Tuesday, July 7, 2015

crooked is as crooked does

It caught me by surprise to learn my office was closed last Friday. Meaning I almost missed an opportunity to jam pack an otherwise free day with horse-related activity. I say almost, bc fortunately providence was on my side and dressage trainer C had a spot in her schedule for us. Phew, crisis averted!

(for once there's actual media beyond the typical mirror selfies from this ride. Barn mate Kaitlyn (who is blogging now and you should totally check her out!) rode too so we had a captive audience willing to snap videos. Sadly the video quality was seriously compromised moving from one phone to the next... but it is what it is - sorry!)


another lesson day = another mirror selfie day
Recall that last time C saw us was not long after our worst ever dressage outing and Isabel was not at her best. I had a different horse this time - Isabel showed up ready. But still made me work for it. Or, perhaps that wording isn't quite right. Rather, perhaps my mistakes literally block Isabel from doing what I ask. Maybe she needs me to fix myself before she can be the total rock star we all know and love?

In any case, C was pleased to learn I had no real agenda for the ride, given the lull in our event schedule for the next month or so. Our canter departs and halts could use attention - but really C got to choose our focus since there are no upcoming tests looming large.  


poor quality screen grab... i still likey tho haha
So what did we actually work on? Baby beginner leg yields and canter departs. And me. LOTS of work on me. Actually, all work on me... and Isabel just happened to go beautifully in the appropriate direction / gait / speed when I got myself correct (mostly). 

For the leg yields, she had us turn on the quarter line and use the whole long side to reach the wall. Meaning a step of sideways then two straight steps. Rinse repeat. This was much easier to the right vs the left (related to other issues, I'm sure). I was a little jumbled in getting it done, but we kept working on it and eventually got some nice steps. 

One of the biggest hindrances, which became glaringly clear when we worked on canter departs, is my tendency to weight the outside leg more heavily than the inside. Ideally both might be weighted evenly, but regardless I need more weight in that inside leg. This issue was even worse tracking right, with my delinquent right leg on the inside. 


this leg. it's an ongoing problem, really.
If this sounds familiar, you might remember it's the exact same issue Grant Schneidman pinpointed in his clinic. So yea... it's a persistent habit, and seeing it crop up as a focus with C made me wonder how many issues I've attributed to Isabel really stem from my own crookedness? Regardless, C said that my weight distribution (stepping heavily to the outside) was literally blocking Isabel from going out where I wanted her.

Ex: when I ask for inside bend while tracking right, we continuously fall in and I can't keep Izzy out on the circle. So I get side tracked by moving her back out onto our circle, and lose the bend. C said that was exactly wrong, and Isabel wins that battle. If I want bend then I should focus on bend, with the circle secondary. Get the bend, achieve the bend, hold the bend. Circle size be damned (well, not really but that part will come later).

We continued this concept into our canter departs - also more craptacular to the right vs. the left. C wanted us trotting a 20m circle with distinct inside bend, then on the open side of the circle come in for a 10m circle - then ask for the canter depart. 


moving into a walk break. i can always tell we're working well when isabel offers to stretch during the breaks
And without fail, 2-3 times in a row, as soon as I'd ask for canter, I'd shift alllllll my weight to the outside (literally losing my inside stirrup...) and we'd either throw ourselves into canter or end up in a fast trot. 

It got to the point where C told me to post with the left half of my seat coming down into the middle of the saddle - which felt insanely crooked but was probably closer to making me sit straight. Which then made it easier to get the inside bend (it's alllll inter-related emma!), which then allowed for a better canter depart. 



Not sure we ever really got a *nice* canter depart, but they did become more balanced. Isabel was also going really very beautifully in the lesson - it's amazing how great she can be when I have a trainer telling me how to ride each and every step. 

So sure, we worked on specific movements in the lesson, but really it was actually all about sorting me out and getting me straighter so that I would stop blocking Izzy. That's the real homework! In the meantime I'm also (finally) having a chiro out for Isabel's regular maintenance and to hopefully fix any issues that would also contribute to crookedness. 

Phew... this rider position thing really is so much more important than I ever credited. Have you ever had a persistent bad positional habit that caused so many problems? How did you fix it??

