Clinic Recap: Centered Riding and 2-Point

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No riding photos ūüė¶

The more I learn about Centered Riding the more I like it. The clinic today had a recurring theme of analogous parts – our own body parts all have synonymous parts on our horse, and those parts link up. Hold tension in your back, your horse holds tension in her back. Hold your breath, your horse holds her breath. I’ve learned this lesson before, but seeing this illustration really made it click for me:

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Thank you for the illustration, Pony Club!

A¬†year and a half ago, I wrote about how Adriene identified the tension in my chin, neck and jaw. That was causing tension in Robbye’s neck and jaw. Well apparently I’ve released the tension in my jaw (I HAVE been working on it for…a while), but I’ve intensified the tension in my neck. When I hold tension in my neck, it shortens up. When Robbye holds tension in her neck, it shortens up. Completely the opposite of what I’ve been working so hard to fix the past few months.

So I’ll be practicing lengthening my neck and releasing the tension from it so that Robbye can work on doing the same thing.

That was my main takeaway from the lesson, but of course there were others!

  • I need to put float my¬†hands (like there are balloons attached) a little more and put more weight back into my elbows. This is something I think I’ve improved a lot on in the past year, but still needs more.
  • I reverted back to pulling on Robbye when she’s being distracted or silly. I thought this was a habit I had finally broken, so I’m disappointed in myself. I¬†always¬†feel more comfortable with her silliness the more forward we go, and I need to remember to let that forward out!
  • I need to steer more with my seat and less with my hands. Another habit I’ve been working on but needs more training on my part.

The lesson was supposed to be a jumping one, but we spent so much time dealing with tension that I ran out of time. However, I did get to express to her my frustration with my jumping seat: although I know that my position is horrible, and I know academically what 2-point is and how to achieve a nice one, I have struggled and struggled to actually translate to my own body. It’s gotten to the point where I dislike jumping because I feel so ugly and ineffective in the air.

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Standing 2-point. Eugh.

So with the time remaining Adriene coached me into a nice 2-point (on the flat). First, she lowered my stirrups (interesting – this is the second time in a row she’s lowered them…and she was the one who put them all the way up in the first place. I wonder if my body is changing from all the dressage? Is that even possible?). That made a huge difference in where my thigh and lower leg hung. Plus, I no longer feel like I’m launching myself out of my saddle when I post!

Next, she changed where I place my stirrups on my feet. She showed me that there’s a specific place on the foot where the “springs work best”; the ankle knee, and thigh flex easily and naturally, but the position isn’t compromised.

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This photo looks better, but I’m excited that I can critique exactly what I’d change instead of just knowing that it’s wrong. I need to establish a steadier lower leg so it doesn’t swing back. I need to open my thigh so I’m not pinching. And I’d like to tighten my airplane seat-belt so my hips are pulled further back.

Finally, she showed me what the position is supposed to be like. I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to achieve it – goodness knows I’ve read enough articles and watched enough videos, but I think I finally understand what it’s supposed to feel like. I let my weight sink into my lower leg without letting it wander forward or backward, pulled my thigh off the saddle (no gripping!), imagined I had an airplane seat-belt on to pull my hips back, and let my upper body naturally go where it would.

I think that may have been my misunderstanding – I was trying to fix my upper body without knowing what my legs and hips were supposed to do.

(Analogous parts! A nice front will follow a correct hind! Full circle!)

After trying to commit the feeling to memory, I walked and trotted around in my new 2-point. I started to feel the muscle ache, which I was very happy about – my standing-in-the-stirrups version of 2-point took zero effort (and was ugly and I’m sure Robbye hated me for it). I also felt my legs turn into springs – something Adriene said will help my sitting trot as well. YAY.

Even though the lesson was a whole lot of talking, standing, and walking, I came away with more tools to deal with tension and with an epiphany about what 2-point feels like. I’m really really really excited to get back to jumping now – finally.

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Lost a Couple Weeks

Ugh. Having a crappy month, that’s for sure. I think it’s probably a combination of my mood and Robbye’s mood, but I think it also may be more than that. I’ve started treating Robbye for ulcers, and I’m hoping to see some improvement in her demeanor and work ethic. Hopefully.

The rides since I last wrote have been 90% crappy, and as a result I really haven’t felt like writing about them. Here’s a short recap:

Friday before last: Lesson where we worked hard on working hard. We’re starting to get her round and on the bit. About halfway through the lesson I accidentally dropped my stirrups and just knew that I wasn’t going to be allowed to pick them back up again. And I wasn’t!

Saturday before last: Bareback, we worked on some of our exercises from our lesson. Overall an okay ride.

Sunday before last: Our jumping lesson with Adriene. It was…dramatic. And crappy. And very disheartening. The exercise was something I believe we should have been able to do easily, but we absolutely couldn’t manage it. I don’t want to write about it – we didn’t learn anything from it. The main lesson Adriene wanted to teach me was that I need to stop making everything more complicated and stop getting emotional when Robbye is disobedient. These both boil down to RELAX.

