Sunday, December 30, 2012

Lesson #11

I arrived at the barn nice and early for the lesson on Friday. This was a make up lesson for the one that was cancelled due to Boxing day. I've never been to the stable on Fridays to ride and expected at least 1 other rider. Another lucky break and I had a private lesson!

I was paired with the fuzzy silver ambassador of Greyden: Aspen. He's probably the fuzziest horse I have ever seen; he's like a big poufball! He's bombproof and a good gentle boy. And I soon discover that he's also a horse that will teach anyone to ask for the commands correctly since he's prone to ignoring you if you're not asking for things right. He's what Sheri calls a "schoolie" and he knows all the tricks in the book!

Since it's a private, we get right into things and I'm doing a lot of trotting (posting and seated) to get warmed up. As I'm going round and round, Sheri calls me to the center to adjust the stirrup length--says that it's a bit short for me. She's loosening up my hip joint and yanking my leg a bit. She then lays my leg down along Aspen's body and tells me my thigh needs to be tilted forward but not death gripping Aspen all the while my legs are long. I'm also not sitting only on my seat bones... the "seat" is a tripod of points in your actual "seat" where your pubic bone is the 3rd point that makes contact with the saddle. I feel my leg long along Aspen's body and for once, I can feel what it should feel like.

I get back along the rails and get into the trot and Sheri tells me it's time to give the canter a try. It seems that Aspen is ignoring my aides, which are still a total mess btw--Aspen is just trying to respond appropriately and he can't do that to the mess that is sitting on top of him since he likely isn't quite clear as to what it is that I want him to do! So, Sheri gets out a longer crop to show him that she means business. I suppose that the objective is to help me get the feel for the canter and to feel the seat in the canter: it's like a scooping motion with your hips forward and up and back and then forward again. There are moments where I can feel how it's meant to feel.

I'm determined to get into a canter on my own, regardless of what it is that it takes, to do it. The only thing that I'm holding onto, is the fall. I didn't realize it at the time, but after several tries, I recollect that everytime I prep to get into the canter, part of me tenses up again and panics. It's as if I'm  preparing for the exact same thing that happened in the past, on another horse. This sort of "memory" that leads to anticipation is something I think adults tend to hold onto. But in my other experiences of life, that's exactly what holds us back in the same rut that we eventually get stuck into.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Happy Holi-daze

Don't worry everyone, I'm still alive.

I have come crawling out of the abyss known as the flu and I'm still standing... well, kind of. Worst turn of events ever, though! I got sick on the eve of Christmas and then spent the following days in a messy medicine induced haze. And, when I wasn't in the medicine induced haze, I was tossing and turning while struggling to breathe while taking advantage of my new Netflix account.

And all the while, I missed the first big snow of the year! Now it's starting to feel like winter... :)

I did manage to open Christmas gifts and got the third installment to my all time favourite author, Carlos Ruiz Zafon. His newest addition to the Shadow of the Wind series looks just as dark, mysterious and gothic as the other two! I'm looking forward to reading this one in the new year. The best news of the holi-daze? I GOT A PONY!!!

Ok, not a real one but here's to getting on my way to eventually getting that childhood pony!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Lesson #10: Private Lesson!

After last week's class focus on balance, I realize I have to incorporate additional physical activity to build upon the requirements I work on once a week during lessons. I don't know if there is anything else I do that requires the same muscles and even mind-set.

I got to Greyden and there was only 2 of us on the board for the night! My class just went from 4 students to 2. What luck. I'm riding Bud tonight and the other girl is riding Bonnie. I miss Bonnie but I've also felt most comfortable on Bud when I'm working on the canter since he is easier to work with to get going.

As I'm tacking up, I notice that the other girl hasn't shown up yet and it looks like I might be having a private lesson! WOOO-EEE! I'm a little nervous at the realization because Sheri can be tough but I figure it's the best time to get some things down that I can't get down during a regular class. All eyes on me the whole class.

We start immediately with the posting trot to warm up and move right along to alternating posting trot and seated trot. I still haven't figured out the posting diagonals without looking yet but I probably should. It's something that I'll need to work on getting a proper feel for because it's one thing to be able to look down and see which diagonal you're supposed to be on but to just be able to feel what needs to be done is another. That will probably take many more lessons to accomplish. Next, we work on balance exercises with delayed posting rhythm with 2 beats up and 2 beats down. This is tricky! You're essentially balancing standing up while the horse is moving forward and then trying to sit down for two beats too. Not an easy feat!

Sheri continues the lesson with me by asking me to move into working on the canter. It's still a little bit of a weak point for me since that fall from Bonnie. But, Bud's eager and I think he could move into a canter straight from a walk! A few times he gets eager and even wants to get going while I'm trying to figure myself out! Can you imagine...? If he started cantering and then I go flying off?

