Thursday, May 22, 2014


I suck at could improve upon:

1 - I really need to figure out how to keep my weight in the stirrups. I mean, that's what they are there for, right? Instead, I find myself tightening my calves and lifting my feet, riding the way I would if I were bareback. Forty years separates my older self from that girl, and yet I still ride like I'm 12. This results in all sorts of stuff, like bouncing stirrups or lost stirrups, or crotch racking stops. Yes, it is fun, but not very dressagey, as they say. It is a constant thought in my process. I'm much better at the walk and trot, and use my stirrups for weight shifts when asking for lateral work. In the sitting trot (because I don't post) I keep my weight in the stirrups and almost mini-post without actually lifting my weight from the saddle. At the canter, though, my heels come up and I begin to ride like a wild Indian. This doesn't bother me on the trail, because that is all about the fun and adventure of the ride, however, when trying to impress in the arena, the bouncing stirrups really distract from my elegance. (I'm laughing really hard right now.)

2 - Cantering is a lot more difficult than I remember. When I was riding Seabisquit, our typical trip involved walking and trotting out, then hell-bent-for-leather race back, with me frantically trying to find a soft place to bail off without breaking something. With Queenie, she had a really nice swinging walk and a wonderfully easy to ride canter, despite the dorsal fin that was her withers. We never really trotted and our going places gait of choice was the canter, which Queenie could maintain for hours. Now, I find the canter a lot of work. Even a short series of trot-canter transitions leaves me huffing for breath like a two-bit whore on nickel night. Sometimes I am too exhausted to do more than a couple of transitions in a row before I have to stop and catch my breath.

3 - Ashke is the bomb. He is so much more willing to canter in a frame now, that it makes my jaw drop every time he maintains his frame up into the canter. We are still struggling with our downward transitions, in which we flail and fall apart, but in the upward transitions, he is able to pick up his correct lead in both directions. I need to do a better job of preparing him to canter, just so we don't do the brain jarring trot for the length of the arena before throwing ourselves up into the canter. If I could manage to maintain any semblance of my riding ability when doing so, I might be able to do more than three transitions a ride. We have managed to continue our trot when transitioning downward, instead of coming to a screeching halt with our head down between our knees.

4 -  The weather and our increased work load has caused some stiffness for the boy. His left patella has been bothering him. I noticed he was choosing to rest his left hind whenever he could. After he had played on Monday, I rubbed the patella with my palm. He both pinned his ears and chewed and licked at the same time. Painful, but good at the same time is how I interpreted that move. Last night, before our ride, I sprayed the area with SoreNoMore and did some very gentle rubbing. It seemed to help. My guess is our intermittent winter weather combined with the sudden onslaught of wet and rainy (Colorado is so bi-polar in the spring) that the old injury to his left patella is plaguing us. At least it's the left leg and not the right this time. It doesn't seem to effect his going or his transitions, but he has been resting it a lot.

5 - The saddle and I have come to an understanding. I love how it has freed Ashke's shoulders and hips, how he is able to move forward and to the side without any hesitation. He is so forward at the trot now, that I feel like I am surfing the back of a cresting Orca whale. Getting him to slow is a challenge, but I guess that is much better than always pushing him to go. His back shows no tenderness, not even to a shedding blade, and he is so much more willing to use his back when I ask. I love the seat and the position it holds me in, although I am dealing with some sore muscles in my back because of my improved posture. Overall, I couldn't be happier!!


  1. I really liked Sally Swift's Centered Riding for getting into the stirrups. You still do a lot of stirrup-less riding, but the focus is on balance rather than clinging with your muscles. The image I remember is to be like a tree with your roots (feet) reaching into the ground. Doing Horse Trials where you go from hunt seat to dressage I had to work on lengthening my legs. Part of it is dropping your knees and making sure your heels are under your ears. And gripping with your inner thigh rather than your calves.

  2. I'm SO thrilled the AE is working for you!!! And I giggled all the way through #1. Friggin' hilarious.

  3. Cantering is hard. I may be the only other person in existence that gets exhausted cantering, but I completely understand because I've been there! The first year that I had Lily, I just 2-pointed at the canter. Not a full 2-point, more what is sometimes called a 3-point in the jumper world, where you're basically standing a bit in your stirrups, allowing your weight to sink into your heels and steadied by your thighs, shoulders tilted forward slightly. You can try this at the trot initially while building up strength. Just do a lap or two around the arena at a time, go back to doing other things, then do the exercise again. Repeat as often as you can. It's okay if you can only do a few strides in the beginning - it works different muscles than what you normally use riding, but these are supporting muscles that, once developed, will make everything else soooo much easier. Don't worry about Ashke while doing this, just have him go in a straight line following the rail.

    Hold onto his mane with one or both hands, relax your elbows, engage your core as much as you can. Your abs shouldn't be clenched tight, but they should feel taught to protect your back. Push your chest forward a bit and think about pulling your shoulder blades back together towards one another. Then think about lengthening your legs down, down, down and let your weight sink into your heels as you lift your weight out of your seat. Your heels should feel long and heavy, with your thighs supporting the rest of your body.

    Be patient and work up the amount of time you do this at the trot. Eventually you'll be able to try this at the canter and it will be a huge help in helping with your lower leg! I ditto the Sally Swift recommendation, and I also love Mary Wanless's book "Ride With Your Mind". It was a turning point for me in my riding!