38 comments:

  1. LOL - I have the persistent bad position issue, but I've yet to figure out how to fix it :)

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    1. haha yea.... knowing is half the battle, right? or something like that lol

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  2. "C told me to post with the left half of my seat coming down into the middle of the saddle" ...wow that sounds awkward and hard!

    Yoga. Do YOGA. Even if it is only for 2 months, DO IT. It will make you so much more aware of your body and your balance. Self-awareness of your body goes a long way in fixing things.

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    1. yea that's a pretty solid idea. i've always wanted to try yoga for this reason, but never could justify the time/expense/etc when i'd rather use my resources for riding. but if it can help solve some of these positional issues it's probably more than worth it

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    2. I am dying to know which MD dressage trainer C is! I've heard this one before from a trainer I've been longing to lesson with (initials are CdG; also teaches at a barn with initials TM) and it is excellent. The advice was given to a friend whose lesson I was watching and I tried it...whoa did it help with my own outside stirrup weighting issues!

      Yoga will definitely help, and so will Pilates! :)

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    3. haha it's not the same C trainer i don't think - tho i'm happy to tell you who it is (i just avoid putting identifying location information on the blog, even tho it's probably not that hard to figure out anyway)

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  3. Jeez this sounds like a super intense lesson! I second giving yoga a try, or even a dance class- I did ballet for years and my old trainer swore up and down that he wanted all his riders to do it for body awareness. I love these kinds of lessons where you get into the nitty gritty and just get to work :)

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    1. i like the nitty gritty too haha. and actually it wasn't super intense in the overwhelming kind of way. this trainer is just so good and positive that i never feel shitty about a ride with her - to the contrary i always walk away feeling empowered. but i think i needed this focus on me - really put my own riding under the microscope now that we have a break from showing.

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  4. I always have more weight in my darn left foot. It's so bad I am having to shift my saddle back to centre all the time. I have no cure yet. Possibly take off the left stirrup and ride that right one until my right foot gets with the program? :)

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    1. haha why is this such a difficult thing?!? i think we secretly all have a favorite side, just like the horses. the one stirrup idea is a good one - and that's what we did in the schneidman clinic too. this trainer doesn't love that idea bc she thinks it'll put too much torque on isabel's back. she had another idea for the stirrups that is kinda hard to explain but i might try it sometime (and obvi will write about it if i do haha)

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  5. I had almost the same lesson the last time I rode with my trainer! I get preoccupied with the circle too instead of focusing on the bend... it's so hard! Equitation is so important, and these types of lessons can be tedious, but they pay off eventually.

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    1. we just need to repeat over and over 'beeeeee the bennddddd' haha. but yea, equitation is pretty much everything. and actually, with isabel the payoff is immediate - she can go SO NICELY when i do my job properly. so it's always super apparent when i fix something and BOOM there she goes being beautiful. that should be motivation enough, right? lol

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    1. oh man, me too. i can't get enough of it!!

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  7. Lovely trot! Sounds like some no stirrup work is in order.... Ugh I need to do it too! Wanna join?

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    1. le sigh - i think you're right... i'm not super pleased about it, and actually might have another idea too - but yea... no stirrup november is coming early this year

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  8. A solid lesson with plenty of food for thought, you're very fortunate to have such good trainers to work with! Seeing you work so hard on yourself makes me feel like I have been such a bum lol It's been a...long time since I got a real equitation lesson though, I really should remedy that.

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    1. omg we are SO FORTUNATE. the trainers i work with are so phenomenal and i just love them. they've been able to transform my riding, and in doing so they've proven how really truly nice isabel is. setting aside time and money for lessons can be challenging (tho i have the advantage of not having the same expenses as a horse owner) but it is so so so worth it!

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  9. You guys looked great in your lesson :) Cant wait to see what you do in tonight's with D!

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    1. ahhhhhh you're here!!!!!!! so excited to see your blog is up and running!!!!!

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  10. I have this problem with my left leg. It has a mind of its own. Sometimes I think it's doing normal things and then I see my toe out of the corner of my eye way out in front of where it should be. My trainer told me to imagine my left leg is a pole around which the horse is turning, and to stretch it down toward the ground as I ask for the left bend (not surprisingly, I have the opposite problem, my horse doesn't like to bend left). Anyways I thought it was a useful image.

