I’m only what, two weeks late on this? Three? Plenty of time to have forgotten half of what went on!
Kate managed to fit me in for a late afternoon weekend lesson at her barn. I snuck in an early afternoon ride on my pony that ran long when she had a minor meltdown over a far-away deer, then looked at my phone’s GPS and panicked that I was going to be late. Things I had failed to consider: late afternoon weekend lesson = Serious Beach Traffic. Oops! My phone re-routed me away from the highway (where I would certainly have been quite late) up true mountain roads that I’d never explored. My poor little car and I hope never to have to go that route again. I arrived in one piece, right on time, my stress level through the roof. Yikes.
It was absolutely worth it, though. It’s a gorgeous barn, not too terribly far away in the grand scheme of things, with smallish (not-scary) arenas and giant (mildly-scary) horses. There is no photographic evidence, but Kate had me ride a full-size horse. Her horse was generally a saint and I did not die.
I don’t have a particularly coherent lesson recap, but I do have bits and pieces that come back to me as I’m trotting down the trail on ‘Fetti. That’s how we’re doing things these days, I guess.
- To avoid the shoulders bulging to the outside, hold steady and block with that outside rein. This sounds really basic. It is a concept that was 100% new to me and is super, super useful. Confetti likes to blow through her shoulders to get away from doing whatever obnoxious thing is being asked of her. This for the first time gives me a really solid way to address that.
- I need to work on lengthening my legs and stretching around the horse more, particularly my right side. This is both a muscle memory and strength and flexibility problem. Practice went pretty well the first week or so (everything hurt after my rides, so I was probably doing it right) and now I’m far enough out I’m not getting it again, I think.
- Posture, again: I need to sit further forward and get my leg underneath me for a stronger and more stable position. This frequently means both physically sitting further forward and then physically relocating both legs back behind the blocks to be under my center of balance. I know I can ride relaxed with them forwards. I need to ride securely so when she teleports/spooks/bucks/etc, I’m not unseated. This didn’t go particularly well the first week or so, and then something clicked during my last ride and it went really well for a few sections before I’d lose it again. Progress!
- More posture: my seat needs work. I have real issues with body awareness. We touched briefly on seatbone alignment as Kate discusses here, so just go read that if you haven’t already. I make no claim to progress on this point.
- Shoulders back and down (“You look like you’ve heard that before!”). Enough said.
- Elbows relaxed. I think part of what’s happening is that I’m still holding too much tension and rigidity in my upper body. I experimented a little bit with relaxing through my upper body and that seemed to help with both shoulders, elbows, and not moving my hands everywhere. That’s certainly not the entire problem, but it’s not helping anything. 20 minutes of relaxed pony trot work going home is really good for self-analysis.
- My canter work still sucks. My core is insufficiently engaged most of the time. Kate’s horse was a lesson saint who politely went into a canter when I kindasorta flailed my way at the ask, and then kept cantering as long as I didn’t screw anything up too badly. Between slower strides and increased postural awareness and various analogies, I managed to find a somewhat respectable canter seat at least once in both directions. Progress on this is small but noticeable: Fetti and I found at least several non-flailing strides of canter in yesterday’s ride.
Any tips on retaining key points from your lessons when you don’t have someone there taking notes for you?