Steadying my leg

One of the things I like most about riding with Christy is the myriad ways in which she really makes you think about, feel and internalize what you’re doing.  Tonight, as I was warming at the trot, I asked her (hopefully, I should add) how my lower leg was looking.

“What do you think?” she replied.  Now, with Christy, this is not a rhetorical question, nor is it formulaic. Sometimes you’ll be doing well and sometimes, not.  I thought things felt pretty good, which is how I answered.

Now, when there’s a diplomatic pause, that’s when you know you’re in trouble. I got the pause.  “It looks like you’re kicking him with each beat.”

Damn.  Damn damn DAMN.  I was still keeping way too much weight on the balls of my feet, and while I thought I was holding them still, in reality, that was far from the case.  Here’s a short clip with a perfect illustration.

You can see that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to give precise, quiet aids with all that other movement.  And spurs would be monumentally unfair.

Christy had me post, at the walk, keeping my feet light in the stirrups, which tranferred more of my weight to my inner thighs.  To keep me from pinching with my knees, she had me drop my stirrups and feel which muscles I was using to hold my legs in place, and then had me recreate that feeling when I picked up the stirrups.  As I posted, my leg was still.  My inner things were burning, but my leg was still.

She then had me take that into a trot.  Voila.  Big improvement, as you can see:

However, it wasn’t easy, and I couldn’t sustain it.  I’ll be working very hard on building the strength needed to carry myself properly in the saddle over the next couple weeks.

My legs are already feeling sore after tonight’s ride.  I’m looking forward to being over this particular hurdle!

There’s always something

A nice moment. We're working a small stretch, he's staying uphill, and that inside hind is engaged.

Christy and I had an interesting moment tonight, as I was working on developing and keeping Derby really engaged on a circle.  She started talking about softening my aids, specifically my spur.  Huh?  I wasn’t spurring and said so.

Diplomatic silence from the middle of the ring, accompanied by a raised eyebrow.


Well, God love her for having a high enough opinion of my riding to assume that I am in full control of my extremities.  Sorry to disappoint, Christy.  I’m not.   We stopped what we were doing and zeroed in on my leg.  It turns out that I’ve been egging Derbs on with my spur almost constantly, when I was happily under the illusion that I was keeping my aids quiet and deliberate.

Um. Awesome.

Looking at the videos, I cringe. I’ve got my spurs in Derby’s side more often than not.   Sure, they’re rounded, but they still don’t feel good.   The last thing I want to do is make him dead to my aids, and it sure looks like I’m on my way to desensitizing him to my spur. Yikes.  I’m putting the Tom Thumbs back on.  Developing a steady leg capable of delivering ONLY deliberate aids is now job one.

The posting-with-too-much-weight-on-my-foot problem still persists, and it’s contributing significantly to the unsteadiness in my lower leg.  It’s not reasonable for me to think that this issue would have been fixed a scant week since I started tipping my butt up into two point, letting my stirrups rattle on my feet as I hold my weight with my thighs, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying.

My review of tonight’s ride did reveal a couple bright spots.  For the most part, my posture has really improved.  I’m keeping my hip angles open, and doing so is now coming more easily.  I don’t need to constantly catch and correct myself, at least, not to the degree I did even a week ago.  That’s a step forward.

This sort of moment gives me hope, He's really moving, he's uphill, I'm sitting straight and am keeping it together.

In other good news, Derbs is over the muscle soreness.  He was moving out well and evenly tonight.  We cantered on a circle both ways,  and the quality of the canter was good – he held the leads and was stepping under himself – so clearly, the soreness is abating.  Canter transitions on the circle are at the top of our homework list – they’re great work for his hind end, and require me to get our collective ducks in a row – forward, contact, bend, sit sit ask – and give me the time I still need to organize everything.

So, overall, a good night.  Problems persist, but that is no surprise.  There will always be something to work on!