Thursday, April 7, 2011

Maybe I can

I had a good lesson tonight! Those are my favorite when it all starts to come together right in front of Sarah. The last few lessons I’ve felt as she was seeing us at our worst, not necessarily a bad thing. If I am going to have a bad ride it would be best to do it in front of my trainer. I can tell I am going through one of those “growing” moments in my riding career. Grace and I are on the verge of another big break though, and growing pains are always part of the process. Grace has been made tremendous progress over the last 6 months. I think I am finally starting to make some progress of my own.

The neutral pelvis position that Peggy Cummings teaches in Connected Riding sounds easy enough on paper. I’ve been able to capture it and build on it each time I ride with her and Sarah, but I seem to have almost 30 years of in the saddle muscle memory fighting against it. This is where having a trainer that understands rehab and proprioceptor work is vital. Sarah knows how to get my brain to work with my body to get it to allow and retain the new posture. Tonight’s trick was getting me to hold a my wand (think of a longer stiffer dressage whip) between my two hands out in front of me with my arms about shoulders length apart. I then had to twist my torso while Grace wandered around the arena. It took about 10 minutes but I got it. At one point I felt as if I could not have come out of neutral pelvis, it felt as if my body has always been in that position. I had a new awareness that I had not encountered previously.

Tonight I also came to terms with how stiff I’ve always been in the saddle. I supposed it came about from years of equitating, but it seems every time I try something new in the saddle it always comes from a place of stiffness. It’s almost as though my brain believes that if I stay ridged I won’t fall off when we all know that being stiff and ridged is a one way ticket to the arena floor. My reward this evening for finally getting my body and brain to get with the program was some of the best engagement I have ever felt in my horse’s hind end. Pretty amazing considering that most of last week I was convinced that Grace was lame behind.

We backed off at our lesson last Friday because Grace’s hock was out. Sarah adjusted it, but Grace had fallen into her old holding patterns. We worked on groundwork to give her a chance to rebuild confidence. I worked her on the ground at home last weekend, by Sunday she was dragging her left hind toe at the trot. I was convinced that we were entering another downward spiral. I backed off during the week afraid the Grace’s hock might have been out again, but it looked good. Tonight Sarah confirmed that the hock was in, there was nothing wrong with it. We started off with the ground work we had left on last week. When Sarah asked to take the line I gladly handed it to her. She asked Grace to step over and under behind with that left hind leg, she asked for more and then a little more. She pushed Grace past the point of “I couldn’t possibly” and showed her that she could. Next thing I knew, my beautiful clean moving, little horse was back. I let Sarah know that I hadn’t been willing to push Grace past that point in fear that I would hurt her hock. She reminded me that by allowing Grace to carry herself incorrectly I was allowing her to injure her hock.

We ended tonight’s lesson with some of the best lope work I’ve ever felt from my mare. I started to feel how I could influence my horse’s turns and body alignment with only my hips. I’ve understood the concept for some time but this may be the first time that I actually “felt” it. I’m starting to think that Grace isn’t the only one that got pass “I couldn’t possibly” and has now entered the world of “maybe I can”.


  1. This is fantastic! Im really happy you were able to feel it for yourself. Im about three steps behind you now; I know the concept, I can feel the difference in our trotting, but I need to acheive it at the lope. It feels like his huge hurdle now, but I think if I can disconnect that idea from my brain and free up my body, then we will be golden! I have a lesson on Wesley tonight, Im hoping will allow me to forget about the horse and focus on my body.

    Im glad things are going well, and that Gracie is back to her good self! Its so hard when you know something isnt right, and dont wantt o push that envelope, even when we are told that we need to.

  2. I can identify with what you were saying about stiffness and it's source! I think I spent so many years worrying about chin up, heels down, shoulders back that I never learned to relax in the saddle. I may have been able to sit pretty but without being able to loosen up a bit I was not nearly the effective rider I thought I was.

    Sounds like you had an excellent ride. I see a point not too far away where "maybe I can" will turn into "I can" for both of you. There has been so much progress lately!