October 19, 2012 3 Comments
Today I had a real breakthrough , and it was totally unexpected. We achieved real sitting trot. By “real” I mean connected, round and working back to front. And it was amazing. More specifically, it was an epiphany!
But first, let me tell you what we’ve been up to lately. Ofter the debacle at the last show, I told Christy that 2013 starts now. She upped the ante on me, and started to require work in two-point and without stirrups. The last few weeks have been difficult, but interesting. As I work new muscles, really getting into my hip flexors and abs in particular, I’m starting to see the effect my biomechanics have on Derby’s way of going.
The work in two-point is a case in point. Contrary to popular belief (or at least how I learned a zillion years ago) two-point isn’t simply a matter of standing up in the stirrups and resting your knuckles against the horse’s neck.
“Which muscles are you using?” Christy said as Derby and I tootled around in what would commonly pass as a two-point.
“Ermm. None?” I ventured.
“Right. None. And your horse is shuffling along on his forehand,” she said. “Now try this …”
With constant coaching, Christy put us together, and taught me that you can influence the horse while in two-point. But it has to be an effective two point, I’ve learned. At first, I thought Christy was crazy when she got after me to put Derby on the bit, get him round and bend him – in two point. But as she put us together, guiding me into a balanced version of the two point, Derby miraculously began to round and carry himself.
“See?” she said. “It’s not about training the horse. It’s training the rider.”
Unfortunately for my muscles, she’s right. The work in two-point moved into a variety of no-stirrup exercises, and then we started to put things back together, applying the new lessons, as I posted. I had a couple moments where I generated real throughness with the new position – and I wasn’t demanding it from the horse, as much as I was putting myself into the position that encouraged the horse to go there. Experiencing this was a real revelation in and of itself, especially when Christy had me practice going back and forth between “doing it wrong” and trying to maintain a correct position.
Again, the effect on the horse was immediate and noticeable. As soon as I’d arch my back and stick my butt out (whether posting or in two-point), Derby’s gait would immediately slow. Re-positioning myself into my more correct and balanced position fixed the problem just as quickly. At first I resisted Christy’s suggestion of going back and forth between bad and good. However, now I realize that she was teaching me to feel my point of balance, and what happens when I deviate from that point.
So fast forward to today. I had done quite a bit of work and was taking a walk break. Derby started to fuss, resisting contact by flipping his head. When he does this, Christy has had me working on getting him forward, holding the reins, and letting his pulling anchor me even more deeply into the saddle. Today, as we worked things out, something different happened. When I kicked Derby forward when he was resistant, I closed my legs and deepened my seat, holding the reins steady and anchoring myself with my core. I’ve learned from Christy that when I do this, any pulling Derby was going to do was only going to make my seat deeper – and it’s now one of my most important tools. He softened and rounded, and I got a nice walk for a stride or two. Then he popped into a trot. Because “forward” was absolutely the right answer, I didn’t want to ask him to downshift immediately. So we trotted, and I chose to sit a few beats. In that brief moment, I applied some of the learning imparted from Christy and actually rode it with some purpose, drawing on and our work on effective two-point and without stirrups, and made a point of finding my balance and keeping my hip angles open.
Lo and behold, we wound up doing a nice sitting trot. Derby was on the bit, round and his hind legs were engaged. And it felt great!
“Christy. CHRISTY. Look. Sitting trot. His back is up. I’m doing it!!!” I shrieked to Christy, who was also riding at the time.
“Wow, that looks great!” she replied, stopping to watch. We went all the way around the arena, and then did it again. Was this a fluke? I tried it again. And got the same good result I switched directions,and had to work to put Derby together, but we got it done. We did a couple laps that direction. I experimented a bit, asking for a big bigger trot with my seat and legs. It worked. Derby stepped forward into a bigger gait. I think I’m going to be more effective once I master the sitting trot.
Needless to say, I was thrilled and Christy was happy too. I was particularly pleased to have put the sitting trot together by myself, by paying attention to what the horse was doing under me, minding my position and using the tools Christy has given me. I feel like I’m developing some independent competence as a rider. It was a thrilling ride, and I can’t wait to try it again!