I've been back riding for a few days now, and while I'm feeling less rusty than expected in some aspects (I can post! I'm not getting winded! I can still feel straightness! I still have a pretty good idea of what I want to have happen!), I'm definitely feeling the time off pretty vividly in others.
My legs, especially, feel like pudding and are about just as useful. I had sort of hoped that all the running I've been doing would help, but nope, that apparently uses very different muscles. When I rode for the first time on Monday night, I tried to get up into 2-point at the canter and promptly flopped right back into the saddle! Not to mention the sore butt, sore thighs, rubs, and blisters that have already sprung up in too many places to count (but most notably a massive thigh rub from where my raw skin chafed against the stirrup leather through a hole in my pants - ouch).
So, it's back to strength-building bootcamp for me for the next few weeks. I finished off my ride with Kiki two days ago by trotting around the field a few times in two point with my stirrups at cross country length, trying not to rely on anything (her neck, the reins, etc) for balance. I was pathetic! I could go about 7 strides before I lost my balance and had to touch back into the saddle for a stride (note: I'm not like falling over backwards, I just have to basically post one stride to get re-calibrated and then can resume).
Yesterday I went on a hack where I did my trotting in 2-point, which went a bit better (because my stirrups were way longer!) but I clearly still need some work. Since I already find my balance on Kiki harder because she's so small, and she's so sensitive and responsive to balance changes, I've got some seriously important homework ahead of me!
With Ringo, I put my stirrups even higher (I rolled them and then put them on the last hole, making them significantly shorter than my cross country length) and then went out to do some trot sets. I decided to go for a 5 minute set and then reevaluate. Normally, five minutes in 2-point at the trot would be no big deal. At the end of my year off, I could ride in 2-point for 45 minutes without leaning on the neck or balancing off the reins (thanks to the fact that I did trot sets in 2-point every. single. day. with at least one of my trainer's horses).
Now, I haven't been that strong in a while, and I think I picked up some bad habits in California that have made me weaker on that front in general, even before I went away, but I was still pretty surprised to discover that I was feeling torched after ONE LAP OF THE ARENA. Fortunately, Ringo's trot and balance is a lot easier for me to figure out, so all I had to focus on were my loudly protesting legs, and we made it through with only one posting circle with 20 seconds to go (which I made up with an extra half seat circle after the timer went off). The great news was that Ringo seemed to loooove the 2-point work, and felt the most forward and energetic he has so far. Hopefully this means he's looking forward to doing some jumping again!! I finished off by taking him for a lap around the field in canter, which almost brought tears to my eyes it felt so great. Geez, I love this horse and feel so lucky to have him back.
I'm going to try to do some half-seat/no stirrups/sitting work every single day in July to try to get my seat and legs back. I think my saddle is on board with trying to keep me committed, because when I was riding Ringo yesterday in my dressage saddle the stitching broke on my stirrup and it fell right off! I think it's trying to tell me to drop them more often… I'm either going to be much stronger or possibly one giant sore patch/blister by month's end. Probably both.
(I don't have any new photos, so here's a blast from the past - getting ready for my very first ride on Ringo on 1 August 2009! The time has flown by)