Bendy Epiphanies

I had a “come to Jesus moment” (apologies for using what has been voted the most reviled business phrase of 2014) the other day at work about my body mechanics while riding. It involved a USB cord and a set of headphones tied together to form reins and a loaded down paper filer as a fixing point for my “reins” or -for the purpose of this demonstration- the horse. It was spring break this week which has lost all meaning for me except that I get a decent parking spot at work and no one is around to see me riding my desk horse. It was really helpful to imagine bending, turning, and even leg yielding on the ground. Keeping in mind that you obviously lose 50% of the experience when you remove the horse from the equation, it still helped me to wrap my brain around what my body must look like to more correctly ask a horse to perform these simple tasks. I took the positions I had visualized at the office to the barn for my lesson that night and it was a huge success for me! I use the word “positions” purposefully as I am sure what I was doing in the saddle appeared maybe a little stiff to my instructor but was a step in the right direction to building correct muscle memory.

I confessed to having watched my filmed lesson more than once and yelling at myself to mind my elbows and not get stiff in my shoulders. I also thanked my instructor for being so patient with that- I think this week was a big improvement since she didn’t have to remind me nearly as often. It was a wonderful lesson- very therapeutic.

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muggin’

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action shot

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I just packed you around like a champ, wut more could you possibly want?!

I am writing this post on the way to Colombia for work. I would love to try and sneak a chance to find a Colombian Paso to ride while I am in town, but I’m not sure I’ll have the time. Though it will be a loooong week for me, it should be a fun trip! After all, it is my first time in Colombia.

As usual I am “smuggling” down a number of items for my Latino coworkers.

I bring this:

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and this:

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In exchange for this:

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and this:

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Nope. Despite my many requests, my coworkers continually fail to deliver on that last one… sigh.

I will miss my lesson next week but I may end up with some photos of a few latino ponies to share with you!

swl

My Cup Runneth Over

It was a very good week packed with lots of riding!

I rode this guy…

Fred

Fred

and this guy…

Spirit

Spirit

And this guy…

Louie

Louie

And this girl 🙂

Bell

Bell

So, needless to say I am a little sore, mostly in my back and through my hips. But surprisingly I don’t feel quite as beat up as I had imagined! It was so cold this week but riding definitely keeps you toasty warm.

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Have a great weekend everyone!

swl

Oh, she’s good…

No, not me. I am decidedly mediocre (on a good day) at this horse riding thing.

I’m talking about my instructor at big barn. She is better than good, she is so so good at what she does.

I waltzed into Saturday’s lesson feeling a little out of practice since it had been a few weeks since my last lesson at big barn. I had a lesson at little barn on Monday night but sometimes, due to circumstances beyond that instructor’s control, I feel like those lessons can be detrimental to certain aspects of my riding- particularly the canter. The horses I ride at little barn (not always the same one) take a little bit of convincing to promptly pick up the canter. Ordinarily that wouldn’t be a huge training issue to work on, but the combination of that, and my own struggle with correctly asking for the canter, is starting to produce more negatives than positives. I am developing a mental block towards cantering and, clearly, the horses aren’t improving.

Now I know I have already complained about the canter more than once on this blog but today I am going to talk about how amazing it is when it works.

I spent a good portion of my big barn lesson on Saturday working on my seat. In other words, NOT riding like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. I have to *think* lean back slightly. It pretty much feels like I’m leaning back the whole time right now as I try to make this feel like the new “normal”. Then once I was legitimately better balanced over the horse, we worked on contact and played with the feel of impulsion and contact. I love working on this because I like the feeling of when you finally ease the front and back half of the horse together. As she said, Louie (draft x) is no ballerina, but I swear there were moments in there when you could have fooled me!

I perpetuate stupid habits when I am not paying attention like throwing away my contact to ask for an upward transition or crunching my back to ask for a halt. My instructor artfully worked me through paying attention to all of that crap at one time and the results (however brief) were wonderful. She never lets me get away with it and thus I become hyperaware and make the changes myself. She pushes me and rewards me appropriately like she’s training a young horse. We revisit things I have forgotten time and time again and if she is ever frustrated by the constant repetition or lack of progress, she never shows it. It is just really great.

But I digress…

The canter. After putting in the lesson time to connect the pieces of the puzzle, we worked on some canter departs from a sitting trot. I totally botched the first one- which is typical lately. My instructor patiently explained that I needed to ask firmer the next time around and not let him think that what he had given me (faster trot) was what I was asking for. So at the next corner I was clearer and Louie picked up a nice prompt canter. I tried to focus on not getting left behind and sitting up nice and straight. On our downward transitions I focused on sitting up and producing a sit-able trot right away. It felt so nice to get prompt canter departs, and have a solid feeling of control in my seat to ask for balanced downward transitions.

It does a student good to get it right once in a while. Those moments make slogging through learning tough new things completely worth the effort.

swl

Fall Nights

Horseback riding in Fall is one of my very favorite things. The temperatures are cool but it can be sunny and calm. I love the late afternoon sun shining through the colored leaves. Foggy mornings and frosty mornings watching the horse’s breath steam into the crisp air. Most of all, I love the smell of fall at the barn.

Cold changes the way things smell. I love the earthy smell of the hay all loaded into the loft; I love the way the lingering plants and trees all smell like the late summer sun has caramelized them slowly; I love the familiar and intoxicating smell of sweat on the skin of a warm horse; and the sugary, earthy smell of grain being munched in a cozy stable.

After a beautiful fall ride, there is nothing I love more than having the privilege of tucking a horse in at night. It is a chance to spend some quality time with a horse and provide them with the quality care they deserve after working hard for you. I often spent hours hand blow-drying the belgian mare I leased on cold winter nights in Almost Canada. As the horse cools down and dries after a workout under a nice warm cooler, I have time to clean tack, sweep the aisle, or just relax with the horse. It is wonderful.

Louie after my lesson at big barn.

Louie after my lesson at big barn.

swl