Monday, March 31, 2014

Lesson #82, 83 & 84: Ariel Says... Time to Get Serious!

I've ridden a lot this past weekend: I had 3 lessons, 3 days in a row. I was really excited on Friday and Saturday and then I was sore and a little less excited about the ride on Sunday morning. On Friday and Saturday, +ADW and I rode with another rider who we've known for a year-ish now. She's been riding far longer so has a much easier time with things. Things like jumps are easier for her to get over without flailing about or otherwise.

The three lessons seem to have melded together in my head so I can't quite recall exactly what I was doing in each lesson but I would say that there are a number of things that I do need to work on... this includes relaxing my hips and thighs when I am posting in the trot and remembering to push the weight into my heels during the canter and during the jump. Saturday was the weakest lesson of the 3... having been super left behind in one of the jumps and experiencing some serious trouble with my right rein.

We were doing one exercise where we incorporated the simple change with landing on the correct lead. We would take two jumps in opposing directions and once we land, we'd need to know if the lead was correct or not. Depending which turn you would make, following the landing, you would check to see if that leg was extended, during landing. So, if we were landing and I was expecting to make a right turn, I would expect to look down on the right side and see the front right limb extend a bit; if the limb was not extended then you landed on the incorrect lead. Sheri increased the complexity by asking us to add a 20m circle in canter, following a correct landing, and if not, then a simple change would be required and we'd continue in trot onwards to the next jump. This was by no means easy! It was a lot of stuff going on simultaneously or with little time to pull oneself back together.

Upon completion, we had discovered that my ambi-turner issues had seriously impeded my ability to do things on the right rein. Because Ariel's quick to let a rider know when they're not doing something right, I knew that the right rein was all botched up. She would lead with her shoulder or shake her head around. On Sunday we worked only on flat with lots of bending, flexion and turning. And it was a really tough lesson--possibly one of the toughest ones I've had, to date. We discovered that on the right rein, I exhibited a lot of tension and was gripping with my knee and tending my hip and thigh. No matter what I tried... it was as if my right leg decided to clamp on Ariel's shoulder no matter what I did, to try and relax it. It was a miserable experience.

I have a lot of homework head of me...
  • a full yoga class (minimum) once a week focusing on hips and shoulders. I found a great video that walks through hip opening stretches for those days I won't have a full hour or more.
  • I've also got to add in cardio, now that the weather is showing signs of spring. Time to break out those new Kayanos!
Posting Diagonal Jar Tally: = 6 (3 lessons) x $2.00 = $12.00
To date: $139.00

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Lesson #81: Hey Dumbass

I'm late on this posting. A lot has been happening this week since Sunday lesson... but I've got a minute or two to review the last lesson on Sunday. The upsetting thing is that I had such a great post in mind and just too many things were happening for me to pull my act together.

I've been complaining about the weather for the last several lessons... and with good reason too. But Sunday took the cake:  the drive way in was blown in with snow and +ADW and I made the (dumbass) decision to plow through... BOOF (we were early too!). Snow flying into the air and the car was lodged into the snow bank. Thank goodness for 70s Show! I remembered an episode where Red told Eric that he should keep a bag of kitty litter in the trunk in case the car got stuck and needed traction. We had kept a bag of this enviro non-ice traction stuff!

After feeling awesome for coming up with that idea, we got started with our warm-ups and moved onto some "bounces". I did these a few weeks ago and came out pretty sore afterwards so it was awesome work! It entails setting up jumps pretty close to one another in succession and staying in your 2-point over all the jumps.

Posting Diagonal Jar Tally: = 2 x $2.00 = $4.00
To date: $123.00

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Lesson #80: Picking a Focal Point

Spring's been such a tease this year; it has gone from +2deg C to -15deg C, within 24 hours. Argh. Good thing Ariel decided to trot over to the gate when I got there. After getting tacked up, we head into the arena to get warmed up. It was a pretty standard warm-up with posting trot. The mission today? To get through the 3 jumps that gave me trouble on Friday.

I worked during the warm-up to take notice of what was off and knowing that I am crooked on one side, I was making an extra effort to keep things as straight as possible. We didn't do any canter work today (which is probably good) and instead, focused on ourselves and our mounts, at the jumps and were learning about the jumps and what to look out for. For example, the first jump was a bright orange and stripe. Then another added was faded wood that used to be painted in green, red and black stripes. Sheri tells us that the second one is harder for the horses to see until they get quite a bit closer so to keep in mind that "things that can go wrong" are likely to happen closer and you basically just need to ride through it b/c it's generally too late to turn back. I didn't realize that they had trouble seeing these jumps and was provided proof when Ariel trotted up to it lazily and then saw it and did a type of "WTF?!" and had to rush to get over it. Needless to say, it was messy for both of us.

This time, we decided to take the "troubled jump" first, followed by the other two and I was much more successful in making it over them. I continue to struggle with the turning angles and continuing to look towards where I want to ride towards. Although, the getting a focal point is getting there... slowly. When I remember, the ride is straighter but when I don't, it's crooked and she tends to drift right.

