Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A clip of Fi and I from today's lesson. You can tell I'm starting to get tired because my hands keep dropping.

Monday, April 23, 2012

So the lesson, for the most part, went really really well. We had some lovely moments through the first half, and I really felt like I was getting the hang of letting the analytical portion of my brain have a nice break and let the bit that deals mostly with feel have a go. I am a planner, believe it or not; I like breaking things down into easy-to-handle steps and working through in reasonably logical stages. (I say 'reasonably' because I tend to make large leaps based on educated guesses when it seems feasible. Anyway.) When you're starting out riding, this is a good trait; learning how one asks for walk or trot or a halt is a specific set of physical instructions, referred to as aids, that are applied (although we say given) to the horse so he/she knows what you want. In the beginning, you apply the aids in steps- okay, we're going to halt, so I will 1) take a deep breath, 2) stretch upwards, 3) squeeze with my hands like I was wringing out a sponge, 4) stop following the movement with my body, 5) close my legs gently on the horse's sides. That's all well and good, but I'm not a beginner any more. I can do all those things at once (with a few more added in for good measure, since I work with contact) and I should be doing it without having to run any steps through my mind. And most of the time, I don't- if I'm happy and not stressed and not tired, it's all easy enough. When problems arise, though, or I'm tired, or stressed, or whatever, I tend to fall back on this pattern of thinking- stretch everything into steps, and apply. However, this is overthinking- if I am thinking very hard of the next step, I am also not thinking about important things like giving and breathing and keeping my leg on and making sure her shoulder aren't falling out the side, and a hundred other things I could be doing, all because I'm letting myself overthink. And that's usually not even where the problem is to begin with; I know how to apply the aids, but I'm letting my own position slip instead and that's where the problem arises. These days I am learning to change that. Today I got it together for most of the lesson; when her shoulders would start to fall out on a circle I'd do a rapid survey of my position, usually to find something amiss there- I'd started to lean forward, or I was staring down at her ears, or dropping the outside rein and taking on the inside one, or tilting my head, or I had forgotten about what my outside leg was supposed to be doing. Adjusting my position allowed (and/or molded) Fi into the correct position herself- while she can and does slack off, as do most horses, when they are trying to do as you ask unless you are in the correct position it makes it very hard for them to be in the correct position too- a rider who is straight through their body has a far greater chance of coming up with a horse that is the same. Riding, once you get past a certain point, becomes an art of feel and thought. you work with energy, with visualizations, and less with that rote of 1) do this 2) then do this 3) then do this. When you and your horse are really in tune together, your directions are thought more than physically given- you still apply the aids, but the preponderance is done through a thought and not a list. It becomes very much a mental art as well as a physical one. To ask for more trot, or to ask for less, when she's on the bit and listening, is a thought- a visualization- a breathing exercise, and an application of physical cues, all at once. You hold the picture in your mind of what you want to happen- straight, relaxed, and supple down the long side, for example, and then allow that to happen through your position. The major problem arose, as it seems to these days, when I got tired. A tired back can't hold you upright, tired shoulders can't hold your arms steady and give support to your wrists, tired legs thump more than close softly. I also lock up through my chest when I get tired, and a tight core blocks forward motion. I think actually that's why Fi had a bit of a fit after the canter work to the left; we had been doing some walk-halts and after one transition using my core to halt her, which worked very well, I was unable to unlock myself and I think I was blocking her, and during the subsequent trot work while I was asking her to be forward and round I was also blocking her through the center, and she had a tantrum. We were trotting, and then all of a sudden we were thrashing and crow hopping for a couple of seconds. This disconcerted me, unsurprisingly, and although we got back to some nice trot work on a circle afterwards, I had to call it quits- after a bit of thought I couldn't get my brain around loosening through the center, and I was pretty sure that meant I was going to automatically shut her down in front every time she sped up a little instead of asked her to relax through the body, and that was just going to provoke another tantrum. So we left it at that, and I walked her cool on the buckle, and I left everything to percolate. I need a lot of thought time off the horse to understand things while on the horse, which is one of the reasons I write posts like these; it helps me collate what I've just done and work out the places to learn and improve. Back to my battered old copy of Centered Riding. We'll get this core thing licked yet.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

I'm watching an instructional dressage video, and the instructor is good, but he also sounds exactly like Dr. Henry Killenger from the Venture Bros, and that is highly distracting.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The fact that this does not actually exist is a film tragedy. Not only would it have been better than the actual Matrix by a factor of a million (hey, sue me, I was watching John Woo films five years before it ever came out, it was not new to me) but it would have been probably my favorite film ever.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Look what came in the mail today!