Thursday, January 21, 2021
Friday, November 20, 2020
I know, I seem to be doing a bunch of biomechanics posts of late, but that's where my brain is at so that's where the blog is at.
Following up on my last post about keeping my legs close is understanding how my right and left leg are different, how that affects my riding, and what I need to do to make them more even. My left leg is the stronger leg, and tends to stay more under me and doesn't brace or swing.
Let's start with the obvious differences. In these pics, I'm not actively focused on doing anything different with my legs. Let's call this "normal":
Final set: I'm actively focused on pushing my right heel away from the horse, bending my right knee, and keeping contact between the fabric of my breeches and the thigh blocks:
Thursday, November 12, 2020
I tend to ride with my leg off the horse. From the hip all the way down.
This isn't to say I don't USE my leg and seat - I do, but I really have to make a fairly big movement to connect to the horse, especially since I'm pretty tall and I ride smallish horses. My leg has a long way to go to be able to influence the horse.
When I rode with Mary Wanless, it was immediately obvious that my thigh was completely off the horse, as I didn't use it to post and instead posted off my stirrups. Using my thigh - but without pinching with my knee - was a revelation, but also a hard habit to get into. To this day, I struggle with keeping my thigh on (it's especially hard to keep thigh on but hip open in sitting trot!), but my lower leg is even worse.
Enter the idea of "keeping your legs close." I don't need to keep them ON, because that will just cause confusion. But I need them to be more supportive, like a very light hug, so that when I DO need to cue, I can do so immediately instead of having a time gap between when I start the cue and when it actually reaches the horse.
Turns out, having my legs actively (if quietly) engaged is also really helpful in keeping my seat on the horse. In downward transitions especially, or when Leo gets a little quick, I tend to brace my leg forward. This not only takes my legs forward and away from his sides, but because I'm bracing against the stirrups and literally pushing myself out of the saddle, it pops my seatbones off. In that moment, I have no way to influence the horse, either from my leg or seat. It also leaves me in a precarious position, as I am liable to have put myself behind the horse's motion, usually quickly followed by collapsing forward as the momentum catches up with me (stupid physics).
Tuesday, November 3, 2020
As a short-backed, short-necked drafty breed, Leo isn't exactly the most uphill creature on the planet. While he's not built downhill, he's also not a naturally uphill kind of guy. Plus, we've been working on stretching down and out and relaxing his underneck muscle, which sets him on his forehand. I also have an unfortunate habit of riding him a little (ok sometimes a lot) over-tempo, which also dumps him on his forehand.
Wednesday, October 14, 2020
Our local GMO is continuing to hold safe, socially-distanced schooling shows, so Leo and I did another one last weekend and rode 2-1 twice. It was a new venue, and based on our lack of warmup at the last show, I planned to leave PLENTY of time for him to get comfortable.
And it's a good thing I did. He was totally chill for tacking and grooming at the trailer, and was good for our 10 minute walk in-hand to look at some things. The arena was pretty scary - mirrors at one end, big judge's booth at the other, pallets and hay bales stacked on the uphill side, and it was away from everyone else. He took exception to a giant smoker outside the arena but was otherwise reasonable. A little up, as one might expect of a young horse on a cool morning in a strange place, but nothing bad.
I hopped on and started walking on the grass outside the teeny warmup space. I had planned to do a lot of walking on a long rein, then gradually pick him up, like we do at home. About two minutes in, he did this very odd squeal-and-strike move which he has never done before. I laughed it off and we kept walking, although my husband said, "Well that was weird" as we walked past him. Shortly after, Leo squealed, hopped and twisted, then kicked out. He has NEVER done anything like that in the two years I've had him, so I took the hint and (heart pounding) got off.
Luckily there was a round pen on site, so we went over, I stripped off his bridle, then stepped back and told him to "go play." He took off bucking and squealing, which he continued to do both directions for about ten minutes. I haven't had to lunge this horse in probably 18 months, so this was completely out of character for him. In hindsight, I'm SO glad he was polite enough to let me know he needed some time to play instead of just dumping me (because he absolutely could have dumped me), and I'm glad I heeded his warning. Note to self: pack lunge equipment from now on, because he may need a little time on the line at shows.
