Well, that didn’t go as planned.

After working so hard yesterday, I was eager for my lesson today, and I arrived at the barn early to deal with the very muddy horse I assumed I would find.  Derby, however, was pretty much pristine, despite the soupy conditions out in the paddocks.  He had been alone today, as his pasture mate Remy had to have a shoe replaced, and evidently he didn’t move around much.  There were no spatters on his tummy, he was just dirty from the fetlocks down.

As pleased as I was to not be confronted by a horse that was liberally coated with goo, in retrospect, it would have been better if he moved around a bit more today.  Once we got going – barely going – in our lesson, it was evident that something was wrong. I hopped off, and fetched a longe line.   As I came back into the arena, Christy handed me the reins and palpated Derby’s rump.  Gentle pressure caused him to really flinch.  Derbs was afflicted with a very sore patootie.

I was pretty surprised by this.  Yes, we worked hard yesterday.  But I wasn’t doing a lot of transitions, and we are so not anywhere close to doing anything collected.   However, Christy reminded me that we have upped the ante, and both Derby and I are doing a lot more these days.

On the longe Derby loosened up, and promptly surprised us both by flashing some really fancy trot – by far the nicest we’ve seen from this horse.   As I was standing there slackjawed, Christy said, “Well, your horse definitely isn’t broken!”

I got back on, and Christy decided to give the horse a bit of a break, and to torture me instead.  I had told her that Iwas having problems keeping my lower leg still – I’m still carrying too much weight on my stirrups, and as a result, my lower leg moves around a lot when I post.   On Sunday when I encountered this, I alternated posting  with standing a couple beats, then posting a couple, then standing …. doing so helps me “feel” the correct spot for my leg.  However, since I was squarely in Christy’s cross hairs, and because this is a problem caused by lack of strength on my part, Christy had  me get into two point, keeping my weight on my inner thighs. My test for whether or not I’m doing this correctly is letting my stirrups “rattle” on the bottom of my boot – they can’t rattle and move around if I’m really leaning on them.  I did a lap of that before calling uncle.  Christy then had me post from a half-seat, keeping my legs engaged and butt out of the saddle.    This is my homework for the next few days.  We’re going to move to posting without stirrups in short order.  It’s not fun but I’m going to bear down and get it done.

We did have an interesting moment right at the beginning of the ride, as I was just starting to warm up.   Christy wasn’t happy with what she saw, and had me drop my stirrups and stretch.  Fortuitously, she grabbed :51 of video which illustrated something pretty important about the problems I’m having.  Here it is:

At the beginning of the video, watch me carefully.  Do you see my hips moving?  No. You don’t.  Instead, I’m moving my shoulders.  The horse’s movement is not being absorbed by my seat. It’s “coming out” my shoulders.  My body is essentially acting like a lever.  Now, look at Derby’s walk.  It’s tending toward lateral. (Nice.) His back isn’t swinging.  Other than his cute lime green saddle pad and clean shiny self, there’s not a lot to like.

At about the :28 mark, I start to make the adjustments Christy suggests.  I still my shoulders, and start to let my hips really follow the horse’s movement.  Almost instantly, you can see Derbs take a larger stride with his hind legs.  His back comes up a bit, and he develops a nice, 4-beat cadence.     I think Christy caught kind of a profound moment in this little clip, and I’m glad she did.  That little change made a big difference for the horse!

So, onward and upward.  Tomorrow we’ll do some nice stretchy work, and I will spend some quality time in two-point.

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.

3 Responses to Well, that didn’t go as planned.

  1. Net says:

    I’m guessing you do need to work on position/balance/strength at the trot. It’s all part of the picture that those of us who are trying to fix ourselves tend to have to fix. But just keep in mind that still isn’t the ultimate goal for your legs when posting like they would be for a hunter rider… example:

    (And random note: He was recognizeable in warmup outside the stadium where the symposium was held this weekend because he was the ONLY one doing decent amounts of posting trot on all three horses he rode. And unsurprisingly, all three walked into the stadium with loose, swinging backs.)

  2. Sarah Skerik says:

    Yep, you nailed it, Annette – I’m definitely still working on position/balance/strength. In my case, however, the lower leg issues are a symptom of a larger problem. When I say I want to “still my lower leg” what I really mean is “I want to improve my position so my weight is distributed correctly and isn’t concentrated in my stirrups.” At the Peters/Foy clinic during the biomechanics section they had demo riders (beautiful riders on well trained horses) demonstrate common rider mistakes. When they had the riders put all their weight on their feet in the irons, they looked exactly like me! The whole leg flexes when you post – instead of a nice, quiet movement, it turns into a whole body flexion. Ultimately this makes it more difficult to do other things – namely, give clear, concise aids – while the legs are flexing. Somehow, I don’t think Steffan has this problem! 😉

  3. Net says:

    I’m having the same problems, so I understand! I just keep looking at videos like that to remind myself – we aren’t supposed to be perfectly still. Too many years riding various forms of equitation where my legs were supposed to be perfectly still have me fighting against a desire to clamp my legs instead of loosening my hips and allowing proper movement which stills the leg. 🙂

    (BTW – do you have any notes on that clinic or video from it or the Dover clinic to look forward to?)

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