In the off chance you don’t know what I’m talking about, I am referring to this group of muscles in the inner thigh:
I sometimes take these muscles for granted. I forget they’re there, until I hop on the “thighmaster” machine at the gym and squeeze out 20 reps with the full stack, which I do for no purpose whatsoever except to make myself feel better about the woefully small weight I am capable of bench pressing.
But yesterday was dressage lesson day. And we had a FOCUS. Make sure Miss Mare actually was coming onto the contact properly. She has learned to “give” to the bit and stretch down. But without a whole lot of muscle backing it up, the next trick (as mentioned in the prior blog) is to “fake it” by holding her head in place, or by ducking behind the contact, leaving you with a handful of air, a pretty horse, but no real connection back to front.
Making that specific issue your focus for a lesson means you’re going to be using a LOT of leg. Just as fair warning. So, this is how I became re-aquainted with my adductors:
– slowing the trot and not letting it get long and on the forehand. We’ve been focusing a lot on “forward” with this horse, but now she’s at a stage where she needs to start holding herself up better. Which means sitting way up (yay abs!) and slowing everything waaay down and maintaining an even rhythm. Slowing down properly, of course, involves a lot of leg. You’re slowing the rhythm, but keeping the horse engaged and using the hind end. All of this, in turn, makes it a little harder for her to “fake it” by curling and dumping her weight on the forehand.
– lateral work. Oh, this is my favorite (not)! Being naturally crooked, weighting my hips properly and asking for lateral work without twisting is a lot like doing yoga with weights. She has difficulty with the lateral work (because it’s HARD, duh!) and thus the head comes up. But a cool thing happens when you have that inside hind engaged and drawing under the body, and that is that she is moving forward into the contact from behind. It’s not necessarily pretty looking, but it’s the right idea.
We worked a lot on that lateral work (leg yielding away from the wall, back to the wall, shoulder in, haunches in, and small circles when we started to ‘lose’ it and to keep reinforcing the idea of bend), and me keeping my seat well centered so that I was coming from a position of strength. It’s much easier to really keep that contact the same with Stef there guiding me, so by the end of the lesson I felt we’d made a lot of progress (and my legs were jello’ed completely!)
I did notice though, that an even greater discrepancy in the quality of her canter between left and right leads has developed. While she picks up the left lead quite nicely, the left lead is far less balanced and ridable than the right. So there we go, another thing to work on!
At least, after I recover my legs and am able to walk normally again!