The core of the problem
July 29, 2011 4 Comments
As you’ve probably surmised due to the infrequent blog posts, the last few weeks haven’t been too exciting. I’ve been working hard on rebuilding my riding muscles and regaining my seat, and at the same time, I’ve been gradually stepping up the work Derby is doing. I’m now doing 30-40 minute rides, with about 10-15 minutes of trotting. For the time being, building our fitness is my main priority.
Now that we’re doing some decent work and are able to sustain our efforts for a little while I decided that it was time to re-start lessons with Christy. We are thinking of going out to a schooling show mid-August just to get Derby out and about. We won’t be ready for anything, really, and will probably do a walk-trot test. But I don’t want to embarrass myself, and I’ve been worried about the quality of our walk.
Derby would prefer to shuffle slowly, and I’ve been working on improving his tempo and energy. He’s doing much better lately but we lose that energy and rhythm, I’ve noticed, when we circle or serpentine.
As we talked, I sat easily, with loopy reins, and Derby walked – a nice, swingy walk with good energy. Christy had me gather the reins, and immediately Derby’s stride shortened. From there, Christy had me keep my legs off Derby, instead, opening up my hip angle, sitting up straight and inviting a bigger stride. It worked. Derby went from a stodgy little walk to a nice swingy one.
Christy’s eagle eye had noticed something. When I gathered the reins up, I leaned forward – very slightly – but it was enough to close my hip angle, causing Derby to shorten his stride. We experimented with this a little bit, and when I mentioned the difficulties I had maintaining tempo when asking for bend on circle or serpentine, she watched carefully as I asked Derby to bend with my inside leg.
Sure enough, she spotted it. Whatever I was doing with my inner leg was causing me to close my hip angle. We figured it out – I was reverting to old habit of curling my heel up when applying my leg.
The difference in stills from the video Christy snapped is stark. Derby’s head has popped up and his back is hollow.
From there Christy had us move to trotting, reminding me to post hips to hands, keeping my hip angle open, and engaging my core muscles. When I followed her instructions, Derby responded immediately, rounding and relaxing, chewing the bit.
But the second I stopped riding, Derby hollowed and his head came up . “Core!” Christy called in my direction. I re-engaged my core and opened my hips and the gait quality improved. Christy reminded me that Derby is very much a “seat horse” – he’s sensitive to the slightest movement of the rider This is both a blessing and a curse, she told me. Once I get control of my body and my aids, I’ll be able to influence Derby very subtly. It’s going to take some work to get there, though!
Related reading: http://www.balancedrider.com/blog/2011/07/11070601.htm