Tuesday, September 24, 2019

30x a day

Last week I squeezed in another jump lesson with our barn's resident upper level rider K. You might remember I was getting in weekly rides with her the winter following Charlie's surgery, and have since used her as a fairly regular supplement to my typical lesson schedule.

She's been really helpful in improving my feel for Charlie's canter, and working on straightness out of turns. Which, incidentally, are two things we kinda suck at. Well. Let's be clear: I can get a good canter on him, and I can get him to be straight... But at the same time? Highly questionable lol.

there goes charlie, rock climbing through the stream banks and probably making shitty life choices while he's at it...
Considering Charlie and I haven't had the greatest jumping rides lately, this seemed like a good option. And.... it was. We kept it vanilla plain with two big wide oxers (just a touch over 3'), one off each short diagonal. Then just sorta looped around, catching each one after the other.

Almost immediately it was pretty clear that turning Right (the blue line below) is harder for us. Which, if you read through the archives (and I do, often), is a common theme. It's a known, right? And it's the same directional turn where I fell off a couple weeks ago.

Trainer K "helped" us out by putting ground poles in a "train tracks" configuration leading up to the jump -- to help guide our straightness. Still, tho, it was kinda messy. And we biffed it a whoooole lot, including two crashing refusals.

extremely simple exercise diagram. it's really just the turns that matter. oxers were taken from the short approaches.
It was illuminating, tho. For a few reasons.

The first is - as always - all about the canter. We've spent so long working Charlie over shortened distances. For reasons, right? He's a long horse and compression is generally harder for him, so that's what we practice. In reality, tho, those exercises can often mask or even forgive a backward behind-the-leg ride. So Charlie can just shuffle on through without issue.

Meanwhile, because we don't often practice on a longer more "true" stride, my own feel for that end of the canter spectrum is a bit less well developed, less nuanced. And Charlie has less experience coming up with options on a more open stride.

For instance, because we aren't practiced at holding an uphill balance on a longer stride, Charlie's more likely to get flat or even low up front. But if we get to a deeper distance to the fence and he's not lifted in his shoulder, he doesn't always feel like he can pick up to jump.

so strange to look down on him from the bridge
So in the beginning of this ride I was actually kinda chasing Charlie, rushing him a bit beyond pace, in an effort to get that feeling of the hind end running up into the bridle. It felt like I was having to work so hard to get him go-go-going, and then the second I took my foot off the gas, or tried to manhandle him around a turn, he'd drop immediately behind my leg again.

It turned out, tho, that I actually needed to let him settle a bit more into his rhythm. Let his hind end catch up with the front end. And in this way, we'd see less change in our canter esp when we tried to get around the turns. So that was definitely a "me" thing lol (isn't it always, tho?).

Coupled with Charlie's kinda less-than-keen feel lately, trying to run him past his balance was not a recipe for success.

our farm had a "fun day" of games for lesson students and boarders last weekend. was much fun, and i participated in a giant tack swap too. only sold a few things tho, womp, but it was fun. very very dusty from the arena, but fun
For what it's worth, tho, I'm pretty sure at this point that Charlie's biggest issue is just not loving the hard hard hard ground lately. It's not Lyme, it's not ulcers, and he's not lame.**

I've been evaluating all possible avenues, but generally am pretty fond of the principal of Occam's razor: the likeliest solution to any given problem is usually the simplest, requiring the least speculation.

And the simplest answer is that, turns out, jumping and galloping on concrete actually kinda fucking sucks. Go figure.

unrelated: i got to watch the CCI2*-S at Plantation Field International last weekend!! will probably have more on that later. and, ya know, Great Meadow International too, which i went to WEEKS ago hahaha...
**At this exact moment, tho, it doesn't actually really matter bc Charlie went ahead and acquired a completely unnecessary and extremely gnarly puncture wound to one of his hind cannons. And obviously the horse gets cellulitis if you so much as make a mean face at him, so it's all very dramatic. Have no fear - those gruesome pictures and a more complete rundown will come eventually, probably.