While my crest release is not too bad, I am having trouble with some of the other equitation items... like where my arms are going.  I tended to flap my arms open instead of keeping the armpits closed and I probably look like a bit of a chicken. hehehe!

We did plenty of sequences of the three jumps and sometimes it went well and sometimes not so well. I will keep an eye on the following, for next lesson:
  • arm pits closed
  • squat and butt back
  • pick a focal point
On a related note, Sheri mentions that one of her other adult students is seriously considering encouraging some of the adults to aim for a late season show off-property at a schooling level adults only show. It's mostly a social where other like-minded (horse-crazed) grown ups can get together and have some fun without feeling bad that the kids are kicking their butt. What a great idea! Something to aim towards as I continue to work on my riding for the coming months.

Posting Diagonal Jar Tally: = 2 x $2.00 = $4.00
To date: $119.00

Friday, March 14, 2014

Lesson # 79: "I'm not an ambi-turner..."

1. one that has the ability to turn both ways

Horseback riding is a sport that requires the athlete (both horse and rider) to be balanced on both sides--duh. But, let's face it, most of us are crooked in some fashion. Similar to Ben Stiller's character, Derek Zoolander, I currently have difficulty with my right side. Derek can't turn left on a runway but I can't take jumps (as discovered today) on the right rein. Add to the issue that Ariel is also tighter on the right rein and we both have problems. She can jump just fine with a more seasoned rider but my faults become very evident with her. I noticed previously that I was a bit sore/tingly in my right shoulder but I couldn't pin-point exactly what the issue was. Today, I decided to pay more attention to it and noticed that my right shoulder drops forward and seems to 'curl' towards the center of my body.

It wasn't as big an issue at the trot but it became more evident at the canter as my upper body torqued towards the left when I was riding on the right rein; it was slight but it was enough of a problem that Ariel noticed and was telling me. In addition, my right hip drifts my right knee to pinch the knee roll and thus my weight redirects itself up, instead of down through my heel.

Sheri set-up a mini course of 3 jumps where 1 was being taken on the left rein but the other two were being taken at the right rein. I know. I was not successful for most of the time! It was such a struggle just to get Ariel to move towards the direction I wanted without torquing herself. We were such a mess. However, the things that went well includes things like quieter canter initiations (from walk and trot), a relaxed canter (at least on the left rein...), remembering to check my diagonals, getting some good turns in and some great crest releases!

Posting Diagonal Jar Tally: = 2 x $2.00 = $4.00
To date: $115.00

Monday, March 10, 2014

Horse Learning... FREE!

My instructor always tells me that to truly learn about horses, the sport and become a better rider, one must get their hands dirty (literally). Most of us don't have that time though (or the money). So, we need to find other ways to learn and enhance our knowledge. As well, as adult riders, we face an entirely different pile of challenges than someone who's been doing it since they were tots.

One of those challenges is finding a support group or resources for information. So, I started a Blackberry Messenger Channel called Adult Horseback Riders Learning. The main objective is to share resources, information, tips and accomplishments or tips with others in a similar situation. If you're in a similar situation as myself, then I encourage you to join and add your knowledge too :)

I've since posted two items in there:
  1. The Horse Course being offered through Coursera--an online place where you can take the best online courses for free!
  2. A give-away from She Moved to Texas for subscriptions to
Good luck and never stop learning!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Lesson #77 & #78: The Proof is in the Pudding

Friday's lesson had a good build up to the eventual goal.

I started the lesson by jogging Ariel around the arena, on foot; I work to get me limbered up a bit. Once I climb on I start at a walk to get in the right mind set... breathing and ensuring that my posture was in the right places. Once I get into a good trot, Sheri has me focusing on lengthening and compressing Ariel's strides so that we can get a lengthened trot that is relaxed with her stretching and reaching forward. I also work on alternating between the compressed and lengthened tempo.

The next step is transferring the calm, lengthened trot into a calm lengthened canter. I take a few rounds large and since Ariel's mind-set is there, we successfully manage a composed canter that didn't look like something itched her leg and had her shooting forward. This is also the first time I learned the "simple change"

Working on the simple change just as the rider above is: with a figure 8 where you'd canter around the short end of the arena and then, instead of going big, you cut diagonally across the middle and transition down to a trot and then re-initiate the canter at the end of the diagonal. It's a lot tougher than it looks, that's for sure. Plus, I've still got to work on my gait transitions so that Ariel actually slows down when I ask her to and goes when I ask her to as well.

The last section of our lesson is where I work up to 3 low x-jumps set in succession of one another; this exercise is called "bounces" where the jumps are spaced just far enough that the horse is left with enough space to simply land on their front feet and then take off with their hind. It's a great exercise that is great to help you with a 2-point and your balance as a rider (and horse). I also noticed when my heel was actually lifting up and my weight was thus shifting. We end with a great round where Ariel decides to take the bounces in canter and then continue through! I admit, that was not something I was prepared for and certainly found myself  more flustered than when I felt in control at the trot! Nevertheless, it is an exhilarating feeling and when you get that crest release right too... it's brilliant.


