My friend and her 12 year old daughter came out to ride with me yesterday. She does dressage and just bought her first horse. We played around on Baron for a little while and got some good pictures.
I have come to two major conclusions about my riding:
1. When I ride I FEEL like my leg is underneath me but it’s not. This means I have to stick it so far back that it feels like it’s behind me. Like a commenter said, if it feels wierd then I’m probably doing it right.
2. I ride with my reins way too loose. I feel like Baron is actually seeking contact and looking for my hand. He relaxes when he knows what’s expected of him, and I think if I get a good solid leg underneath me, a balanced, independent seat and good contact then his head will naturally come down.
So here’s the pictures. Interestingly, I don’t look as flustered at the canter as I felt while we cantered. My heel stayed down pretty well. Aaaah, some signs of progress! As always, feel free to give me tips. Thank you for continuing to read my tedious position posts!
I had two great rides this weekend, one early Saturday morning and one early Sunday morning. I rode Baron on Saturday and wanted to work on some things before I had a lesson on Sunday. We jumped crossrails and focused on a straight approach and making it all the way to the rail after the jump (not cutting in and making it hard to approach the next jump). Baron did great! We only worked for about 25 minutes because he was doing so well and I didn’t want to drill him. During last week’s lesson I was oversteering, so this time I made sure to use as little rein as possible to move him around. He really is responsive, just a little squeeze on the reins and he moves. We had straight approaches and I was able to keep him straight to the rail before starting the next turn. I was so happy that we were finally jumping!
On Sunday I had a lesson but couldn’t ride Baron because his hip is out and he needs to get adjusted. My barn manager asked me not to ride him until he sees the chiro. I rode a super cute dapple grey named John. He is littler than Baron but has a big, springy trot and is a lot of fun to ride. He’s very workmanlike, as George Morris would say. The lesson was fantastic from beginning to end.
Mary told me that whoever owned John before he came to Blue Skies had a lot of fear about jumping. Because of that, he’s a little nervous and needs a lot of leg to give him confidence before the jump. He was really good for me to ride because I had to keep my lower leg on him and it made me concentrate on what my legs were doing. Everything came together really well and at the end Mary raised the crossrail up to a vertical. It was only about a foot and a half, but still, it was a vertical! It’s what I consider a “real” jump.
The funny thing is, now that I’m starting to learn how to jump, I’m realizing it’s really all about the flatwork. What happens in the air is a split second that is determined by what we did on the ground. The three years of flat work with Baron isn’t seeming like such a waste of time anymore!
In my last entry someone commented and gave me this link. It’s the Glenshee Equestrian Centre blog, which has lots of very useful articles for horse- obsessed people like me who like to read about riding when we’re not actually riding. This article sings the praises of the automatic release vs. the crest release. My favorite part is the advice about using hills to work on your jumping position without having to actually jump anything. This would be an excellent exercise for me. I’ll have to see if I can find some hills near the barn!
I’m re-reading George Morris’ hunt seat equitation book and he advocates the automatic release over the crest release, but says it’s for advanced riders. The author of the Glenshee article seems to think it should be aimed for by everyone, even beginner jumpers, and that it’s never to early to start working toward the automatic release. I’m a big fan of learning to do things correctly right from the beginning even if it takes longer. With that in mind, I will definitely be referring back to this article as Baron and I progress.
I’ve been watching a lot of videos on youtube of hunter and equitation classes. Watching the way the rider moves helps me figure out how my own position when I ride. This may sound odd, but I try to imitate what I see in the videos. I’ll share a couple of my favorites…
This one is Zazou Hoffman winning the Maclay Equitation Final in 2009. The thing that stands out to me in this video is that her lower leg NEVER moves. It’s glued in place. It. Never. Freaking. Moves.
The next one is Sara Green, an adult amateur. I think she is a smoother rider than Zazou, and again, her lower leg is glued in place.
This next one is Victoria Birdsall winning the 2010 North American Equitation Championship. I think she is the smoothest rider of all. Her horse is pretty adorable as well, that dark bay the judges seem to love.
For fun, here’s another OTTB working nicely. This is where I’d like to get Baron eventually.
And because greys are my favorite, here’s a super cute grey OTTB. Baron is my forever horse, but perhaps one day I can get one of these as a project…
I had a lesson early Sunday morning with my trainer. It started out a little rough, but we ended on a very positive note. For the first part of the lesson we were jumping crossrails at the trot but I was oversteering and causing Baron to get a bad approach and lose his balance. I would pull too hard to one side (causing him to zig) and then pull to hard to the other side to try and correct it (causing him to zag). He stumbled over the crossrail because his approach was so wonky, so Mary had me trot around the rail in 2 point and concentrate on how much rein and leg it took to move him. Once I figured out that it took very little leg and rein to move him, things started coming together.
One thing I love about Baron is how responsive he is. He likes to work and he likes to learn new things. I find that he is looking to me for direction and it doesn’t take much to guide him. I could squeeze my fingers on the reins on one side and move him over. Once I figured out the right amount of pressure to use, the rest of the lesson was fantastic. We worked for a solid 40 minutes, mostly trotting with some walk breaks, and I was in 2 point just about the entire time. My lower leg was still and I felt balanced and solid. It was a great feeling, like “YES! This is what it feels like when I’m doing it right!”
Another thing I learned was that I had been working way too hard over the crossrails. I was anticipating the little hop and leaning forward. This was throwing my weight forward and making it harder for Baron to jump. I figured out that all I have to do is let my hands move forward as his neck does and my seat and leg naturally follow the motion. There’s no need to throw myself forward. When I quit trying so hard, I found that I kept my balance on the landing as well. My leg was solid and I could go back to 2 point or a posting trot without a lot of fuss. This was another “Aha moment” for me.
Overall I was really pleased. I can tell that my P90X workouts are paying off. I was able to stay in 2 point for much longer than I could before. I have a long way to go before the correct leg position is second nature, but at least I can feel the difference between doing it wrong and doing it right. Now I just have to log more hours in the saddle until someday I have the muscle memory of a still, solid, correct lower leg!
I went to the barn at 6:45 a.m. with plans to ride. The tack room was padlocked though, and being the newbie, I didn’t know the combination. So I hung out in the pasture with the horses for a little while and got some good pictures. Here they are…
I rode today on my lunch break and got a friend to take some video. I got some still shots from the video which you can see below. I hate watching myself ride. You know how some women hate having their picture taken because they always feel like they look fat? Well, I hate watching video of myself riding because I always feel like I suck. When I watch the video there will be moments of good riding where things start coming together, but overall I feel like I’m still very much an amateur. I don’t have that fluid, natural riding style yet. I realize that takes years to obtain, so I’ll keep plugging away at my trot circles.