January 31, 2014 3 Comments
We’ve finally had a break in the hideous cold we’ve been suffering this Winter, after being plunged back into the sub-zero deep freeze again early this week, and I’ve had two consecutive rides on the Derbinator. God, it is good to be back in the saddle, and things are going pretty well.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve started taking Pilates, working with a Joanne at Tensile Strength Studio (http://tensilestrengthstudio.com/pilates/), on the apparatus, not the mat. What started as an exercise to shore up some weak areas, improve my body alignment and build flexibility has also improved my work in the saddle. Today was my first lesson in forever, and Christy was amazed.
A discovery in a Pilates season last week appears to have done a couple big things for my riding – most notably the curing of my duck butt and freeing up my hips to swing with the horse. Here’s what happened.
Last week the trainer had me do the Teaser movement (pictured left.) I followed her instruction, and fought through the series of movements. The trainer noticed I was struggling and asked what was hard about the movement for me, and I told her that the movement killed my hips.
“Ah,” she said. “You’re grabbing with your hip flexors, and you’re not using your core. Try to let your hips go and instead engage your lower core. Imagine you’re lifting your pelvic floor.” Now, this is going to be a bit indelicate but she described it as kind of like stopping things when you’re going to the bathroom. Not exactly, but in that general area.
Anyway, back to the Pilates session. She told me to try to switch the muscles I was using, and I did. Suddenly Teaser was easy. My instructor was surprised I could make this switch so quickly, which I attribute to the biomechanics work with Christy that has built the awareness that enabled me to do this. Pausing, I asked her if I could try something on the studio’s horse, which is essentially a padded barrel. I mounted up and sat there, feeling the tension in my hips. Concentrating, I engaged my lower core. My hips relaxed and my legs dropped straight down. That was a revelation!
Last night, in my first ride in who knows how long, I experimented with my lower core engagement. Prior to my revelation, “core engagement” was pretty much everything between my collarbones and knee caps. It took a lot of energy and effort, and I would tense everything up. My hips would become immobile. However, isolating and engaging the lower core was an entirely different experience. I felt plugged into Derby’s walk. My aids worked better. The trot work felt great.
Which leads us to tonight’s lesson. Christy said we were a transformed pair, and that I looked like a different rider. And it felt different too. Derby’s trot was forward and I could feel his back swinging. We’ll try to get some video to share soon.