Getting hurt has been a blessing in disguise. Without the pressure of being ready for a show in two months, I have been able to focus on myself: my position, my seat, my aids; being effective and efficient as a dressage rider. After a few sessions at home when I was finally able to wear a boot to ride, I had a lesson with my trainer. She gave me tips on how to focus my rides on myself as a rider, so I was able to improve rapidly as if I were working with a trainer on the longe line. (See 7/13/17 below. This is a great strategy; I am so please with the progress I’ve made.)
I ride with paddock boots without the half chaps, so I get immediate feedback when my legs are not still as the stirrup will pinch my calves. This is caused by gripping with my legs, which makes my legs “shorten” or “creep up” on the saddle. I’m pleased that this work has lengthened my leg a full stirrup hole. In the beginning after practicing walk/rising trot transitions, I practiced sitting trot without stirrups. This allowed my leg to relax and lengthen. I am now able to keep weight in my stirrups at sitting trot at the new longer length, even mediums across the diagonal.
I’m also “listening” for where in the stirrup my weight falls- square over the ball of the foot or too far forward from my heel being “up.” Another point of feedback is my seat- am I sitting over my three points of contact or is my weight too much on my pubic bones? When I practice transitions, I put my intention in growing tall and feeling for a balanced seat. When I practice sitting trot, I focus on lifting my pubic bones and engaging my core. This gives me a workout similar to crunches. I get the same feeling in the saddle as when I do crunches on my exercise mat, so I know I am working those muscles. As I sit the trot, I think that each stride I want to land on my “back pockets” (de Kunfy) and that I am so loose and following, the horse is moving each joint in my body. This is a marvelous feeling, becoming one with my horse- very addicting! We practice collected to medium transitions in the sitting trot. The collected trot must feel very bouncy and active- not a slow jog-trot. The medium trot must surge when I put my leg on.
Finally, I am using conscious intention to keep my hands still and together in front of the saddle. At first I used a neck strap to force my hands from moving. Again, like the seat work, I improved quickly and don’t need props to get the feedback for improved position. I looked at some pictures from last month and did notice that my hands are fairly wide. I hope to have some new photos to post soon. I am feeling mostly healed in my foot and eager to begin training our second level work again.
FROM MY TRAINING JOURNAL:
7/30: rider- position and effectiveness of aids/horse- engagement
7/29: Fluency- aids/rider; gaits/horse
comments about today’s training: 1st day back in regular training after injury. All the seatwork was very beneficial for effectiveness in riding movements.
Training strategy- transitions in all gaits
Began balky; resistant; with w-t transitions, worked through poor rhythm. He became very fluid and forward- especially in canter work. I tested his w-c transitions on long side to ensure he was listening to my seat in the up transition. To help position & get the right lead, I asked from shoulder in/walk. This helped give him the collection and lift for the canter transition.
7/18-7/19; 7/23-7/24: seatwork
7/20/27: Monarch gave lesson to Tilly today; his goal is to build fitness and communication while longeing
comments about today’s training: we worked on her seat- same ideas as I practice. Then I gave her reins, so she can start to learn how to coordinate aids for steering. Inside leg and outside rein was a big eye opener, so Monarch didn’t fall on his shoulder in the turn.
7-15-17: Renee and I took Monarch & Sonny out to Mary Pat’s. I love how cool the covered round pen is (even in the 90 degree heat), and the footing is perfect! It was “old home week” with many riders out who used to board there. We all enjoyed seeing each other again. I practiced my seat goals. This has become quite easy. Monarch is very forward to the leg and willing. My leg has lengthened a full stirrup hole longer. With the longer stirrup length, it is very easy to monitor when I begin to grip with my leg:) I am able to quickly diagnose when my leg starts to clamp and when my pelvis rotates on to my pubic bones. When my pelvis rotates, I am quickly able to bring my seat back over my seat bones. I am also getting good feedback, so I can feel the horse’s movement moving my joints. My elbows are soft and loose and my hips are open. Getting hurt was a blessing in disguise, as I am able to focus on improving my seat and rider effectiveness.
7-14-17: seat training from yesterday’s lesson
7/13/17: first lesson with Susan since being hurt. Because my broken toe affects how I ride, we decided to work only on my seat- position and effectiveness of a balanced, deep seat. I am working with and without stirrups. I will maintain a deep seat using core muscles to maintain a balanced, vertical position through up and down transitions. I will use my seat to effect down transitions, and a long leg (and/or light touch with whip or spur) to effect up transitions. My hands will remain still throughout the transition. To train my hands to remain still, I will hold a neck strap with one finger of my outside hand, which prevents the outside hand from moving. To train the inside hand, I will consciously touch knuckles with my thumbs up and wrists straight, but relaxed. I will give with my elbows to follow the horse’s movement in walk & trot, but keep hands very still through the transitions. We worked in walk, collected trot, medium trot, and all transitions halt through medium trot. Very quickly I was able to still my hands, open my hips, and follow with all my joints while maintaining a deep seat. Monarch was an angel- very cooperative and willing with this work. I think he enjoyed the bond we created- very good communication.
7/12/17: First ride since being hurt- Rider: position & effectiveness of aids; Horse: position effectiveness of balance
7/11/17: groundwork & longe- suppleness, stamina, and strength training
comments about today’s training: With his shoes off, his stride is shorter- worked on lengthening- especially in walk and trot. Ended with walk-canter transitions. This is hard for him; I think he lost conditioning from being off since I’ve been hurt.