Monday, October 20, 2014

Lesson #136, #137 & #138: Back to Basics and Grid Work

I'm totally behind on posting about these lessons! Things have gotten busy here but I have a minute or two... These were my not so great lessons. I seemed to have regressed in terms of position and whatnot so I ended up going back to lots of basics. We worked on a lot of pole work and I even ended up doing the hold of 2 point position while trotting or cantering. It was a miserable experience for my ego. But, I definitely feel that it was better to address those items than to continue haphazardly trying to get through a course.

One of the exercises we did included a series of raised ground poles which forced Ariel to take higher strides and it had me flexing at the ankles. Sheri started with telling me to drop my heels, relax my ankles and spreading my toes. We started this exercise with the poles flat on the ground at trot and a half seat position and then moved them up to alternating raised poles where every other pole was raised on the right, then the other poles were raised on the left. The objective was to get my ankles relaxed enough to absorb the bounce of Ariel's steps. This was a new exercise for her and she got confused half way and toppled forward and my face contorted into a horrified look as we went down but the trooper that she is, got back up and finished up the second half! Phew. I really thought we were both going down. Of course, it was incredible when I relaxed my ankles and Ariel picked up the exercise and I was bouncing at the ankles over the steps. A really helpful exercise to get your heels down and absorbing the horse's movement.

Another exercise was the creation of a course of ground poles. Instead of actual jumps, ground poles were placed around the arena and we were to trot over them and work on getting a good ride in and out. Deep corners and straightness at the jump were all key components that we were being asked to focus on.

Other less glamorous exercises included the double post (up) during the trot or staying "up" during the trot, while keeping the balance. The objective here was to find where our heels, feet and lower leg needed to be, during the horse's movement so as to maintain both balance and stillness during movement. This exercise is always such a pain for me because that momentary "point of balance" is finicky and elusive! So many parts of the rider need to be coordinated and flexible, simultaneously so that it all comes together and the slight loss of focus could mean falling back down.

We also did the good ol' "hold 2 point while going round and round" at the trot and maintaining a nice deep corner and straightness and rhythm/pace. There's no secret to accomplishing this... push your hips back, heels down and chest up and forward and open. But here's the kicker, do this all while maintaining balance and staying upright off the saddle.

A "new" aspect of learning to jump that we hadn't worked on exclusively is grid work. The jump is basically broken down and illustrated in the arena with ground poles and jump standards. Instead of verbally going through it or with a bunch of gestures, it is very clear where the area of 'take off' is and where the rider needs to start rising out of the saddle into the 2 point and where the jump would actually be. That ground pole that indicates 'take off' actually is the point where the rider just gives the horse the space and balance needed, to full-fill the jump because all we can do as riders is to ride straight in and deep in the corners to set our mounts up, to take the jump. Let me tell you, this has been enlightening; having that breakdown and clarity about when and where things are done was golden for me to understand the breakdown for the jump for the rider as well as the horse.

Practice makes you better. Keep trying.

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