Tuesday, December 27, 2016

These Hips Don't Lie/Dressage Is Hard PT1

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas this year! I know I am jacked for the NYE and its right around the corner.

The holidays were productive for me mostly, including riding and reclipping both boys, as well as organizing my tack trunk and getting some things washed. I also was dog sitting in addition to farm sitting (yes, two different locations), so that kept me busy!

The best part was when my good friend S came to visit me! We actually trained with the same event coach ages ago and Pony Club together THEN moved out to MO around the same time. She, however, has been training with an UL dressage person for YEARS and now is a pro herself. Meaning, when she comes to town I demand bribe her to ride my boys and give them a tune up.

YASSS work that pony

PT2 will cover Yankee, but this post is about how she kicked my literally ass in a lesson and "un-stuck" Bacardi.
Post ass kicking swagger

Quick backstory/recap--back injury in July, grad school/new job has kept me from riding consistently since then, then for most of Nov/Dec I was deathly ill. Now I am essentially a potato in the saddle and apparently have some insane grabby hands that are pissing my sensitive beast the fuck off.

I mean, I wouldn't like it either so I don't blame him. Lately we;ve been doing a ton of long and low to come back to work, but as soon as I ask to get collected up, he's been difficult and the canter goes to crap....just...awful.

So yesterday we tacked up both boys and headed to the outdoor since it was SEVENTY degrees. Yep. In the middle of winter in Ohio. It was weird. 

I was sweating in a light long sleeve so idk why she was wearing a VEST

S hopped on B first and put him through is paces. From the get-go he was much better for her this time around (last time she was here a few months ago he was not afraid to express his disdain for contact and using himself properly, lol). She complimented me again on what I have done with him so far, and the fact that even in just a few months he seems much more grown up. I concur actually-- he's been solid every ride back., despite our struggles in collection. Meaning, no shenanigans in spooking and being a brat like he was last winter.

Check it

She put him straight to work, advising now that I have spent a couple weeks long and low and relaxed, its time to up the ante with B. He's ready for it and needs it. 

B is a lovely creature, and has 3 wonderful gaits. However, he is incredibly picky and inconsistent. Mostly fault of my own from having him in and out of work as of late, but at least we have a solid base and understanding for what is expected. The problem is that he is picky and requires a 100% effort on the riders end and no slumping around like I tend to do out of default. 

This is what 110% rider effort looks like

LOL. Right now I can't give him that, but I sure can try. 

So, S worked with him both directions, per my request focusing more to the left and on the canter as it was absolutely garbage a week ago.

TURNS OUT, it was just me riding like shit. HAHA.

Not surprised though, S is a complete wizard and figured out how to ride B to his maximum current capacity in approx 10 minutes and had him working with minimal "tantrums" (flinging head in air).

The key with B is completely relaxed elbows, closed fingers and LEG LEG LEG. Always leg. 

LIKE, can we please??
NO joke. When in doubt more leg. I ALWAYS say this to V, but apparently have a hard time applying it to myself recently. Really, I thought I had him in front of my leg, but, WHOMP WHOMP, turns out I am trash and couldn't recognize that in my own horse.

 It was magical though, watching S work with him at all 3 gaits, getting some brilliant work out of him. I was floored. Like I legit almost cried actual tears out of my eyeballs watching my glorious hunk of horsemeat strutting his stuff like I KNEW he could. 


Even dabbled in some flying changes

Mostly crying because I wish I could ride that well, but I guess there's a reason she's the dressage pro and I'm not, lol. After about 25 min, she switched with me (I was on Yankee), and gave me a vicious lesson on B. There are a lot of things I have not been doing that I should be with B, body wise, and essentially have been riding on cruise control for the last 6 months, protecting my back subconsciously. 

It didn't take S long to nail me for my major and life long flaw that has only been exacerbated by my injury. 

Can you see it?
If you can't see it, you're blind. Essentially, its my hip angle. WAY too closed up for flatwork. Even for jumping, with shorter stirrups, its SO easy to get a super close hip angle because my legs are stupid long and my torso is un-proportionately short. This makes curling over my knee, like, easier than breathing and reversing that shit is SO difficult. When I concentrate on opening my hip, my heels start to jiggle, my core collapses, my shoulders slump and my arms flop. Its a gorgeous picture and the total root of my most recent issues during our rides. 

I noticed a massive difference when I was doing yoga regularly, so I am going to make a point to get that back into my regime again. We also took my stirrups down a hole and prescribed me core workouts. Its INSANE how fast I lost my abs and back strength and how slowly the rebuild is going, but yesterday's lesson was a rude awakening that I need to actually focus some workouts solely around my core instead of just coasting along through weightlifting and crossfit. 

As of late, I have been ridiculously grabby with my hands without noticing it, which is awful. S nailed me for that too and literally made me ride with my hands in his mane at first, without tipping forward and it was torturous. Riding correctly is fucking hard guys. 

Holy shit it is possible to not look like a monkey

So, apparently when you give your horse the room to push forward into the bridle, instead of grabbing his face and creating panic in his brain--he actually moves like a god damn unicorn.

GUYS, this is critical info.

So like, leg on, open thighs and soft contact through pushing forward with elbows but closing fingers is like, a novel fucking idea right?

To the right is both of our better directions

Instead of learning one thing at a time like total noob (which I truly felt like during this lesson--WHAT IS CONTACT? WHAT IS FORWARD?!?) I asked S to get after me for everything. I NEEDED to feel like what the proper position was, so that when she was gone, I could attempt to recreate the magical feeling I was experiencing when I actually got it right. 

I am apparently not good at that right now though, especially at the canter, but our trot improved dramatically with S yelling at me to get my fucking shit together like the experienced rider I actually am instead of someone who forgot how to ride in the last month. 

I appreciate a horse like B though, who IS sensitive and will fucking destroy you if you fuck up. Unlike yankee who just goes along without a care in the world, B will giraffe and he will giraffe hard until you fix your useless potato sack body and ride RIGHT.

Classic giraffe

Less giraffe

So, that lesson was hard. I got some excellent footage of it and B is quite telling to my mistakes. If you're bored and want to watch 6 minutes of actually good information, feel free to watch. Personally, I LOVE seeing the differences in the quality of the work when I ride a bit better. 

He is exceptionally intolerant of my antics at the canter and was not afraid to give me shit for my garbage riding. I love it. That's the thing with lessons though, someone on the ground to tell you what you're doing wrong when you think you're actually doing it right. 

doing it right

So that was certainly eye opening and informational for me. Now I have some tools/reminders/instructions on how to not ride like a piece of shit and actually train my horse and make him better. YAY.