Monday, January 23, 2017

Going in Circles

As part of my 2017 goals (see previous post), I've been trying to get in at least one lesson a month.

This is seriously easier said than done.

However, a local dressage trainer ended up running a special on lessons in January which sparked my curiosity.  Her regular lesson prices are way outside my typical realm of being able to afford, but the special made it on the higher end, but more realistic.

So I ended up corresponding and found myself riding a very nice, large Warmblood mare named..."Mare."  She has a name beyond that but apparently is often is just called Mare.

Insert random obnoxious photo of one of my cats

I wanted to work on accuracy, my balance, and softening my hands.  I definitely ended up touching on more than that during the lesson.  It was nice riding a schoolmaster.

But one thing that was particularly interesting input was how crooked I am.  I know I'm crooked, however, I didn't realize to what extent.

Apparently while traveling to the left (counter clockwise), I always thought, OK, look in the direction of travel.  I drop my inside shoulder enough that if I look, it ends up actually putting more weight on the right seatbone.  Really counter-intuitive.  Then the horse bulges out, I end up in a pulling match on the reins, and everyone looses.

Well, that's a little dramatic.

However, the coach had me keep my head straight and aligned with my sternum while traveling to the left.  I could look a bit with my peripheral vision, but not actually turning my body.  She made sure I put enough weight on the left seat bone and stirrup to turn that direction and sure enough, Mare became soft and obedient.  At one point, she had me riding with one hand behind my back, the other hand holding both reins quietly down on her neck, doing a posting trot at both 20 and 10 meter circles, working on increasing the weight in the stirrup to adjust the size of the circle in and out.

My circles to the right require me to actually twist a lot more through my body than I would think. I still have to struggle to keep thinking "back" and "up".

In the beginning of the lesson while just observing me, she asked if I knew what needed to be in alignment.  I said shoulder-hip-heel.  Simple mantra.  We all hear it.

Random photo of my horse

Simple enough, but especially since having back issues, I've struggled a lot with this.  She asked me if I planned on actually having shoulder-hip-heel in alignment and I said "Someday."

"Tonight" she said.

"OK, someday in my life, maybe within the hour" I said, "Sorry, I'm a little cheeky."

But she had me try to adjust a bit of the way I was sitting with my pelvis, sitting up a bit further and surprising enough, dang, I actually looked like I could ride a well broke horse that's probably worth a lot more than my car .  ;)  The perks of a schoolmaster.

Other things she briefly touched on was trying to adjust the amount of tension I carry my wrists and how one hand always creeps upwards.  Really hand?  Why can't you stay where I want you too?

But in the end, I think it was well worth the time and money to get some useful input.  I find so many people are able to point out flaws, but there aren't so many people that can figure out useful suggestions on how to begin correcting these habits.

I did go back home with a few more useful tools in my toolbox and went to work trying to apply them.  Granted I ride alone, with no mirrors, but it felt better.  I put out the camcorder one evening and we really were much softer in the circles, especially to the left. 
From the camcorder.  Can I just do tricks instead?
I need to work on the canter next, trying to maintain a certain level of softness, and to resist that strong urge to just curl forward which does absolutely no good to anyone.  ;) 

But until then, I'll just keep going in circles, ruminating on a good lesson on a big bay horse named Mare.

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