I have a confession to make… I, like many amateur riders, use my hands way too much. I like to lift them, open them, close them, lower them, wiggle them, tilt them, and sometimes even drop them. What do I like to do with seat and legs? Hover them uselessly somewhere near my horse/saddle/air. This is a problem, especially since communicating with your horse should really be centered around the use of your legs and seat.
Therefore, my trainer has been putting in a lot of work getting me to keep my hands steady and engaging my seat and legs more. Of course, when we started his discussion, I was in the lovely habit of leaning off the side of my saddle going around turns. Why? Because I had decided that instead of teaching my horse to move off my inside leg into my outside hand, I would just lean and pull her over with my body.
Perhaps this strategy works for those with thoroughbreds with withers. It does not work on my Corgi… instead, the saddle would just slip around her side… lovely. This was especially embarrassing at the clinic I did in February with Marilyn Payne… who kept trying to tighten my girth and couldn’t believe it kept slipping.
While a lot of my work lately has been focused on fitness, I have also worked on not leaning. This means a lot of time at the canter, some time in half-seat, and some time even leaning to the inside on purpose. Over-exaggerating the correction typically helps me adjust to the new muscle memory of what feels “normal”.
Monday night was our first real jumping lesson since our show in April. We had done some Dressage work and some grids, but hadn’t actually focused on a course since the show. During grid work last week, we worked on me sitting deep, keeping my leg on, and keeping May’s weight off the forehand. Overall, it was a pretty good success:
This week, we took that same idea and built it into a course. May was awesome. I was able to open and close her stride without her getting quick or falling on her forehand. She even tried a bit of a lead change! For most people, this is not an exciting achievement. The jumps are small, our rhythm and lines aren’t perfect, and I am still trying to shrivel up on myself. For us, however, this was the first time we were able to jump around a course without getting strung out and unbalanced for almost the entire course. When we did get unbalance, it only took a couple of strides to get it back.
Riding isn’t about achieving perfection – it’s about pursuing it!
Coming up the rest of the Spring, we have some fun things coming up:
May 22 – Recognized BN Horse Trial at Kent School
May 29 – Schooling BN Horse Trial at Burgundy Hollow
June 25 – 26 – N Level Clinic with Meg Kepferle at Sarah Stinneford Equestrian
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You think you have enough leg? ADD MORE. That is the story of my life, hahaha
At one point (after my trainer continued to tell me to sit and add leg) I finally figured it out and got a nice balanced canter. My trainer then asked me how I did that… “Well…. I added leg and sat down”. Always sounds embarrassingly simple!