Tightening the screws

Christy has figured out an important fix to my position, and we’re working on developing my muscle memory for keeping my core really engaged, my legs softly back, my calves gently against the horse, my knees relaxed, my hips angles open and swinging and my leg long and draping.   I’m definitely in the “hard’ phase of the “Hard, Easy, Habit, Beautiful” progression described by George Morris. It’s worth it, though.  When I do manage to balance myself and get my knees off the saddle blocks, Derby’s gaits improve dramatically.

We might have been happy with this moment a month ago, but not now.

Tonight Christy upped the ante on me a bit, asking me to hold my contact and really push the horse into the bridle from behind, creating more uphill movement.  In doing this she took dead aim at a bad habit of mine – I tend to give the reins when the horse pulls into contact, and I wind up dumping him on his forehand.

Here’s a stellar example:  You can see clearly here how I’ve totally pushed my shoulders forward and straightened my arms, so even though my fingers are closed, I’ve given him a ton of rein.  Derby has eagerly accepted, and has gone onto his forehand.

So while the trot quality is nice and the contact is solid, I’m failing miserably here to give Derbs the support he’s seeking, and I’m losing the opportunity to gather power an energy when I give away the reins like this.

Correcting ourselves and getting the horse off his forehand

At this point, Christy was most likely howling “Hold your reins! PIN YOUR ELBOWS TO YOUR SIDE!”     I scrambled to put things back together.  First, I half-halted,  bringing my elbows back to where they belonged as I rebalanced the tolerant creature beneath me.   I sat myself up straighter, and opened my hip angles, and started to lengthen my legs again by dropping my knees.  You can see how the changes I made in about 3 strides have improved Derby’s carriage.

Once I had fixed the big issues, I was able to ask Derby to move forward, while (this time!) holding the dang contact. I’m still struggling with staying straight (and keeping the hip angles open) as you can see, but overall, the balance was much better and I finally, finally, finally got him fully connected, producing the nice moment you see at the very top of this post.

It’s the most amazing feeling, and gives me hope for our future in the ring!

About Sarah Skerik
Sarah Skerik is an experienced digital business executive and strategist with a long track record of success in team leadership, employee development, marketing and business development.

4 Responses to Tightening the screws

  1. heather says:

    Sarah – I would caution you about ever thinking to pin your elbows to your side. If you start using that as a visualization to counter what you are doing now you risk falling into that habit which can result in a worse impact on your horse’s gait and demeanor. My advice on your position – sitting trot without stirrups for A LONG TIME! And once you are comfortable with that try to do the same with pulling your legs completely away from the horse (up or to the side). The reason is so you learn to use and balance on your seatbones independent from the rest of your body. When you are comfortable there you will be able to center your core over your seatbones.

  2. Sarah Skerik says:

    Don’t worry, Heather – we’re using “pin your elbows” as a temporary way to get me to hold the contact. This little trick was really effective, because it enabled me to actually feel for the first time what it’s like to generate power from behind and really catch it (and hold it) in the contact. I promise I won’t ride like wooden soldier!

    I have been doing a little sitting trot here and there, with and without stirrups – it’s really helped me with my canter transitions – but I’m not doing a lot of it, since building Derby’s top line is job 1. I’m looking forward to getting to the point where we can do more sitting work. 🙂

  3. Pingback: Tearing myself away …. « Collecting Thoroughbreds

  4. Ooooh that first picture is so pretty! Congratulations for doing the hard work to get there. It’s obviously paying off:)

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