I had back to back lessons this past weekend which was wonderful in some respects and yet almost too much for this body to handle!
I had a lesson on Friday night at the little barn which consisted mostly of speed transitions and working on being straight but also included a few minutes of no stirrups! I had never actually had a no stirrups lesson before although it seems to be something many trainers advocate. It was difficult but I can definitely see how it would improve your riding. Posting the trot was tough and for me it was difficult to isolate the different parts of my leg. I naturally wanted to squeeze more with my thighs to help with the post but all that really did was squirt my seat right out of the saddle and give me some attractive bruises on my upper thighs. I had to try and think about relaxing my upper leg and still being able to use my lower leg as needed to control speed. I hate to say it but I really would like to do some more work without stirrups. It felt very alien to me and I think it is something a good, sensitive rider ought to be comfortable with or at least capable of doing. My instructor here said I could bring my camera and we could film some of my lessons so I could see better what it looked like. That also means I should have a few more things to post for you in the coming months!
My lesson at the big barn was on Saturday morning so I hopped in the car for the hour and 20 min drive there- which I realize seems ridiculous but I really really really like this instructor, the facility, the people, and the horses. My lesson was on the same draft cross I rode previously- he is great. We did a little bit of lateral work at the walk which was tough but the instructor did a good job of explaining what my body needed to look like to communicate better to Louie what I was asking. We worked on walk-trot transitions and I liked when she told me to stay tall in the transitions. I have an ugly habit of trying to smash my seat down to ask for a change sometimes and it really helps to be reminded NOT to do that. She had me working on communicating with my legs rather than my seat at least right now as I refine things. See the problem is that I tend to try and create energy in the gaits by using my seat too much. Like if I transitioned into trot and he picked up a sluggish trot I would automatically be posting bigger as if I could create the energy that way but I’m glad she pointed it out to me so I can be more aware and expect the crisp response off of my leg aids instead. I think she helped me out with my half-halts as well during this lesson. She was trying to get me to feel in the transitions whether he was just kind of “falling” into the trot or whether his hind leg really did have to reach under and create that energy. We talked about thinking that the back end of the horse has to be kept tight with the front end so I actively thought about “putting those pieces together” during transitions which made my transitions much cleaner and really helped me visualize what this half-halt business is all about.
Later I got to thinking…
How in the world can she see all this from the ground?! But that is the thing about a good riding instructor, they can put themselves in your shoes and they know what you are most likely doing wrong/right that is producing wrong/right responses in the horse. It is pretty remarkable and takes a certain person to be a good instructor because there is a huge gap between doing something well yourself and being able to teach someone else how to do it well.
That, dear friends, is why I drive nearly 3 hours roundtrip for an hours worth of instruction!