Grant identified the same exact issue as last year: my tendency to always sit to the right. He was maybe a little nice in saying the weakness was exacerbated by breaking my left leg (even if I know the habit predates the injury). But he was adamant. I must work on this or I will not get better. My body is naturally still protecting that broken bone without my noticing.
Essentially, we drilled into just this one topic (and it's consequences on how Isabel goes) bc if I don't fix this now, we'll always have a crookedness problem. We'll always have a bad side and good side. The 'left side stiff, right side supple' problem is of my own creation, and will only worsen as Isabel continues to overdevelop in one direction bc of my crooked riding.
There's ~40 minutes of video from the ride - but I'm not posting any of it bc... well... it's just step-by-step instructions for how Emma needs to trot Isabel around on a circle. So I'll spare you lol.
But don't despair! I happily went through the whole thing (maybe a couple times) to pull out a bulleted list of takeaways, directives, helpful hints, exercises, etc etc etc., all synthesized for your reading pleasure.
TL;DR Version: Sink into inside seat and leg, and stabilize outside rein such that horse connects to and fills outside aids while bending around inside leg. #dressagenirvana
|game faces = activated|
And so the lesson began with exercises to fix this!
So there ya have it. A treatise on riding inside leg to outside rein in approximately 1,700 words. Don't say I never gave you anything!
- Exercise #1: Lengthen my outside (right) stirrup ~3 holes - enough to only barely reach it. Meanwhile I was to rise as high as possible while posting - being very deliberate while stepping into my inside left leg.
- Remember that my hips describe what kind of trot we get. Post bigger for a bigger trot.
- Ride the horse like a school horse - don't fuss with how she goes, just focus on me.
- Video clearly showed how crookedly I post (a frequent theme in lessons with dressage trainer C) - my right hip does everything while the left hip kinda just follows along.
- Stay in rising trot for ~2 min to get the feel, then put the stirrups back to their original position
|'scuse me but wat r u doing?!?' - isabel|
- When stirrups were back to normal, keep the same feeling of more pressure in inside (left) stirrup, barely touching the outside stirrup.
- Drive left knee and heel down - that's what sends the mare more forward. (Pulling the legs up is a collecting aid - it stops the horse from going as forward.)
- Exercise #2: Hold this feeling while riding serpentine loops - feeling the difference in loading each respective inside leg with the change of bend. I needed to really LOAD the left inside leg, but only needed a little weight into my right inside leg, since we're already overdeveloped in that direction.
|sitting into my left seat bone|
- Need to keep both reins slightly to the inside (left) - with my outside hand touching the withers.
- Dressage trainer C tells me the same thing - usually in terms of holding my outside elbow at my body, so I've developed a habit of taking my outside hand away from the horse while keeping my elbow pinned.
- We leg yielded right while maintaining (or trying to) that weight down through my left leg and feeling the mare push into the right rein. Right away these were better than our typical efforts.
- Essentially, tho, Isabel just doesn't go into my right rein - she doesn't accept the outside aids and falls away from them.
- Exercise #3: Through the leg yield, I was to drive my left knee and heel down, keep both hands to the left, then go immediately onto a circle after the leg yield, while keeping that feeling of leg yielding on the circle. Bend left to move right.
- My immediate tendency is to pull my inside leg up, which puts me on the wrong side of the horse, and causes the horse to cut in on the circle instead of bending around my inside leg.
- We paused briefly here for me to put on a pair of spurs. Grant says I need a fairly long pair so I can keep my heel down without pulling my leg up.
|exhibit A: isabel falling away from my outside right hand, which has drawn up and away from the horse|
- Exercise #4: Sitting trot with the left inside foot out of the stirrup, imagining dragging my toe in the ground with my left knee dropped. Don't use the knee roll at all - just drag that toe and sit on my left seat bone. And bend Isabel left.
- Grant noted that I'm always pulling my outside (right) hand off the withers to the outside bc the horse is always falling in.
- He wanted me pushing her out with my inside (left) leg and seat - dragging my toe in the sand ("enough to leave a mark!") - and bending her left with my inside (left) rein. NOT pulling her out with the outside rein.
