Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Looking Down

Turns out we can't go it alone. When Ben came home, I begged my trainer to come to our barn a couple times per week to give me lessons. That was going okay, but my confidence is just not there - I feel like every time I get on this horse I'm ruining him with my crappy seat, legs, and hands. And no one is saying this to me but me.

Work got busy, and so rather than try to get to the barn after work, I had my trainer put some rides on him. He seems happier, and he's easier to ride for about 3 days after she rides him.

I'm being hard on myself, I know. But I also know how badly I suck. On a less bouncy horse, my suckage is minimized, and even hidden. But Ben is exposing every weakness I have. And its beginning to hurt again.

I'm not ready to throw in the towel. I can overcome this. I can become a good enough rider for him.

I threw in a week's vacation in there - let my body recover, rest, and soak in some rays. Turns out not riding for a week is worse than torturing my body for a week.
Okay, Plan B. Stretch, strengthen. Look the eff Up - seriously, the horse's head is not going to suddenly pop off if you aren't focusing on it.  Lots of self assessment in the saddle at the walk. My left side is crap. My neck, shoulder, torso, hip. I've always known my left hip is way too closed and too far forward - something I've always struggled with. Any attempts at forcing it back has always created tensions in other places.

But now that I've been in my dressage world, I've also noticed that carrying a long whip has also posed some problems. Why can I comfortably carry the whip in my right hand, resting on my knee - but when I carry it on the left I feel like there is no room - something is blocked. So I started raising my hand, widening my hand - anything to make it feel more like the right. Nothing was working. Until I decided to go a bit higher and see if I played with my shoulders....voila. Left shoulder collapsed forward. If I brought it back - dramatically so - my whip carrying hand suddenly feels right...and wouldn't you know my hip also gets better... and my horse much less cranky.

I've also started playing with stirrup lengths. I'm not confident enough in Ben to just let my stirrups go. He's a great guy and hardly ever spooks...but he's 4, he's 16.1, and he's bouncy...I'd have no chance of saving myself should something happen. Nevertheless, my legs could really use some no-stirrups time. So I've been sneaking in bits here and there, and in addition, doing my warm up with much longer stirrups - about 3 holes from where I can ride him with some dignity, which is really 1 hole too short.

This warm up routine has been helping- I think. Lots of walking, focusing on my position. Not having mirrors doesn't help, I'm just going by what makes Ben happier, and intuitively - what hurts, is troublesome. When I sit up, it hurts to breathe comfortably. It causes anxiety. I know I'm on the right track.

Trotting and cantering - well, if we didn't have our work cut out for us at the walk, you know we do in these gaits. And this is where my guilt comes in. My horse had a beautiful topline, he was fit. He was soft, and happy. And he's losing it at a rapid rate, despite riding him 5 days a week. All because I can't get my act together.

It does come together- but in small steps, where he was used to a proficient rider for the entire ride, every ride.

That said, yesterday we had a better than average ride, and it left me with a glimmer of hope. Wednesday is our first lesson in a few weeks. One other day this week trainer will also ride. I will keep stretching and strengthening off the horse. I will try to lift my attitude out of the gutter. Hopefully it'll be enough to keep us on track...to do something.

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