Sunday, January 8, 2012

Peggy Cummings 1.8.2012

Sarah put together a weekend for her students that began with Yoga for Riders on Saturday followed by a lesson day with Peggy Cummings on Sunday. I spent most of the Sunday lesson with Peggy in awe of how well it went together with what we learned during Saturday’s yoga session. As Sarah has been telling me for the last 11 years and I am finally started to discover on my own, the horse’s body mirrors the rider’s body.

During our yoga session I learned that my core is not just my abdominal muscles, the core is in fact the torso or as Wikipedia states it “In anatomy, the core refers, in its most general of definitions, to the body minus the legs and arms. Functional movements are highly dependent on the core, and lack of core development can result in a predisposition to injury.” During our class we got in touch with the upper part of our core, and I became acutely aware that I had been tuning out the area between my shoulder blades, which had no problem reminding me this morning that it existed. Our Yoga instructor showed us how much stronger and balanced we were when our cores were engaged and how much easier a pose was when we used our breath and were mindful of our center of gravity and where our core was in relation. She said that by engaging the core our extremities would become more fluid, making our movements easier and less mechanical.

On Sunday Peggy repeated much of what our yoga instructor said the day before. She quickly helped me to find neutral again, this time by touching my ribcage at the point of my sternum. When I engaged that spot my back filled and became soft, I didn’t have to force it. During our groundwork Peggy addressed habits, I had asked her for help in getting Grace to stop with her head level or down, as Grace still has a tendency to lift her head when she stops. Peggy pointed out how locked Grace was on her left front which would not allow her left hind to step up under. Grace could only stop with her head up as long as her body remained in that locked position. Peggy reminded me to only ask for the stop when Grace was soft. We had to change things up to get Grace to unlock, which included working her more from the right side and asking for the stop while she was in a turn as opposed to straight. Peggy said that straight is taught not from a straight line, but from a bend. I will admit I’m still wrapping my mind around that one.

In the saddle Peggy first addressed my position and as we do in every Peggy lesson we saw the difference from the way I usually ride to the way I ride when I am connected. The difference in my horse was once again like night and day. I started out in neutral with my core engaged, but when Grace walked off she dropped her back and I locked. This turned off my connection to my legs which turned off Grace’s connection to her legs. Peggy had me rotate and jiggle my legs, all the while keeping my core engaged. Grace’s hind end woke up and the quality of her walk improved. I was able to get her to bring her left hind leg up underneath herself without using spurs or a whip, but just by bumping with my left leg while I rotated. Grace needs to step up like that in order to build the strength she needs to go straight. Into the jog I quit moving and so Grace threw her head up in the air, once again I had locked her out. Peggy reminded me to keep my legs active and to rotate through the transitions, not only did the transition improve, but so did the quality of Grace’s gait. She activated her hocks and was moving with ease as she now had her core engaged her movements had become fluid.

Once again after a lesson with Peggy I feel like I should be retaining this work better than I am. I heard a lot of the same things that she has told me in the past, but today they most defiantly resonated louder. I know that getting in touch with my body the day before was a big part of that. We are leaving for a horseshow this Friday and I was hit with the feeling that I would much rather just spend 6 weeks immersed in the Connected Riding work than going to shows. I have to remember that my goal is to be able to ride in the show ring the way I did in my lesson today. I think Sarah was serious when she talked about getting a second tack room at horse shows for our yoga sessions. I will try anything if I means I hold onto what I got in touch with today.

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