be like if I was still riding with my pre-Pilates inflexible lower back and my core muscles that I literally could not activate, the nerves had become so inactive over the years from disuse. She would have tossed me, lol. She barely tolerates even the level of instability in my position now, which has been a GREAT help in getting me to ride better while Connor is gone.

Aeres doesn't know it, but she's REAL thankful she didn't know me before Pilates, lol.


So yeah, this is my PSA, if you find yourself struggling in the saddle, don't hesitate to reach for help from non-equestrians that know nothing about horses. You might just find it was exactly what you needed all along.


  1. The previous post and this one make me so happy!! I'm pretty uneducated about dressage, but even I can see the differences!! Also yes, so cool to have a horse that allows you to focus on yourself more!

    1. Definitely, if we can just find a way to keep this momentum when we get home, 2021 should be a huge period of growth.

  2. Oooo! Look at you!
    This is extremely well-timed for me. I want/need to get back to working out in any shape or form, but have been having a hard time getting started. I, too, can get up a little early and work out for 30 min 5 days a week.

    1. Yeah, I hear you. The 30 min/week classes I've been doing are INTENSE - breaks are just a couple of breaths long, equipment changes are minimal, but you get a lot out of it. In contrast, my studio classes with my Pilates instructor are 50 minutes long and are much slower with an emphasis on working hard but more learning the correct way to do things. At that pace, 30 minutes would be worthless. So the shorter workouts are good if they're well-planned.

  3. I'm curious about the exercises that have benefitted you the most. Would love a post with gifs if you're able. I am absolutely fascinated by biomechanics improvements in riders and how they influence horses lately. I know it's something unique to each of us/our bodies, but I always seem to learn new things from others.

    1. I've been turning this over in my mind since you posted it, not quite sure how to do it, because what's helped me most isn't something most readers will have access to. But I think it'll still be valuable from a curiosity and learning perspective, so I think I'll take some videos and do this post next week.