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Monday, March 22, 2010

New thing #2

Obviously I am a weak person because I'm posting my new thing #2 in the same day as my new thing #1.  *sigh*.  Absolutely no self control. 
Secretly I'm worried that new thing #1 isn't actually that interesting, only entertaining for me.
New Thing #2
I took a centered riding lesson!  I had read the books but haven't really applied any of the concepts.  As part of the event I was/was not coordinating we hired a centered riding instructor (Becky Hart for you endurance people) to teach the classes, and then some of the staff/participants signed up for private lessons.  What an experience!  We really focused on any crookedness in my riding.  I knew I was riding unevenly from the marks I still have on my legs from the 100 - the rub marks are on the back side of my thigh on my left side, and the inside of my knee on my right side.
What was especially gratifying about trying out the concepts of centered riding was how sensitive Farley was.  The instructor remarked several times how Farley would IMMEDIATELY change her way of going (lengthening stride etc), just by evening out my sitting bones.  If I got my seat and my hands/elbows right at the same time, Farley would immediately round her back and move into the bridle softly without me asking specifically for it. 
Some of my specific problem areas -
  • pushing my head forward (need to slide my head back)
  • not grounding my elbows (they are two far forward - especially the right one.  Need to pretend my elbows are hanging from the shoulders to the ground)
  • hollowing my back (breathe through my stomach)
  • going to the left, my right shoulder needs to lead....(push my right shoulder forward as her right shoulder goes forward). 
  • My hands - they don't want to stay closed and they don't want the thumbs on top (tent the thumbs, imagine little birdies).
Some specific tricks I learned were -
  • Moving my shoulders WITH the horse's shoulders.  The seat moves with the back legs, but the shoulders move with the horse's shoulders.  In a circle, the outside shoulder is moving in a longer arc so my shoulder should be mimicking that.
  • Look to the outside ear when turning a corner.
  • tenting the thumb (instead of laying it flat) will give you better and more precise communication with the horse.
  • If the seat bones are uneven, raise it UP to match the other. (My tendency is to try and lower the high one...).
  • At a trot, "run" your feet (mentally more than physically) to match the horse's hind feet.
The biggest trick I walked away with.......practice my canter transitions from the walk, instead of the trot.
At first I was like "WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO!!!!  I am TOTALLY not advanced enough to try THAT!".  
But then it started to make sense to me.  At a trot I was having trouble maintaining my position, was leaning forward, bouncing, hands getting stiff ect.  At a walk I can give effective cues and stay soft.  Also, there's no history of tension of cantering from a walk, so it just might get past the mental block that Farley has developed.  (and that I have developed)
Then I started thinking even DEEPER - especially to the ride I did on the schoolmaster.  When we cantered from a trot, he first paused (half halted) to the point we could have been walking OR trotting, then cantered.  So, if we learn to canter from the walk, it *should* transfer to a trot, with a strong half halt.   
We tried a few and it was very successful.
Some other lesson notes.....
  • She complemented my trainer and said that she must be very good as we presented a very pretty picture.  She was especially impressed that Farley and I had no formal training prior to six months ago.  I think it's always a good idea to get an outside assessment of a trainer/instructor and I got positive feedback on the road we are on.  Whoo hoo!
  • She said I was very trainable and took instruction well.  My regular trainer also says this.  Most of my athletic coaches throughout my life have said I'm very coachable.  Why am I so stubborn and opinionated every where else in my life????????   Something that bears thinking about - being tractable and coachable is a GOOD thing. 
  • She said that Farley looked absolutely sound in the lesson (always good to have an experienced endurance person evaluate).
  • She suggested cantering up hill to build up the muscles in the top of Farley's rump and fill out her hindquarters better.
  • She recommended putting more weight on Farley, especially if I was considering doing Tevis and then Virginia city this year.  Fast flat rides tend to favor the thinner horses, but doing 2 tough mountain 100's favors the horse in good flesh.  I had backed off of the beet pulp and oil a bit this month because she was looking really good.  Starting last night I went back to her pre-20 MT amounts and I'll stick to that unless she starts looking very heavy.
  • When cantering on the trail, especially through sand, it can be helpful to be in a slight chair position - you can better use your seat to help your horse through the sand. 
Overall I felt like centered riding was a very good compliment to my dressage.  As an endurance rider I have LONG stretches of riding where I can practice these exercises which should be fun. 


  1. Mel,

    I think I understand the being coached easily thing. Myself, I thrive on coaching because it is a challenge to get it right, get it right, get it right! I've never looked at it as what I'm doing wrong, but on improving what I'm doing. Which makes it a personal challenge, which in turn makes it fun. The few lessons I've had made me laugh and sweat! Lessons are work, but so gratifying. Wish my budget would allow me to ride distance and have lessons, but it is either / or.

    Now in other less interesting areas of my life? I'm pretty opinionated and not likely to change my mind on things so much (probably deep down because I just don't "want to").

    I'm so jealous! (in a nice way) ~E.G.

  2. EG - I'm fortunate that at THIS time in my life I'm able to afford both, but I'm also aware that I need to "make hay while the sun shines" because this is definately a temporary situation. 18 more months at the MOST and then I'm not sure I'll even be able to afford endurance.

    Walking that line between saving for later and having fun now is tough. I'm usually on the side of saving too much for the future and never ever ever spending it so it's a bit of a weird feeling to pamper myself.

    I think when I'm in vet school I won't have the TIME to do endurance, so the $$ thing will probably be a mute point.


    If I had to choose between endurance and lessons it would be endurance......


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