Unblocked

I have a few rides under my belt since my meltdown / anxiety attack last Saturday.  I’m happy to report that after today’s rides on Atlanta and Frank, I feel like I’ve got most of my mojo back, and haven’t lost my damn mind – which I originally feared was the case.

Last Sunday, I got on Atlanta, and had a decent ride (that mare is a champ) but still wasn’t happy about it.  I didn’t want to go out to the barn that day, and I didn’t want to ride.  (In case you’re wondering, these reactions are profoundly atypical for me.)   I then went out of town for the week, and came back with a better attitude.  I wanted to get back in the saddle.

Steph loaned me Oliver yesterday, and I meant to ride both him and Atlanta.  However, two horses with some interesting lameness issues were seeing a new farrier yesterday, and I ended up spending a couple hours studying advanced hoofcare instead of riding both horses.  I ended up just riding Oliver, who, at the outset, was decidedly unenthusiastic.  He was enjoying a nap in the sun when I went out to his paddock to fetch him.

Oliver snoozing in the sun.

And when I clipped the lead shank to his halter, I was treated to the most aggrieved display of equine pathos I’ve ever seen.

Drama king.

He eventually gave up, clambered to his feet, and with no further drama we went inside and I tacked up.

However, Christy has been busy thinking about some of her students’ confidence issues (yes, I’m among that group), and how we’re riding.  I’m leaving a lot of detail out, but in my case, after looking at lots of old pictures and video, she believes that some of my issues might be from my current saddle (a Wintec Isabell on which I have large blocks) and the posture that I using when I was riding Maddie regularly last fall (longer stirrup, sitting upright and vertical) and the challenges that posture presents me when I lose fitness (such as I did early this year between being sick and traveling) or ride a horse that isn’t working at the same level Mads and I were at last fall.

She explained that the vertical posture you see at the upper levels takes a lot of strength for both horse and rider to maintain.  And lately, I’ve not been maintaining it, and have been leaning forward a few degrees – which Christy says is appropriate.  But this has been causing another problem -well, several actually.

Tipping forward, with no base of support.

In this picture, I’m trying to sit up straight.  However, a few things are conspiring against me, and really, they all start with the fact that I’ve got big thigh blocks on that saddle.  I’m curling my leg up, and my knee is hitting the block, creating a fulcrum around which you can see my whole self pivots.  And in my effort to sit up straight, I’m arching my back.  This is not a solid base of support.

Now, in this picture from last fall, when I was stronger and fitter, my leg is where it belongs – I stayed secure during this spook and it was no big deal.

Why having your leg under is so important.

However, when I ate dirt recently, it’s probably because I didn’t have a good base of support, and, as a result, I didn’t stick the spook.

Here’s a picture of me riding Jag from a couple years ago. You can see that I’m leaning slightly forward, but as Christy noted, I’m well balanced, and this is appropriate for the level I’m at. In this photo, I’m riding in an old Keiffer Lech saddle, which was slick leather and had miniscule blocks.  My lower leg is nicely hanging at the girth.

The long leg and knee blocks work when I’m working at a higher level.  At the moment, given the variety of horses I’m riding, we’re going to concentrate on redeveloping my seat.  I know I’ll emerge a better rider, so for now, what Christy says, goes.

So, on Oliver yesterday and Atlanta and Frank today, I rode sans blocks. I’m also ditching my jointed stirrups – turns out they worsen my stability rather than enhancing it. I’m focusing on supporting myself with my legs, and keeping my lower leg under me.

Christy has a new form of torture – posting, but not returning to a half-seat, not sitting.   Apparently my leg is dead quiet when I do this.  I personally think that is because all the blood in my body was racing to help relieve my screaming glutes during this exercise, leaving my lower extremities lifeless and unable to move.  Either way, the boss in the middle of the ring seems to be happy with it so we’ll continue.

This weekend’s rides were focused on putting these pieces back together.  No fancy riding was to be seen, but I was smiling when I dismounted each time, and at the moment, that’s the best outcome!

About Sarah Skerik
Sarah Skerik is an experienced digital marketing executive and strategist with a long track record of success in content marketing, social media, demand generation, event marketing, sales enablement, product management and business development.

2 Responses to Unblocked

  1. Good post. I noticed that in my old saddle, I tended to curl one let upward (but not the other). In the one I just got, I actually sit much better, and while I occasionally curl out of habit, it no longer feels ‘necessary’ to me.

    As soon as I can justify buying new irons, I will be. I’m also not loving the jointed thing anymore.

  2. Steph says:

    Oh my poor drama pony. How dare he have to work on a Saturday.

    My saddle doesn’t have any blocks cause I’m too cheap to go get them, so my problem is definitely a loss of strength. Holding a good position is HARD work and holy crap do the muscles deteriorate when you take a break from riding!

    You know, it’s not too late for you to join me in my P90X madness fun…. 😉 I spent an hour and 20 min this morning doing all sorts of push-ups, pull-ups (with bands) and abdominal work to try to strengthen my body for riding. And only 89 more days to go!

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