Sunday, September 7, 2008

Dressage is hard, yall

Back to this morning and my dressage lesson. Chrissy is fighting with her husband about whether or not they spend the money on lessons for her or something for him. I suspect she will win and end up taking lessons again, but this week I was on my own. I was back on Clipper the Arab, who is just such a sweet fellow.
I am beginning to understand the value of a schoolmaster horse. He knows what he should be doing, and if I halfway manage to cue him right he'll do it. Some of the stuff I'm learning, I just couldn't do if I had to argue with the horse about it.

I got to canter today, wheee! Cantering properly is hard. Or maybe it's just the horse I'm on - I'm not entirely sure yet.

I think anybody who teaches herself to ride ends up with some odd habits. I've told yall that I had a hard time learning to take up any contact at all, that I prefer to just throw the reins away and neckrein. Well, I'm getting the hang of light contact, but now I have to learn to use my legs too. The horses I ride all (well, aside from Poppy, who is just a very large tabula rasa) have very soft sides. The way you get a walking horse to walk is to just barely squeeze its sides. The way you get it to gait faster is to use a little more leg. If you actually wrap your legs around a walking horse, you are going to get its fastest running walk or rack. So I'm used to balancing with my stirrups and my thighs, but never ever letting my calves touch the horse unless I want more speed.

We worked on actually cueing walk/trot for a while today. Keeping my legs on the horse's sides and doing that tiny gentle squeeze for every step is WEIRD. Clipper is tiny, and it's hard for me to get my calves "on" him. You'd think it would be easier to wrap my legs around a smaller horse, but it's actually harder. Champ has an enormous barrel chest, Poppy is a small furry elephant, and even Dixie has a big barrel. I'm used to riding big horses.

I'm not really making excuses - it's new stuff, it's hard for me to get my brain and body to cooperate, and I'm ok with that. But it is definitely weird new muscle movements to get my calves where they need to be on such a small horse. I know I can stay balanced on Champ pretty well. Clipper? Well, the first time we cantered I bounced like the saddle had springs, but the second time was slightly better.

Stuff I need to work on this week:
  • More posting. I had some good trot sessions on Champ last week, and I feel like I"m getting my groove back, but I'm still not where I want to be. It's surprisingly hard to steer, keep the impulsion up, AND keep my legs in the right place. Two outta three ain't bad... but I can do better.
  • Wrap calves around horse while cantering. This is a lightbulb idea for me. I have only ever seen barrel racers run their horses, and it involves a lot of flapping legs.
  • Yoga. Dammit. I am so lazy. My horses deserve a better rider and really if I'd just sit down and do 10 minutes of yoga a night my joints would loosen up so nicely. Must fight the lazy.


  1. I have strong legs from all that dressage and figure skating way back when. My theory is that you keep the muscles you earned as a teenager, but they grow a layer of fat on top. Anyhow, the first time I rode Raven I wrapped my legs around her and she took off at a gallop. She has definitely taught me to be less dependent on my legs and more dependent on my seat. Tonka is the opposite -- I guess it's the best of both worlds? More work with Poppy will certainly help you out.

  2. Heh, I gained a ton of weight when I got the horses, because my legs bulked up so much. It went from pants fitting normally, to pants all baggy, to too loose waists and too tight thighs. Very annoying! Nothing at Old Navy fits me anymore :(


Feel free to comment!