Lately I feel like I am holding Grace back. In the last 6 months she has become the horse I thought she could be the day I bought her. I’ve have seen more potential in that little mare in the last year than I have in the 12 years before it. She is starting to look like she belongs in the show pen, and is starting to place in the primary colors. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the last few weeks drinking in photos from 3 straight weekends of shows that all happened to have a professional photographer. I can’t help but see the stiffness and imbalance in the rider and I wonder just how much better the horse could be if the rider could become one with her.
I ride 6 to 7 days a week in the summer and 4 to 5 days in the week all winter – all outside. I bust my ass to make myself better for my horse, but I still feel like I falll short. I’m never quite sure what the other riders at the shows are doing that I am not or maybe they are not doing something that I am? I’ve had some great lessons with Sarah lately that are creating some amazing body awareness. One lesson focused on breathing, pulling my breath up into my shoulders, filling my sternum with air before letting it out and melting into my horse. At last week’s lesson I had a moment at the jog that was downright magical; I could feel my horse’s joints bending through my seat and hips, and felt her place each hoof on the ground. The next day I became frustrated at home when I couldn’t capture the same feeling at the lope as I had at the lesson. Why is this so freaking hard?
I had an appointment at the Strength Lab today with James Bowman and I shared with him some of the body issues I’m having in the saddle. From my arched lower back to my tight hip flexors and hamstrings, I went through all the areas that I tense when riding. We discussed that I am not in pain like I was years ago, but my body is still guarding itself when I'm riding, preparing for the inevitable fall especially at the lope. The more I talked the more I could see the wheels in James head turning; he was quickly jotting notes down and calling out names of exercises. At one point there were 7 exercises on the list leading me to believe that this was not going to be one of those wonderful hour long body work sessions.
James took me through each exercise first giving me a demo and then talking me through each move as I tried it. Each move was structured to build strength while increasing mobility, James explained that they are equally important in the saddle. Each exercise looked easy enough when he did it, but I found them to be both mentally and physically challenging, yet by the 3rd or 4th repetition my brain and body started to figure it out and my range of motion increased. My hips felt amazing by the end of the session and the tension in my low back was replaced by engagement from my abdominals. I have my homework laid out in front of me; 7 exercises that with a warm up should only take 30 minutes a day and I am only to do them 3 days a week. James said that if I am consistent I should see dramatic results in 6-8 weeks and if the exercises become too easy to let him know and he will step it up for me. I promise to keep you updated and will even break down some of the exercises over the next few weeks. My goal is to be able to pull my weight in the partnership that I’ve built with that amazing little mare.