By the time he was done playing, he was blowing and steaming, and we only had about ten minutes before our ride. I re-bridled him and hopped back on to a much more relaxed-feeling pony. It turned out the rider before us had scratched, so we did our warmup in the actual dressage arena. I crammed in as many transitions as I could, and getting him to focus on me. When the bell finally rang, I felt at least prepared if not completely ready.
Annnd we actually put in a focused, mostly mistake-free test? He was not at all collected - between running in the round pen and our lack of warmup, he just wasn't really on my seat the way he is at home, and was heavier in my hand than usual. But he did all the things where he was supposed to more or less how he was supposed to, and did not look at a single thing for the entire ride. Considering how we started the day, I will absolutely take it!
Monday, October 5, 2020
While I know a lot of folks are frustrated at having to put their showing on hold for at least part of this year, I've actually enjoyed having no pressure to do anything other than have fun with ponies. This has made my riding kind of sporadic, but it's also given me the time to really pick apart things and slowly build up our skills. I've spent a lot of time working on my biomechanical issues - which, let's be real, those will be forever a work in progress. While I haven't been at all rushed, Leo's training has come along quickly, which I find kind of surprising given my lack of focus.
Unfortunately, the lack of focus and show goals has left us with some odd holes in his training. He does a brilliant walk pirouette, but our trot leg yield is sketchy at best. His walk/canter is really coming along (I set him up correctly obvs) but the canter/walk is more like a sliding stop because we've never quite gotten over that "big whoa" that was installed during his first 60 days with a cowboy.
Anywho, our local GMO has started holding schooling shows again, and I had a bit of an itch to do something, so I signed us up. Due to aforementioned training holes, the question was... which tests? 1-3 was doable (with questionable leg yields), but it has SO MUCH CANTERING in it. Leo isn't in the best of shape, plus he's a hairy yak and I knew it would be in the 90s during the show, so getting through 1-3 seemed like a big ask. We did a fairly respectable rendition of 2-1 the weekend before the show, and it's a much shorter test, so I opted to go with that.
The show was run well as usual (our GMO is AWESOME!), and people mostly followed the mask and distancing mandates. We kept our masks on and showed out of the trailer, so we had no contact with anyone other than waving to a few friends. I gotta say, it was so nice to see folks, even if from a distance. I'm a huge introvert by nature, but apparently after 6 months of mostly staying home, even I am desperate for humans!
Sadly, I didn't give us nearly enough time for warmup before our first ride. Leo's been such a solid guy at home, I keep forgetting he's 6 and doesn't have much travel experience, so the 20 minutes I'd allotted for warmup was just not enough. As a result, we went into the first test with him not at all over his back due to tension, so we really struggled. He tried so hard to do all the things, but just couldn't given his level of tension. I've never had a test with so many mistakes (cantered in the medium trot, bolted in the 10 m canter circle, missed 2/3 leads in the w/c departs), but we corrected each one and moved on.
Friday, September 18, 2020
Geez, it's been a while. Feels like years, and maybe it has been. We're all fine here, I hope you are too, and have found ways to work within the craziness that is 2020.
I keep writing blog posts in my head while doing horse chores; it's a great time to solve life's problems. The thing is, I never manage to write them down. Maybe this post means I'll get back to blogging, maybe not. No promises.
In August, after not leaving the house for anything more than groceries since March, we decided to head to Yellowstone National Park. We took our truck camper and everything we needed for the 10 day trip, which meant we only had to stop for gas. In fact, the only time we went inside a building the entire 10 days was to get some t-shirts at Yellowstone and some craft beer that hubby wanted. So as far as socially-distanced holidays go, it worked well. It was also SUPER nice to just get away from our house for a while and do something different.
So without further ado, have some pictures from Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding area.
Our first night in Wyoming, we parked in a friend's driveway near Dubois and had this amazing view.