- He had me stabilize my outside hand by holding the pommel, at which point our circle diameter shrunk by about half bc I wasn't holding her out anymore with that rein lol. Oops.
|holding the pommel for outside aid stability|
- The inside (left) bend had to be really exaggerated to encourage her to move out to the circle - so long as I stayed stretching down through my left leg.
- Which, obviously, was difficult and uncomfortable for me. So we took a little walk break to stretch me out again since I get all contorted and contracted up in my legs.
|continuing to hold that pommel - both hands are slightly inside|
- The general theory here is that my positional weaknesses have prevented Isabel from ever truly connecting to my outside aids while tracking left. Grant just happened to be torturing me with sitting trot bc I'll need that skill for everything after first level.
- Incidentally, Grant said Isabel is so uncomfortable to sit because she has no muscle. I'm sitting on her spine, not on muscle. She needs to learn to give me a place to sit. He jokingly said that even Steffen Peters couldn't sit that trot (tho he could fake it, obvi) - but that he would instead ride Isabel to where she gives him a back to sit on.
|sitting more left helps get that cross over in the leg yield right|
- And after a while - as I focused on sitting left and bending the horse around that long inside leg, while the outside hand stayed firmly anchored at the pommel, Isabel began to move out into that rein.
- At which point, naturally, the sitting became easier and more comfortable. (Still had inside foot out of the stirrup at this point)
- This is essentially a stage we have to go through to get Izzy from inside aids to outside aids. And this method will work until she learns to go to the outside aids, at which point she’ll run out that side, so I won't be able to be as exaggerated.
- For now, tho, I MUST learn to sit left until the horse moves right. My body won't change until I feel it working, and it'll get easier for her to 'bend left to move right' if we practice consistency.
- The hardest element for me is maintaining it - holding the left bend instead of letting her immediately go back to the right.
- Grant also said not to worry if she's a little BTV while figuring it out, provided she's actually taking the outside connection (vs dropping the bit), bc as I ease up on the bend she'll go back to the vertical.
|still sitting left in canter, tho inside hand is maybe going rogue|
- As Isabel started coming more through in the sitting trot, we went into canter. Which meant that naturally I went immediately to sitting right for the transition... but got it back in a couple strides.
- At canter (still with no inside stirrup, and holding the saddle with outside hand), it was really difficult for me to stretch down left vs lean left. Especially with centripetal force, I really wanted to go back to sitting on the outside. And it was a struggle keeping Isabel slow and balanced while staying down through my left leg.
|mare flexes left without falling in (!!!)|
- Eventually I got to let go of the pommel and use both reins and slow her down and balance more, but needed to be cognizant of where my hands go.
- It was really cool to feel how I could actually push the outside rein against her neck now bc she was truly going into it.
|resulting picture. more of this please!|
- Downwards transitions (really, any transitions, actually) were hard for me to hold my new left positioning through, vs reverting back to sitting right. Needs practice.
- The whole point is to change my muscle memory so that I will understand how those aids work. People can tell me to do it, but I'll never actually learn until I feel it working (esp if the horse is resisting).
|ridden into walk. phew!|
- One last stretchy walk break before going back to trotting with both stirrups and both hands again.
- We leg yielded right again and did turns on the forehand (always ridden forward, Emma!) to commit the feeling of her moving off my inside leg into my outside rein to memory.
- Once she’s consistently on my outside aids we can start working on turning off them etc. But she’s got to go one place consistently before I can worry about the next set of aids.
|"i'm not sure how i feel about all this. ask again later" - isabel|
(Except actually, if you're still reading, here's some virtual cookies too... bc damn I got tired even just trying to write this out using words other than 'inside leg to outside hand' over and over again...)
|freakin adorable mare is freakin adorable|
Generally, we REALLY have our work cut out for us. It was an eye opening ride. Ever since I've suddenly grown more aware of how coddled and favored my left leg has become. No matter what I'm doing, I'm standing or sitting on the right leg. It's a.... pervasive issue.
But I think Grant was right to zero in on this specific topic. I could honest-to-god feel a difference in how Isabel went as the lesson wore on. It's hard and frustrating (and I'm STILL sore three days later) but damn, it will work. Fixing this crookedness will pave the way for improving every other dimension of riding dressage for us.