Hard, easy, habit, beautiful
December 1, 2010 2 Comments
George Morris’ voice is still ringing in my head from Sunday’s clinic. One thing he said that really resonated with me was this: “The first time you do anything, it’s difficult. Eventually it becomes easy. Then it becomes habit. Finally, it becomes beautiful.”
I’m clinging to those words now because I’m in the process of making some adjustments to my seat, and building the requisite muscle memory. The changes are hard for me – I’m working on rolling my legs inward from the hip – stretching through my hip flexors – to allow my leg to lay more fully and correctly against the horse. My habit – and conformation – make this difficult. It’s easy for me to roll my whole leg outward, knees and heels together, toes pointing 180 degrees apart, like a ballerina in first position. Unfortunately, I do not aspire to be a ballerina.
So I’ve been working on opening my hip flexors, and rolling them inward, which (should) also press my knees into my saddle blocks, and bring my toes forward.
Ah. My toes. Woe is my toes. Left to my own devices, I’d let them flop out, like a car with its doors hanging open, the back of my heel bumping against the horse. Too bad that looks seriously ugly, and doesn’t work well when wearing spurs. You see my problem.
So right now, I’m doing a few things. I’m spending more time in two point, and I’m dropping my stirrups at the walk, both of which help me align the hips-knees-ankles and sink into my heel. I have to say, however, it feels like hell now, even when Christy pipes her approval from the middle of the ring. My muscles are on fire. My flexors, they’re a-flexin’. And the whole thing feels discombobulated to me.
Hard, easy, habit, beautiful. Right now, this is hard. Boo.
I did have a nice little piece of encouragement last night, though. I got on a friend’s horse who was a little to fresh for her tastes. He’s green, and wanted to go around with his head up, braced against the bit. I had flashbacks to riding Jag as I was just re-learning to ride, before either of us had any sort of dressage training. I dug around in my video archives and yep, sure enough, found some video of a braced, inverted trot. Nice.
So, back to last night. I’m a better rider than I was lo those three years ago (thank you Jesus, and Christy) and immediately took a hold on that bracing mouth, and started to ask him to soften. I pushed with my inside leg, into the outside rein, and even though this horse isn’t the best at bending, I got some decent bend and softening. We worked a bit both directions, and then, at the walk, I focused on getting him to soften and relax. He was a quick study, and started to figure it out by the end of our short ride.
I remember well the days when I wondered if I’d ever, ever, ever be able to bend a horse, or react quickly enough to give when the horse softened into the bit. It seemed sooo hard when I first started working on those skills. Last night, I realized that those have become habit. They are not beautiful (yet) but they are habit. Bending and softening and using the outside rein are built into how I ride. That gives me hope – much needed right now when things feel so awful!