I found the chance to have the private with Sheri to be a huge advantage to focus on the things that I've been having trouble with lately. This has definitely been a move forward for me! The only downside from the entire lesson are the two giant bruises on my inside lower leg from the stirrup leathers. Ouch! I won't be forgetting those half chaps next lesson...

Monday, December 17, 2012

Lesson #9: Balance

December 12, 2012

I've said it once and I'll say it again, it's all about balance. Not just what we do and chose in our lives, but riding with our equine friends! It's been 2 weeks since I fell off of Bonnie and when I got in, I am scheduled to ride Buddy! Buddy is a wonderful chestnut 16HH quarterhorse x belgian who just wants to please.

I'm a little late getting in this evening so I'm the last to tack up. Bonnie's come out today and another student is riding her. We start with posting trot and I felt like I was starting over again and having trouble adjusting my balance on Buddy. I remind myself to relax and look up and forward, and things get a little better. Buddy's a much bigger boy than Bonnie so his gait is larger and a little more bouncy but steady.

I'm clutching with my knees and pivoting in the seated trot and Sheri reminds me to relax my knees and then to really push my heels down in the stirrups. This changes my balance and I'm able to have smoother posting and my heels are really pointing downwards. But, posting trot isn't my challenge (other then getting diagonals without looking) so our next activity is seated trot. I'm reminded to: sit deep in my seat, use my core (specifically my abs) to engage my balance, relax my hips and to let my body absorb the movement of the gait and Buddy. I am also told to keep my lower leg engaged with the horses body and to almost "wrap" my legs around Buddy's body. And guess what? It suddenly comes together. I'm bouncing a little bit (it's supposed to be a bouncy feeling compared to walk or posting trot) but I'm staying in my seat!

The other girls in my class take turns on the ring and we each try our canter. Sheri tells Vanessa that Bonnie's not like Rock... so while she's go go go, she's also practically a rocking horse! She's a bumpy gal and Vanessa notices! No wonder I fell off!

I start Buddy in the seated trot and in a corner, I move my outside leg back; squeeze and add my voice and he just gives this very excited head toss and dives right into the canter! Look at us go!!! I'm really moving around the ring with this guy. I still have to grab onto the pommel of the saddle but I'm really moving!

In addition to the canter and our seated trot, we work on balance. I didn't appreciate it before, but to ride a horse properly, one's balance and flexibility really need to be competent. Trick riders give me a completely new appreciation for their level of skill. I can barely balance in a canter and can't imagine how much work is involved to train as a trick rider!

Anyways, Sheri also notices that my arms are flailing about and I'm balancing heavily on my hands so I'm putting pressure on Buddy's mouth, when I'm off balance. I'm certain that this is not comfortable for Buddy and I keep reminding myself that I should be doing as much work as Buddy is. So, I focus on what's happening in the moment and pull my mind back and look forward.

We do some flat pole work to induce a bouncier trot and really get us to focus on proper seat. I find that I have to be much more focused while going past the poles on the ground since Buddy's lifting up his legs more, to get over the poles.

I can feel my core collapsing repeatedly during corners and keep trying to remember to engage my core to keep me erect as well as in the seat while we're moving. Balance exercises are a focus for tonight and we work on paused posting as well as standing in the stirrups while moving. I apologize to Buddy for yanking on his mouth whenever I'm off balance but keep trying to maintain proper alignment and balance with my entire body.

Heels down with light contact of the inseam has been a big help for me tonight.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Different Time, Different Place: New Perspective

I just spent the last few days studying for my intermediate microeconomics class and although there was a great deal of math--specifically calculus--I didn't feel as lost as I did in the past. Well that's not true. I was lost in the class, but the math wasn't really a big stretch of the imagination and it didn't bring back flashes of horrifying memories of high school calculus or the first year calculus where I dozed off during the final exam.

It's becoming apparent that I'm not terrible at math and that I have been enjoying the challenge the course is presenting me. AW always says that his economics became more and more theoretical and abstract as the years went on, in school and for many, it was difficult to follow. But, I'm finding that this sort of thing interests me and gets me thinking. Of course, I'd rather not have my brain on, but once I do, it's quite satisfying to be thinking through the theories and concepts and what's going on!

Maybe my plans aren't too far off from both what I'm capable of doing and what I find interesting.

