Fine adjustments

He has good reason to look confused.

My slow crawl back to respectability continues.  In my lesson last night, my endurance improved enough to do more trot work, and it was pretty decent trot work.  With Christy’s coaching, we were able to produce a nicely connected and round trot that had a little swing to it -and we were able to hold it consistently.

To get me there, Christy had me warm up by inviting Derby to stretch out and down.  Once I got there, she had me apply “back to front” aids – correcting my position and closing my legs to keep him forward, while continuing to ask Derby to stretch into the bit.  I needed a barrage of constant reminders, which to the innocent bystander may have sounded like harassment but honestly, until habits form, I appreciate the stream of commands from the center of the ring (“Check your posture! Tuck your butt, stretch and forward!”)

The “tuck your butt” suggestion is shorthand that Christy and I have developed that helps me process what she’s asking for so I can respond more quickly.   We’ve found that coaching commands that carry a visual association really help correct myself more quickly.  When I hear ‘butt tuck’ I respond by doing a few things – I elongate my spine, open my hips and check to make sure my seatbones aren’t pointed backward.   I have the bad habit of wanting to schooch back in my saddle, with my posterior almost on the cantle.  The “butt tuck” is also a reminder to me to put myself on my seatbones in the middle of the saddle.  When I hear Christy say that, it elicits a cascade of actions.

The best part of the ride was the fact that I could feel that the contact on the reins was alive and communicative.  That’s such a good feeling – you have the horse’s attention, he’s working over his back and maneuverable, and you can actually feel the inside hind leg in the reins.  Which sounds ridiculous, but for those who have actually felt that ….you know what I’m talking about.

We also picked apart a problem that evidenced itself with real clarity in the show ring a couple weeks ago, when we veered off course a bit during the sort free walk from F to E, winding up left of the target, almost at V.  In reviewing the video, Christy noticed that I had collapsed to the right, effectively pushing the horse to the left.   I started to experience that last night when we changed direction at the walk, and veered away from my intended path.  I tried to re-balance myself, but it wasn’t until Christy walked behind us and diagnosed what was going on that we could really fix what was going on.

I tend to carry my head tilted to the right.  At the walk, Christy had me sit on my seatbones, and lift my shoulders up up up, stretching and straightening my spine.  She then had me tip my head to the left, until it was straight.   Our walk improved.  However, we were still getting hung up at the trot going right.  Christy had us work both directions, watching intently.

“OK, I know what you’re doing,” she said after a few minutes.   I was leading with the wrong shoulder – twisting in the saddle. Essentially, I was almost in position to bend the other direction.    I straightened my posture once again, got balanced on my seatbones, and rolled my shoulders back, paying attention to the right shoulder (the one that wants to creep and roll forward.) Instantly, I could trot a circle without feeling like I had to work for it.

It’s amazing how these seemingly small changes and imbalances can have such a profound effect on the horse. I’m glad that we can take the time to fix these things, rather than trying to kick the hapless horse “through it.”

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.

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