Monday, December 9, 2013

Lesson #65: Aiming for Zen

December 8, 2013

Yoga is by far one of the best training tools for riders. I’ve been doing yoga for many years now; when I first started, I was doing it during my lunch hours at work (wouldn’t I be excited if I was riding over lunch instead!) and I found my progress was really fast. My goal at the time was to touch my toes and I surpassed even that and ended up being able to get into Salamba Sirsasana (supported headstand) in less than 4 months’ time. Talk about progress at its best! The same type of schedule can't really apply for riding because for most of us, riding daily is just not feasible; be it due to location, finances or time.

Sometimes I complain about not seeing the progress and thus feel like I'm stuck. But, reviewing my posts, I recognize that things are in fact progressing (albeit slowly) but pieces at a time. Kind of like how our lesson was teaching us that miniscule changes add up to the bigger picture and that we need to pay attention to those little changes. ADW and I spent the entire lesson in trot while focusing on leg aids, seat position and body awareness; it felt like a lesson spent practicing our forming full sentences with the alphabet. Having done yoga, the concept of body awareness and recognizing that minor tilts or adjustments of one’s body can mean the difference between doing the pose properly versus not.

I was practicing the leg aid and dropped seat bone to ask Ariel to turn. I have to remember though that she will eventually ignore these signals if I don’t release after she’s accomplished what I’m asking her to do. Lucky for me, she’s still very responsive. It takes little for her to turn a nice small circle.

Next, we use the flexion I was practicing last lesson but this time, we use flexion during turns by flexing the opposite way to straighten out on the long side of the arena. The motion is rather miniscule and has nothing to do with pulling but rather twisting (in a way) so that their heads turn just ever so slightly into the direction you're asking. This is certainly helpful for turning Ariel around when she's likely to be mostly distracted with something outside or otherwise.

Our next topic is body awareness, broken into two parts: upper body and lower body. Horses move forward freely when the rider's hips move in alignment with the horse; their gait is smooth and liberated. And when you want then to stop or slow down, you inhibit this motion ever so slightly: your hip motion becomes ever so slightly less fluid with the horse. Seated trot is incredibly trying in this area because your lower back and abs are absorbing the motion so you're not bouncing around. Sheri tells me to loosen my lower back (which apparently is INCREDIBLY difficult to accomplish even for experienced dressage riders!) so that it follows the motion of Ariel. I get one or two strides once during the entire lesson. I see when I am not accomplishing this when Ariel raises her head in protest and slows. But it's really interesting because she's so responsive that the slightest incorrect adjustment is felt by her and she isn't afraid to tell me. That's the lower body and is particularly obvious; unlike your upper body which I'm reminded to keep still yet soft. Sound absolutely contradictory yet? For those yogis out there, you know what I'm talking about! Pull and push simultaneously--that's what your yoga instructor will tell you too. During the lesson, my wrists are sometimes rigid and tight or my grip is death gripping the reins--all times where Ariel is quick to tell me by raising her head up and slowing down. Or instances where I find myself pinching with my knee which causes her to either stop or make her gait particularly stiff and bouncy.

I completed the class feeling pretty impressed (and zen!) about the nuances of a rider's body in communicating with the horse. It's literally a language we're learning to speak with our horsey friends but intricately with our bodies. Onwards with the week so that I return to Gosling Stables!

Posting Diagonal Jar Tally: 3 x $2.00 = $6.00
To date: $43.00 

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