First, I want to say congratulations to us! Today we hit 10,000 hits! OK, so this is probably small compared to other blogs but I think it’s a big deal. So there.
In any case, I was riding Afton last night, concentrating really hard on all the stuff Allie mentioned to me the other day (as always, stuff I knew but forgot, or knew but can’t seem to make my body cooperate), and I came to the conclusion that riding is really hard. I know we’ve ALL heard it from people who have never ridden- that all you do is “sit there,” but last night I had to laugh at all the things I was trying to do.
The internal monologue went something like this: “ok, body, now, straighten up… left shoulder UP! Right hip down! Left hand OUT! Left leg! left leg! left leg! More left leg! No, don’t collapse! ack! Stretch up the left side! NO! Keep leg on too! Right leg back a little, yes! no! Wait! Keep the left leg on!!!! Drop right shoulder! Bend the elbows… no, not stiff, wiggle the arms out and stay soft! Left left hand, they’re uneven… left shoulder UP, for the LOVE OF DOG! Oh I give up… drop the stirrups, it’s easier… left leg, left leg, left leg… Wow, why do my hip flexors feel so funny all of a sudden? Liiiiift through the left shoulder! Right elbow BACK! Oh and maybe it would be helpful to BREATHE!!!!”
Oy. So there you have it. Multiply the above by about two hundred and you get my ride last night. As always, I refuse to ever really say something is a horse’s fault, and prefer to assign “blame” for difficulties to something I’m doing, or not doing, or some balance thing I have wrong. In this case, I blame leaning on the turns to my incredibly weak leg, and tendency to collapse my upper body (sometimes forward, sometimes to the side, it depends on how much caffeine I’ve had that day).
I actually spent most of this ride at the walk, where it’s a little easier to get him stepping under himself. Or, rather, it’s easier for me to stay straight in my body and apply my aids correctly, let’s put it that way. Either way, by the end of the ride we did achieve a correct left bend even on the part of the circle where we usually get the worst of the leaning. This seemed to be a combination of me using my body properly, him getting what I was asking for, and also me squaring the circle a little bit, to keep the bits where we have to bend minimized a little.
To the right, things seem much easier, with the major tendency being to bulge out with his shoulders, rather than leaning a bit like a motorcyle. On straightaways, though, he does like to travel with his hind end a little to the inside, so we worked on that too.
After all that, when I got off I had him practice stepping to the side a little bit- applying light pressure to his barrel and asking him to cross his “inside” hind in front of his outside and under his belly. This seems pretty hard for him, in both directions, but as we work on this more will probably get better- strength, and figuring out his legs will help 🙂
Back at the barn I grabbed some treats to do “carrot stretches” with him. I wish I had a camera- it seems like when I really NEED one, there’s never one around, and I bring TWO cameras every time there’s no one there to take photos. In any case, the first stretch he did was between his front legs. When I felt he had stretched well and held it for a second, I moved to ask him to stretch to the side. Except… Afton seemed to think he should continue to go between his two front legs to get the treat. With me standing at his side (with treat in my right hand, WELL away from his front legs) he continued to stretch straight down, until his front legs buckled and he was standing on his tip-toes. Basically, he full out bowed, even though I wasn’t asking him to.
Only when he had his entire head completely between his ankles, with legs bent at the knees, did he turn his head a little to realize where the treat was.
“oh, I totally meant to do that,” he said, as he casually untangled himself and reached to the side.
Horses are funny.