My best guess is that homeboy, who has been extremely itchy with his fall coat growing in, was rubbing his butt up on some fence or another, and ended up sticking his whole leg in somewhere it didn't belong.... Womp.

Rest assured, tho, he's probably gonna be just fine. It's just Charlie's patented way of getting a little time off haha... Or something.

Anyway, tho, that brings us to the other big takeaway from the lesson: The fact that Charlie and I are both so extremely one sided that we can barely turn right. I've always been stronger down my right side than my left, but since breaking my leg and skipping physical therapy, it's so much worse.

oooh there goes Sally on her bella-look-alike gelding! he's a friggin xc machine
Grant Schneidman really dug into me about this in a dressage clinic back in 2016, including a whole bunch of exercises and techniques that can be done from the saddle while riding. If you're curious about any of that, I highly recommend checking out that post.

In this ride, tho, Trainer K just happened to mention something that really struck me. She talked about another student who she directed to "do 30 things a day with your left (non dominant) hand." Switch it up to brush your teeth, peel an egg, pour your coffee, wash a plate, etc.

Because isn't it all really about muscle memory anyway?

the ruins at plantation are always so beautifully presented
Obviously those examples relate more to hand movements vs whether or how much we favor one leg over the other. In my case, I favor one leg extremely heavily. Like, when I'm brushing my teeth, both feet might be flat on the floor, but I'm actually really just standing on one leg -- all my weight is always shifted primarily through my right side. It's... an issue haha. That I'll probably pay for down the line in uneven hip and knee deterioration...

What I CAN say tho, is that when I started thinking about "doing 30 things a day" with my left hand, I also naturally started thinking more about my left leg too. And have been trying to pay more attention.

So that's my latest challenge to myself. We'll see how long it lasts. It's not going to fix some major issues like how I sit at my desk or drive my car... But it's something, right? And also just kinda funny to sit there feeling like a complete moron trying to brush my teeth with the "wrong" hand LOL.

Will it make me suddenly able to whip Charlie around a right handed turn? Eh... probably not lol. If it raises my awareness tho on evenness of aids and balance, that'll still be a win. Plus ya know, it's only 30 things a day, right?


21 comments:

  1. It sounds like a good plan to really increase your awareness. I am left handed so it means I do a lot with my right (it’s thenway the world is structured) but it’s still hard. I’m really bad for dumping Carmen in a corner and not helping her carry herself.

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    1. It is definitely a right handed world lol - some things apparently just don’t lend themselves to alternating! And re corners I’m kinda having the opposite problem where Charlie is making me work too hard to carry him around - homeboy needs to be more accountable for his own motor!!

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  2. This is so relevant for me right now -- after last week's lesson where the takeaway for the whole class was that I need to use my left leg more in both directions, my homework was to be more aware of my left side and to start taking the stairs starting on the left foot, opening doors with my left hand, etc all the things K recommended to you. It's HARD. I wasn't as good at remembering as I wanted to be, but, even the little bit I did do seems to have translated really well to the saddle.

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    1. It’s so hard haha esp bc it takes so much more thought - and then is so easy to forget lol. Glad to hear you felt like it helped tho!!

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  3. It is hard to work on balance for sure! I'm left-handed as well and I'm sure I over-compensate that way when riding...

    I love the pics of Charlie in the wild...until I read about the puncture wound. Darn it! Glad it wasn't too serious.

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    1. i'm glad it wasn't too serious either, bleh. it's friggin ugly tho (pics coming eventually lol). and yea i kinda love watching charlie out in his rustic field but i just wish he was a littttttle more careful with his legs around those rocks lol. he is NOT graceful as a mountain goat LOL

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  4. I feel this so much. RIght now I'm mousing left-handed in an effort to help straighten out a little. It's slow and frustrating, but I can definitely feel it in my back and arm by the end of the day. Being straight is so hard!