Regardless of these "feel good" moments and thoughts, it looks like I'll be setting up my Wednesdays to be working on the same course with the same miserable prof again. Yay for making winters even more yucky.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Lesson #8: Think Forward and Let Go

I have a final exam on Tuesday and you'd think I'd have spent the better part of the week thinking about the exam and studying for it but.... instead, I've spent it checking out horse-related videos on VideoJug and watching Heartland. I figure that maybe I can pick up on things I’m doing wrong during my lessons. I figured that the fall last week is fully attributed to (my own) rider error since the horse can only do as it’s being told.

While I’ve gotten a better technical appreciation, execution has been trying. Last night, Sheri got us into seated trot early in the lesson. The equine friend I was paired with last night is a sweet, large pony, Nikki. She’s an agreeable sweet-heart and easy to get along with but l-a-z-y. When I thought I had gotten into a trot, Sheri yells at me “that’s barely a trot! Use the crop!!” And all the while I was thinking “wow, this seated trot is much better. I’m not bouncing around everywhere”. *siiiigh*

Like I mentioned last week, there are over a dozen things a rider is trying to contend with so it’s not by any means a walk in the park. All our muscles and even mind-set needs to be retrained so it’s certainly a challenge, considering that I ride once a week. Here is the slew of mistakes I need to work on correcting… lower leg positioning, long leg, deeper seat, relaxing lower back, loosening hips, tightening abs, keeping a constant light contact with the horse/saddle and steady my hands. My biggest problem is the lower leg position because when I go out of alignment there, everything else starts to go out of whack.

I did a lot of seated trot last night and I think that while my brain was “in it”, my heart wasn’t. I couldn’t commit to just relaxing and going with the flow, literally. I was stuck thinking about getting all the technical bits right and thinking about the minute details of the exact moment instead of thinking forward and holistically. That’s the thing I'm realizing about the canter… you have to just feel it with your body and mind and stop thinking about what's happening and trying to tweak each thing. It's like knowing what you want, asking for it and then letting (trust, perhaps?) the horse take you there; you don't have to be in control of every minute detail--kind of like life, eh? But this doesn't go to say that without some key pieces in place, you'd do any worse... because getting your lower legs in place and long will be the start of everything else; it's like getting a solid foundation down first. Because if I don't get that right, I'll set off my balance, start bouncing about and then get more tense and try to compensate in the wrong fashion and well… end up on the ground. When I think back about the instances where Bonnie got into a canter (though momentarily), I remember not thinking and just sitting and thinking forward. I didn't even have to hold onto the saddle!

Hopefully thinking about something else for the next few days will reorient my thoughts by giving space and a chance to ‘reset’. Intermediate microeconomics, here I come!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Lesson #7: Getting Back on the Horse (literally)

I spend a lot of my free time during the week looking up riding videos to see how to improve or do things better. I checked out the "how to canter" and "how to improve your classical seat" videos on VideoJug. I figured that my issues with the seated trot might be related to poor posture or seat. I found the video helpful since I got a better idea about the correct way to sit in the saddle and then the video goes into corrections for common mistakes. Great video for someone who's interested to get a better idea about the correct seating. It isn't something we have a lot of time to cover during lessons.

I was riding Bonnie on Wednesday. Last week Sheri said that Bonnie's a bit tough to get going because she makes for a challenging ride. She's insistent on her own way at the beginning of classes and is not very forgiving about what a rider might ask her to do. We work on seated trot and really, I've not mastered it; I still find myself bouncing a lot.

Sheri tells me to lengthen my legs (heels down), relax my hips so that I flow with her trot and to tuck my tailbone under to create a heavy seat. I still don't understand the concept of "creating a heavy seat". But once I've engaged my abs too, things seem to come together. Now, the canter: move my outside leg back behind the girth and squeeze both legs. Problem is, Bonnie's just going faster and faster in the trot and I'm getting more and more nervous because of the multitude of things that I'm trying to concentrate on doing simultaneously. Each arena corner is another opportunity to get her into the canter so I try again and again with little success. It's frustrating, and add the fact that Bonnie remains to be a bit clumsy when she's trots, I've got myself quite a bit to deal with. Faster and faster and then the magical moment where she transitions into the canter! Except I didn't transition with her so now I'm all over my seat and my balance is straight out the window!

The next thing I know, I see the ceiling of the arena and I've landed on the ground, tucked and rolled into the door with a big thud. At least I managed to fall professionally from a moving horse! Maybe I should forget learning to ride properly but consider a career in equestrian stunt work.

In the past, I would have felt more badly about the turn of events and given up on the remainder of the lesson. But you know what? I got right back up and got back on Bonnie without blinking. We didn't get back into a canter but we did manage to finish the lesson with one another. Next week, I'll give another horse a try to see what I might be able to accomplish with the canter but I am more than willing to get back on Bonnie to get it right. Afterall, I might get more accomplished with a "difficult" horse at the start.