Sunday, November 29, 2020

Lesson Recap


Ever have days that feel like this?

Life has been complicated, but one thing I've been trying to do is to take time for myself. Scheduling lessons has given me drive and focus when life keeps getting a little more chaotic.

Last Thursday, I squeezed in a lesson. It was a lovely day as far as Midwestern weather goes. So strange to be riding outside in late November!

We started off the lesson on playing around with my straightness in the saddle. I am tight in my left hip flexors from a previous hip surgery and can often twist in the saddle, but ironically enough, my shoulders are straight. Some of this subsequently is reflected onto the horse as Chili often wants to track crooked as well and I'm sure part of that is myself and part of that is Chili's own previous injuries.

What my coach and I have been discovering is that I need to tighten my obliques a bit while riding to also correct some of the hypermobility issues I have elsewhere.

At the trot, I have been working on almost "bouncing" from one seat bone to the other while being cognitive of my obliques. Chili is very expressive and so it does become clear what she approves of and disapproves of quite quickly (thank you mare ears!). The goal of the "bouncing" is because I can't really open my left hip to have a way to send energy and shift my seat while essentially bypassing a blocked joint.

This was most evident while I was working on spirals on the circle a couple weeks ago. While spiraling with my left leg on the outside, Chili was having a difficult time maintaining the bend until I went a little rogue and had my left hip a little more forward than one would traditionally have it and then used more of the idea of the bounce to maintain forward impulsion and then had the right leg asking for the lateral movement. I'm hoping one day I can get video to share what I mean!

This also has come into play at the canter. I have long been overwhelmed with the great canter discussions on if the canter lead should be picked up from the inside leg or the outside leg or a combination. One stallion I rode for a while was definitely off the inside leg, while of course, many others I've ridden were off the outside leg. Some off both simultaneous.

One takeaway from the lesson was Chili absolutely did not appreciate the canter coming off both legs. I think there was too much of a squeeze and the tight hip blocking her from really moving into the canter fluidly. When I worked on moving the left hip out of the way, canter coming off the right leg and then more of a "scoop" on the left seat bone, she seemed much more fluid about picking up the lead and without extra "expression".

One canter exercise we began working on was pretty simple, but I thought it was useful, since most of our canter work at this point has either been on straight lines or on a 20 meter circle.

I started on the 20 meter circle, then went to the diagonal at X. While on X, straighten the horse and go straight while in canter.

Chili is still gaining strength in the canter and still at times, not quite sure about accepting the contact and changing reins while in the canter. She swapped leads once and broke to the trot a couple of other times while starting to ask her to straighten, but all in all, it is a good exercise for me to think about just continuing to work on straightness and I'll begin teasing apart what I need to do to help her. It just takes a little outside the box thinking!

It is somewhat promising to see progress. Chili is a talented horse, smart, and creates her own games. Some of it has been while she's had time off from injury as well. But I feel like some of our stalling has been because she hasn't followed the logical progression that dressage said she should. I also am realizing I may not be able to ride in the exact fashion that people say is "proper." We all have physical differences, but it is hopeful and a little bit inspiring to work with someone who can think outside the box on how to help both of us progress in our skills.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Farnam Giveway

 I like to enter some of the random drawings on Facebook. I'm not particularly lucky, but here's to hoping right?

Well apparently  I got lucky and won the Farnam End of Summer Giveaway.

It was very exciting and very unexpected. The box contained a nice variety of products I am excited to try including Leather New Total Care, Equi-Spot Tick and Fly Repellant, Dual Defense Fly Spray which is for both humans and horses (how handy!), Next Level joint supplement, Sand Clear, Laser Sheen, a couple tubes of electrolytes, some wound cream and spray, Sand Clear, and a couple tubes of electrolytes.

Definitely a fun variety of products and some items I wouldn't have purchased on my own, but I am very curious to try and see if they help. Laser sheen which is a coat shine spray has never been in my lineup but I'm always game to see if it's better than my preferred products!

Anyone else been lucky lately or won a drawing like this?

Any favorite Farnam products that are always in your lineup?

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Lesson Recap

 The weather outside has been stunning and very unlike normal weather here in the frozen tundra in November.

I have been trying to take advantage and riding outside. The only negative is with daylights savings time and the fact it is now dark at 4:30.

Friday, I left work about an hour earlier than my typical end time. I've accrued a bit of overtime just from normal "everyday" crisis things occurring now. The great thing about leaving is that I made it out just in time to squeeze in a ride before pm chores. Chili is still easily distracted and can be kind of an idiot if there is too much going on for her little peon brain to handle at one time. Show environments, she can be better if she doesn't go over the threshold, but at home, she has a particular routine and she doesn't care for it to be adjusted.

