So for the past few weeks I've felt like I've had absolutely nothing to talk about on the horse front, and now all of a sudden I'm several posts behind. Such is life! It's exciting to feel like my horsey life is coming back onto the front burner, where for the past few weeks/months I've had to focus a lot more wholly on school and work.
(Nice long neck warmup canter - thank you so much to my friend Patrick for coming out and taking all these amazing pictures! So awesome!)
(Warming up under Brian's watchful eye)
On Thursday I really jumped from the frying pan and into the fire (if we're going to continue the fire/cooking metaphors... why not) and had my first lesson on Ringo since October! I rode with Brian Sabo, who has got to be one of my favorite instructors of all time. It was a bit of a leap of faith because I was hoping the homework I've been doing to get him back in shape was going to show, but, since it had been such a long time, had distinct visions of Brian telling me that I'd been going down the completely wrong path for the past 4 months and spending the entire lesson walking on a 20 meter circle.
(Getting more flexible in those outside left aids)
Well, most mercifully, it seems like the homework has payed off. Brian was in general very complimentary of the way Ringo looked, though commented that his ability to collect looked like it was still in the process of coming back from his month long vacation--this was to be expected, but it was good to hear as a reminder to not get frustrated in the collection department as we're trying to build strength.
We started out doing some straightness exercises that ended up being more for me than they were for Ringo. I've been having a hard time bending to the left, as I've blogged about previously, and I brought this up at the beginning to get Brian's help with. He watched us go for about a minute and immediately was able to identify the problem that I've been grappling with for so long: I'm not straight!
(Well, and it looks like I have a bit of a slouch to contend with, too!)
Well, I sort of knew this, but Brian was able to really articulate exactly what I was doing that was asymmetrical, and how to fix it. Essentially, my right leg (which is the one that atrophied so badly when I broke my neck) is weaker, and so to try to control it I tend to throw all my weight to that side and lock/freeze that knee. The result is that my body is always slightly positioned like I'm going right, even when I'm going left, and it's very hard for me to be correct in the left bend because my right knee needs to be able to bend and follow the curve of the horse's ribcage and my left leg needs to be able to carry slightly more weight.
(Brian assesses our haunches in - this is a prime example of me locking my right leg and throwing my weight to that side: I should have more weight in my inside stirrup here than my outside)
To fix this, we did a serious of 4-loop serpentines at the posting trot where I really exaggerated the shift of my body position as I changed the bend, just to try to reteach my body to be a little more elastic. Then, we did shoulder-in to haunches-in going to the left, which both require the right leg to remain relaxed and somewhat flexed, with me focusing pretty much solely on my body and leg positioning. The difference was HUGE and we got some great movements out. Then we reversed direction and did shoulder-in right to haunches-out right, which required me to shift my right leg from being dominant and at the girth to passive and flexed slightly. Again, thinking about this made a massive difference, and we had some of the smoothest transitions between those two movements that I've ever done.
(Half-passin' - again, I should have more weight in my left stirrup here than my right: bad Kate!)
After getting those concepts sorted, we moved on to the half pass zig zag that is in the CIC*** test that I'll be doing in March. The first few times my half-pass left... left a bit to be desired. Since the half-pass is essentially haunches-in on a diagonal, and I had just performed haunches-in left quite admirably, Brian was a little worried at first at my inability to transfer one skill to another. We broke it down to basics, and discovered that I was having a problem envisioning the proper line of travel, and so would sort of start wandering sideways, which is what was causing the tension. Brian tested this theory by drawing a straight line on the arena floor for us to follow, which caused a night and day difference in our performance. Wow! So basically, I need to focus a little bit more on having a clear and correct line of travel, and less about "going sideways," which I've been getting hung up on.
(looking FANCAY to the right, which is my easier direction)
(Still a little counter-weighted, but better positioned, with a better result)
(looking fly to the right)
(Brian sketches the pattern on the ground for me to follow)
To finish, we did some canter work and flying changes. In general, Brian was extremely complimentary of our canter, saying that it had great balance and activity. Yay! Coming out of the turn to go into the changes, however, I had a tendency to sort of throw that good balance out the window, which led to some not-so-clean changes the first time around. After re-stressing the importance of really going deeply and squarely into the corners, Ringo really sharpened up and produced some lovely changes. Hooray!
(Oh Ringo, you spoil me)
In general, I couldn't be more thrilled with how the lesson went. Brian was super helpful, I got some great homework, and it was a great affirmation that what I've been doing has been generally correct. And man, Ringo is so special! Days like this, where he goes so incredibly well, really remind me how lucky I am to get to learn from him. Good man, Ray!