Monday before last: Took the day off, sad.

Last Tuesday: Practiced Adriene’s exercise, made a little easier (added a stride and just used ground poles). She was okay, but I was still frustrated, and she still threw a temper tantrum.

Last Wednesday: It was really cold and I was discouraged. I didn’t ride.

Last Thursday: Robbye and I fought about dressage.

Friday: Robbye and Michele and I fought about dressage. We started out working on roundness and on-the-bit-ness, but that soon turned into combination Robbye-issue-resolution and Annye-relaxation. I again heard that I need to calm down, not take things personally, and RELAX. The lesson was not good, but I’m trying really hard to learn this hard lesson, especially since Michele and Adriene both tried to teach it to me, independently and¬†within the same week. I’m really putting a lot of effort into being relaxed!

Saturday: I wasn’t relaxed. Robbye kept leaving the ring and whacked me pretty hard on a fence. It wasn’t until after this ride that I decided to really consciously work on the RELAX lesson.

Sunday: Took a trip to Twin Towers. It started out crappy – Robbye was slow and distracted, I was scared, and she was running out of everything. We had a huge fight at a fence (one we’ve done before…), and I think I may have finally gotten through to her. At one point we had an amazing gallop across the park – I really felt like we were doing cross country! We jumped the jumps that showed up in front of us, and we really got moving pretty good, too. It was just enough well-behaved awesome to get me excited about riding again.

Our ride last night reinforced the feeling. I was very careful to be relaxed and calm, even when there were scary things (tractors) on the other side of the treeline. I worked on steering with my seat and laying off of the mouth contact, and, though she did leave the arena once, it was much less dramatic than the last few times. When I cantered, I got a regular lazy slow canter…until I really asked for a canter – and then I got her gallop from Twin Towers! It was instant and magnificent, and we jumped out of the gallop a couple times just for fun. We also did our ground pole exercise, with me making an effort to RELAX, lay off of the reins, and steer with my seat and body.

So, lessons from this funk:

  1. I need to buckle down and kick Robbye’s butt sometimes. She’s big enough and old enough that she can deal with a CTJ meeting.
  2. I need to give myself a break sometimes. This is the first really hard thing I’ve done in my life – it’s going to take a long time to learn, and I’m going to¬†have setbacks. I have to be able to forgive myself of that.
  3. I need to RELAX all of the time. My being tense only makes our issues a million times worse. It makes me a bad rider, and Robbye picks up on it and takes advantage of it.
  4. Robbye is fit. I can ask her to gallop across the park and she won’t die. If she has to jump four 2′ jumps along the way, all the better!
  5. I still love Robbye. I still think she has a lot of potential. At the beginning of this funk, I considered that maybe we weren’t a good match…but I don’t think that now. We have a lot to work on, but we’ve both made so much progress, and it’s worth it to me to keep working with her.

Lesson, Crappy Ride, Jumping Clinic

Had a greaaaaat lesson Friday. I knew I should have journaled earlier, because now what I learned in my lesson is blending with what I learned at the clinic. Anyway, here are my notes:

  • I need to work on yielding along the wall. No new notes or strategies – I just need to practice.
  • Lots of transitions – especially hard ones, like trot>halt>trot – will help Rob get rounded and on the bit.
  • My upper body needs to be stiffer, with more “starch”.
  • I need to really crank down the side reins so that Rob is at the vertical, and longe her that way…and then ride her that way, too.
  • GAH I’ve forgotten everything. Hopefully more will come back to me as I ride.

Saturday I wanted to get on a make a quick and easy reinforcement of the contact and roundness that we achieved on Friday, but Rob was being a total butthead – nose out, poll up, back hollow. It was a horrible ride and I don’t even want to write about it!

Sunday Kathy, Julie and I took our horses over to Yellow Springs for an informal clinic with a Centered Riding/jumping trainer. I didn’t really learn a whole lot, but the things I did learn were nice little breakthroughs:

  • I need to relax my chin, neck and jaw. This will let Rob relax her chin, neck and jaw….and let her drop her head! Just what we were working on on Friday.
  • My stirrups were way too long¬†for jumping. Other than that, though, Adriene really seemed to like my seat. Success!!
  • THE BIG THING – When I go into 2-point, I need to think less about moving forward over Rob’s neck and more about…pushing my butt up and back. I know this isn’t the correct way to achieve 2-point, but it’s the visualization that works for me. This helps me fold instead of throwing myself forward.
Rob was just great at the clinic. We did some lines that I didn’t think she could do! Her canter was so malleable, which I’ve never really noticed before. When I asked for more uphill, she gave it to me. No one could believe she was four years old.
Hopefully we’ll be taking regular lessons with Adriene soon!