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    1. yea that is a good image, thanks - i'll try to think the same thing. part of the problem is that i really want to curl my leg up when i try to use it. it's like i'm trying to work way too hard and completely negate the efforts in doing so haha.

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  11. Have you tried getting chiro yourself? I had my first session in March (after our first cross-country nearly killed me lol) and when I got back on I was amazed to find that I'd been so crooked I'd stretched my right stirrup leather a hole longer than the left, and worn out my right boot sole almost completely while the left one was still fine. The chiro fixed this almost completely. It helps if your body is actually physically straight - trying to straighten a body that is locked in a crooked position is HARD!

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    1. haha i've actually thought about that... and it becomes esp apparent when considering i make sure isabel gets all her work, but then i get nothing for myself (first world problems here: the horse gets chiro but the rider doesn't!). might be worth looking into tho

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  12. Stampede and I have kind of a chicken or the egg thing going on with our crookedness. Who knows which of us started but we both need to be fixed. I do find that seeing a chiro has helped me get straighter again but it's not the ultimate fix for me since my horse has a crooked back. I've been careful to make sure that I get my saddle sitting even as well (I have an app with a level, lol). Otherwise I just constantly think about weighting my stirrups evenly and trying to sit off to the opposite side which really means I land about in the middle. Then I just have to think about keeping my shoulders up and straight too and about a million other things and I'm good!
    When I was younger my trainer at the time would strap my stirrup to the girth on the side that was messed up. That and lots of no stirrup work. Clearly she didn't cure me!

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    1. yea i suspect these are pretty common issues among riders with no easy fix, damn! interesting about the app tho, i might look into that!! but yea it's just a work in progress requiring constant vigilance i guess!

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  13. I am so crooked, this is a big item on my to-do list. Particularly before I'm riding my young horses!

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    1. yea seriously!! esp with those really wiggly ones it can be particularly difficult to notice our own crookedness

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  14. Ugh I don't want to know how crooked I'm getting without regular lessons! My tendencies are twisting left with my shoulders, getting my left hand stuck back, while leaning off of my right seatbone. I also look down. All the time. It's a miracle that I'm allowed to drive cars and stuff.

    Fixing crookedness is so awkward! But it's good that Isabel is so sensitive that you could feel a difference, that will certainly help. You guys look great (even through the blurriness!).

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    1. thanks - i'm super grateful that she's so sensitive since it really does help (i just need to listen better lol)! and yep i look down constantly too... my trainer is constantly explaining the benefits of looking up and i always kinda want to stop her and say that YES i understand, i just don't do it lol. story of my life with riding tho, right?

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  15. I'm crooked as hell, so I feel your pain. She looks like she is moving lovely, really loose over her back. I'm glad that you had a great lesson!

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    1. thanks - she was really going so so so nicely! esp when i can get myself straightened out i think she could be really fancy!

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  16. I definitely favour one side over the other, but luckily Bridget favours the opposite so we can just be sucky together regardless of which direction we go. Funny with the weight slightly in the outside stirrup...that's how my last few coaches have wanted me to ride leg yield, but the one prior followed the "lift your seat bone and open the door" in the direction of travel your coach is teaching. I guess it depends on the horse, whether they want to move under you and balance you, or want to be free to move away from you .

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    1. ooh i like that 'open the door' imagery! and i really don't know heads from tails about which direction i should be weighting bc what i'm hearing now doesn't match with what i learned as a kid.... but it works better so i tend to believe it's more correct

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  17. I've ALWAYS had my fingers open. I don't know why. It is SUCH a hard habit to break. I feel bad when I get yelled at because I've been doing it so long I forget about it. Gloves have been helping me.

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    1. i open my fingers too!!! literally every single instructor i've ever ridden with (from day one!) has chided me for it, and yet... i still do it haha. gloves make me slip the reins tho... so idk

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  18. Crooked rider club- I'm a member too! Love the yoga idea and need to get to a chiropractor stat!

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    1. haha we should make team t-shirts!

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