When You Can’t Ride, You Read

All this snow and the lack of riding is driving me crazy. To make up for it, I have been obsessively scouring the internet for good reading and videos to help improve my riding. After reading multiple synopsis’ of the Isabell Werth clinic that just happened last weekend, I was very humbled by the fact that these riders struggle with issues I struggle with. Maybe not as much, or on the same scale, but the issues I have transcend my level of riding, and I find it comforting.

I love the reminder that leg goes on first and your hand closes AFTER, because the amount of times I don’t do that is embarrassing. I know I’m not the only one, and it is harder to remember when you ride a hotter horse.

You should use your lower leg for balance and to bring him back,” … “Don’t spread your legs away from him. Use your legs for the halt.”- Isabell Werth

Being independent of the reins is something she touched on, and something that I am trying to learn. I find I can go to them for balance, making me lean on them and therefore Dawns mouth, which of course makes her shoot off away from my lean.

To do that, I am going to be working on my home exercises, especially on my core. I have made a point this year to be active every day, but I am going to start ramping it up. I have been eating better and I have lost weight, but it’s always a work in progress for me and I have more to do.

The other thing I am going to do is try what Isabell had a rider do, and ride with both reins in my outside hand. Also, I plan on attempting to ride with the driving reins, because I do tense in the shoulders and tend to pull back and the driving reins can help. Additionally with my reins, when I find the right contact in the walk, I will not adjust my reins to move up a gait. If I have to right connection at the walk, it should be the correct one for trot and canter.

My final thing that I will be practicing more is my transitions. I do neglect them, and I need to stop that. I do my normal working walk, then I do my trot, then my canter, each rein and I’m done. I plan to practice not only walk/trot, trot/canter, canter/trot, trot/walk but also transitions within the gaits so we never feel ‘stuck. Planning my number of transitions, strides between them, and achieving the changes of the gaits will give me something to focus on besides constant drilling of my position and her position.

Now I just need to weather to co-operate so I can have some riding consistency!

Article Referenced: Isabell Werth Clinic

My Nemesis, The Canter

It’s nothing new to say that I struggle with the canter. Like every rider, when I struggle with something I find it completely frustrating and irritating. It consumes my thoughts- I google cantering during the day, at night I ‘ride’ the canter in my mind, trying to visualize what I think the perfect canter would feel like.

Explain this sorcery to me.

I know what I want from the canter: relaxed, balanced, easy to adjust. I have it in the walk and trot, but the canter alludes me. The reason is very clear to me: I do not reflect the things in myself that I want in the canter, which is what makes it so frustrating to me.

Me asking for the canter

Tuesday for example- I was riding Dawn, working on a few different exercises. I leg yield her to the wall a few steps, and off the wall a few steps in the walk at both sides. I do half circles in walk and trot, figure eights and serpentines. I circled over poles, which was a predominant part of my lesson Sunday until she was calm and cool about it. I worked on my sitting trot, long sides, everything in the walk and trot I could think of. Then I asked for the canter.

jesus take the wheel

Lately I have been having excellent right lead canters, so I decided to ask for it first. It was awful,  she was stiff as a board and barely adjustable. Dawn has a powerful canter, so it’s easy for me to loose it. Then I spend a circle or so trying to get it back to me. The single most frustrating thing is point blank, I am not strong enough in my core to maintain my own balance and position.

As my coach keeps saying, Dawn can’t balance both of us. She’s not at the point where it’s possible, nor should I be asking her to maintain my balance for me. I need to maintain my own balance for her to be able to find hers at this point. So the work out regime must kick up a gear, because I’m tired of letting my horse down.

Funnily enough, Tuesday when I asked for the left canter after the right canter, she was easy and adjustable. Maybe it helps us both to get one out of the way to know that’s the worst it can get.

As I said, I google a lot to get information. I came across this article in Dressage Today and really connected to the person who posed the original question.

There was something that stuck out in the answer that really made me say ‘oh!’ and it was about weighting the seat bones and how to tell when to cue the canter.

“The leg aid should be given just as the inside hind is lifting from the ground—it’s actually at the very moment when you would begin to post“- Elizabeth Madlener

That was my ‘oh!’ quote. Really the article has great information and is well worth a read, but that stuck out to me about when to ask.

It gives me a bit of homework to think about- weight the inside seat bone, and ask when you feel like you’re about to post up. Now if I can get my balance together, we should be good to go.