I lunged her in the outdoor arena for a few minutes. We have sometimes had trouble in the outside arena with sticking and worrying about horses running in turnouts right adjacent to the outdoor. However, she seemed pretty quiet about the whole affair so we had a pretty nice ride.

I have been super tight, tense, and sore, so our usual routine starts with a bit of two point, since that's about the only thing that doesn't make my tight hip clamp against her in the saddle which just quite frankly, irritates Chili and causes her to jig and be annoyed.

After our usual warm-up routine, we just did some basic walk, trot, and canter work and then trying to work on leg yields on the spiral.

Saturday, I had a lesson. The weather was once again very nice and warm, but quite windy. I couldn't decide if I wanted a jacket and risk overheating and dying or just a polo shirt. I ended up with unzipped jacket, but that's how it goes.

We started off the lesson with my usual warm-up routine of two point and variations on that to try and regain some mobility in my left hip. Once I was feeling a little more comfortable and Chili let me know that she was ok with my status, we moved into work. She was feeling rather lazy, which is often quite unusual for her, especially with sometimes strong wind occurring.

My instructor had me working on keeping my body straight on the rail with minor jaw flexions left and right until it felt Chili would take both reins evenly. She has such a flexible neck that she can often evade and resist taking one rein.

Once the flexions felt better and we had a little more power at the trot and quit jog trotting, we did some spiral leg yields. I have often struggled with nagging her. One thing I can often do is turn my heel into the horse which annoys her. My instructor wanted to play around with some concepts to see what Chili would respond best to in the current circumstances. While going counter-clockwise, my weak and tight hip was on the inside. Instead of just putting my leg on and trying to send her over, I played around with the idea of almost picking up and "bouncing" my inside seat bone while sending my energy from the inside seat bone to the outside oblique muscles. I had also dropped my left stirrup and kept my right one to try and see if gravity could help correct some of my muscle memory and postural issues.

The difference in Chili's ability to comply and understand was pretty profound. We practiced this on the quarter-line a few times too and had some very nice crossing over front and back. Historically I had always struggled with her being so crooked, but now looking back, I wonder if I never really gave her back enough space to swing up, through, and over.

The other direction, going to the rail left, means that my hip is now tight on the outside. I have usually been much better on spiral circles this direction, but as always, struggle on the quarter-line.

What we ended up finding that worked better was to have my bad hip just a little bit forward that what is ideal. Too far back and my hip locked and Chili was resistant to moving over and neutral was a fairly similar effect. It's hard for my brain to process sometimes what is proper equitation isn't going to work for myself as a rider and secondly, what feels correct usually isn't anyway!

We had some really nice leg yields with good power and it seemed like such a strange feeling on her. Her rideability and my ability to sit comfortably just improved as soon as I could tweak it to have her accept the outside rein, not block her with that seat bone, and to try and not pick at her.

We finished out our ride with some canter work. My instructor wanted us to begin exploring the idea of balance in the counter-canter so while on the rail and on the circle, asked to flex her to the outside, straighten, and bring her back on the correct bend. Baby steps. Chili wanted to break to the trot if I was changing bend a little too quickly as I was also disrupting her balance. I practiced a little more today with the concept and she seems to be catching on. 

All elementary things, but to be honest, it's nice to have her be so willing and sound so that I can work on having instruction to keep filling in some of these gaps.

I rode with a couple other people in the arena the past few days which was also excellent exposure. Chili has been a little too coddled at times with not always having riding companions and in our past, we almost always rode alone so she gets frazzled when other horses are doing things. Plus, it was nice to hear from the other riders on what a nice moving horse she is. 😁

Hopefully work will keep itself in check and I'll be able to schedule another lesson shortly. Here's to hoping! :)

Thursday, November 5, 2020

The Good Things

Sometimes it can be hard for me to take a break and realize there are still good things.

This year, by far, has been incredibly stressful. I'm a microbiologist by trade and this year, have been plunged off the end of the universe. What I originally thought would be a couple month endeavor in terms of Sars-CoV-2 testing and so forth, has now been an almost 9 month marathon. 

I remember being a little flippant back in February, long before it was on most people's radar, while talking to an infection prevention nurse. He asked if I was really concerned and I said no, not really, as long as the person in charge could actually keep his act together.


Now back to the positive things. I'm hoping to expand on a few of these topics soon enough if I ever have a few minutes to catch my breath.

First of all, I was absolutely shocked I placed second in the 2ptober challenge! I only rode a handful of times due to work and my older mare having pneumonia.

Second, I was quite surprised when I won a basket of Farnam items! 

One of my work supervisors surprised me and paid for my coffee the other day. I also received a small bucket of Halloween candy while I was at an area hospital doing some training work. :)

So hurray for free coffee and excessively sugary snacks.

So what good things have been happening to you lately?