Today, I woke up with Buckingham snoozing on my belly and when I tried to sit up, I notice my abs a little sore. I deduced that it could only be my lesson from yesterday because I didn't do anything else recently but couldn't figure out what it was that I did that would have caused it; there wasn't a single exercise that I could think of as there was nothing I worked on excessively.

It's a busy afternoon at the stable with a trillium show tomorrow! I'm not showing (not at that level!) but it's neat to see the stable abuzz with students prepping and braiding and getting in their last practice/lessons. +ADW and I have get into our lesson with Ariel and a new mare named Georgia--a  draft cross. After our usual warm-up, we got into our canter and went large around the arena. It was tougher today to keep Ariel in check and she was doing some unusual things... I'm sure it wasn't all her and I was likely pinching my knees or something else but geez, she was pretty unruly at times. I had to recollect several instances!

Our final goal was a low x-jump. Several times I ended up on her neck or I took off before she did or even got left behind. A big contrast to how good I felt, from yesterday's lesson! However, Sheri told me that I can't seem to get myself up fast enough after the landing and it has a lot to do with (wait for it...) my ab muscles! Or lack thereof :\ That's right folks, the proof is in the pudding... my jelly-belly.

I also lack a visual focal point when I jump and I tend to drop my gaze at the jump... which is no good b/c I don't have anything to 'ride towards'. But it's a lot going on at once so I'll take it one at a time... next lesson I'm aiming or a spot and meanwhile, I'll be inputting a LOT of core work to make me nice and strong and that should come with time.

Posting Diagonal Jar Tally: = 5 (2 lessons) x $2.00 = $10.00
To date: $111.00

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Adding Another Layer

I'm so glad that I have stuff outside of work, that keeps me going. Especially when things are not going so wonderfully in other areas of my life (*cough*work*cough*). I haven't told you about the success I've been having with the metronome. Really. For musicians, you understand the love-hate relationship with this object that tick tocks (or beeps) away while you're playing so that you're able to maintain rhythm. I still have a strong dislike of it, but I have really come into learning how to play with it and not completely ignoring it while it just awkwardly accompanies the music. And rhythm is ever so important! Not just for music...

And as I've mentioned before, learning to master a skill is made up of layers and pieces of the whole picture; everything compliments the end result. I think the progression of loathing to tolerance (and hence complimenting) of the metronome has aided me to advance a step forward: I have been graduated from my grade 1 studies to grade 2!! I also received an Appaloosa sticker for my efforts on a "Battle Song" (list C).

Eventually this musical onion will just reek of melodies, rhythm and technique.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Lesson #76: Staying Organized

Remember last weekend? I was done with winter. This week is like a bad relationship that I'm trapped in and can't wait to escape from. *sigh* We received another pile of snow in the GTA and in Hillsburgh, it was snow drifts of ~3ft and -15C. Nobody can say this winter hasn't been a test of dedication and patience.

We had choices today... Quinn, Ariel or Molson. +ADW picked Molson and I decided to get Ariel. Since I'm riding a total of 9 times this month (yippie!!!!), I figured that I'd get another chance to ride with Quinn and I had a successful lesson with Ariel last time so why interrupt the streak? And what luck for me: when I went to the paddock to grab Ariel, she actually trotted over to me and looked forward to get inside to work! I took advantage of this eagerness and didn't hesitate to lead her into the stable.

Today was a lucky surprise... I splurged the day before and bought a saddle pad from Bahr's Saddlery. If you think that Greenhawk is great, Bahr's has even MORE stuff and feels organized; I didn't stay long since we had another appointment to rush to but long enough that you could probably leave me in there for a good hour or more, alone. +Laura, you were looking for a special dressage whip? I think that you might find something comparable here (they do online orders)! Anyways, we rushed our tack up today b/c we were running super late. By the time I got into the arena, I was tense and rushed.

We spent a good chunk of time warming-up and getting our trot into a steady rhythm and slowing my Speedy Gonzales of a pony down. Sheri was reminding me I needed to relax my ankles and let my weight sink down (I remember when I had no idea what this meant) and to relax my hips as they were tense (were they ever!). This all showed up through Ariel doing a choppy trot around with her head held high. She was telling me to "chill the heck out, dude!" To get there, we worked on lengthening their stride, slowing our posting, relaxing our bodies and breathing deeply and slowly.

Once this came together, our next aim is to translate the same quiet and relaxed trot, to canter. My canter transitions are still something that I need to work on because it's generally a "hot mess". None of the zippy rocket take off today. I reminded myself to breathe deeply and to gently and slowly ask for the transition up. I did accomplish this a few times and it's such a different canter to have a nice smooth take off instead of the abrupt departure. Something to aim to consistently do. Once we got around this a few times, we got into jumping some low straight jumps with trot poles advance of the jump. My crest release is awesome during this section of our lesson because of that "click" moment when I understood what was being asked of me. I got left behind a couple times but not enough to bother me when I did successfully accomplish the 2-point over the jumps.

I definitely left the stable feeling pretty good about myself and am looking ever more forward to the coming season! :)

Posting Diagonal Jar Tally: = 2 x $2.00 = $4.00
To date: $101.00