On the riding front, things have been progressing really well. Ringo and I finally went back into the ring after two fun weeks out hacking around, and having been adding trot and canter back in slowly. Friday was the first day we cantered and Brian Sabo was there teaching (hopefully by the time he comes back we'll be ready for lessons again!) and went out of his way to comment on how nice Ringo was looking, so it seems like the vacation didn't do him too poorly =)
In fact, I must say that we're feeling better than ever, because I've had a real break through with my seat/sitting. I mentioned around New Years that I'd watched some Mary Wanless tapes, and, dangit, the more I've been practicing what I learned there, the more I'm realizing that it's been REALLY helpful for me.
My big takeaway from the tapes was an increased use of the inner thigh to stabilize and strengthen my seat, combined with a deeper set overall and seat bones that 'plug in' to the saddle. By that, I mean getting the feeling that my two seat bones are like prongs of a plug, and the horse's saddle/back are the outlet. I want my seat to be so secure and deep that it feels like my butt is literally stuck in.
Now, I've probably heard that one should ride with a nice deep and secure seat a few more than a million times, but for some reason this visual was a lot more helpful to me than previous ones. I don't think Mary Wanless even mentions it this way in the tapes, but she did explain the security of the upper thigh/seat a lot better than I had heard in the past, and then while I was practicing it the plug visual came and stuck, so I'm rolling with it.
Since I have a nice and bony butt (surprisingly, since my thighs are hardly stick-like), I can monitor pretty easily when my seat bones are securely in the saddle (almost never) and when they are not (almost always). I've also realized that I spend a lot of time sitting more on one seat bone than the other, which isn't that surprising given my crookedness but which I've noticed immediate results in Ringo's way of going when I can manage to fix it.
The end result? Sitting the trot is suddenly really hard work! But in the best possible way: I've never found sitting trot that strenuous in the abs/core, which I've always known has meant that I wasn't doing it right (because, who are we kidding, I may have a pretty strong core but it's not THAT strong). Now, I'm definitely 'feeling the burn,' and am being rewarded with a trot and canter from Ringo that feels like the best he's ever gone. Yay!! I can't wait until we both get stronger and can maintain the good stuff for longer than the maybe 20 meter circle that we're currently rocking.
Though, I might be killed before then, because Ringo has been stuck inside for the past two days due to rain and I've had nowhere to ride him because the only arena at Stanford was taken over by the high school hunt seat show we hosted. I think I might break out my neck strap for my ride tomorrow...