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    1. oh man that's brave about changing your mouse hand haha. i haven't gone that far yet. tho it's been useful for things like washing dishes or brushing my teeth bc it simultaneously reminds me to stand up more straight and evenly too. but yea tho, so hard haha

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  5. Awareness is half the battle lol My left leg is my pure power leg, and my right leg is my finesse leg thanks to driving manual cars for years lol. I've had to work a lot on strengthening my right leg - it's had the most damage, and it goes all the way to simple balance in my glutes. I do have exercises I can do buuuuuuut I really need to actually start doing them again lol. I was amazed how much better I felt after strengthening that one side!

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    1. ha i know exactly what you mean about the 'brute force' vs 'fine tuned' feeling in each leg while driving - manual drivers unite!! lol.... tho even so, i still feel like my right leg gets more tone and stays more engaged while driving, it's always hovering over either the gas or the brake coiled and ready for action, vs the left leg that can kinda take breaks (esp on highway driving, of which i do a lot). so that's one of the areas where i feel like my imbalances only get reinforced -- i sit almost entirely on my right side while driving. bleh.

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    2. Yes, manual drivers unite! I can totally see that about your right leg. I always sit on my left side and it's the side that collapses the most while riding..... Werk werk werk right? LOL

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  6. Being one-sided has all kinds of not-so-good repercussions - riding and non. Historically my falls (horse + bicycle) that resulted in injuries - the injuries happened on the left (non-dominant) side. My body was like oh well - falling that way - cannot cope!

    That 30 things a day idea is awesome. Imagining focusing on using the non-dominant side will also be a (challenging) lesson on being in the moment lol.

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    1. i always injure my left side too, it really sucks haha...sob :(

      but yea, that idea of being in the moment is spot on too. it forces me to think about exactly what i'm doing. i've tried to change the way i have things (like my toothbrush!) positioned in every day life too, to trigger the reminder to use a different hand. so far so good!

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  7. Maybe work up to being able to do a pistol squat on the left leg? It's bloody hard but if you can do it you know you've made it.

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    1. Lol yea any manner of dedicated physical therapy would probably be useful at this point !!

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  8. Eric Horgan once told me in a clinic a million years ago to focus on sitting on both seat bones evenly while driving and for whatever reason that is branded in my brain. Now I'm always hyper aware of what my butt is doing in a car, and I think it helps me ride straighter. I really like the idea of working the non-dominate side into every day life. Really I think my brain would benefit most from this as often my left hand doesn't seem to be in contact with the rest of us when riding lol.

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    1. ugh i try to be aware, but also feel like i almost can't control it?? like, crooked feels so normal to me that i almost don't know how to like, change how i'm sitting.... but yea, my driving position is definitely ripe for improvement...

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  9. When I was recovering from my broken ankle and trying to build up the muscle and balance back in my left leg I would stand on my left leg only while I brushed my teeth. It was a good 1-2 min of balance practice twice a day. Sometimes i'd do more advanced stuff like tip forward at my hip (like a teapot) slowly lowering my right hand toward the sink and right leg out behind be to counter balance. Or even just doing one-legged dips. Everything done VERY slowly to really concentrate on using the muscles correctly. My left leg is still weaker than my right, but it's not as wide a discrepancy.

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    1. i'm glad to hear you say that stuff helped you, esp bc your injury and recovery were soooo much worse than mine (i'll probably never be able to unsee your xrays, dear god). i've been trying some of what you said above, tho not necessarily going slowly about it. will try to focus more tho!!

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  10. I've been trying to make sure I sit square lately, no leg or ankle crossing, no uneven displacement of my hips and thighs while lying down. Its fucking hard! I wish you luck on the 30x a day and also battling Charles recent injury!

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  11. It's so funny how everyday boring things can translate in the saddle. I am very much twisted to the left. I sit in my car that way. Sit at my desk that way. And I had no idea until trainer pointed out that the reason I can't turn right on my horse is because my pelvis always points left. Who knew? So yeah, I need to start driving and sitting straight. I've known this for about 4 years now though, and still I'm pointing left in my chair. Doh.
    I hope that puncture heals up quickly and you can get back to finding that magic canter!

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