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.