The verdict on my first lesson in over a year can be summed up in two words: humbling and amazing. It was a balmy 90 degrees and muggy with rain storms on the way. My parents were in town and my husband came as well which meant that a) I would have media and b) everyone would see that I’m basically a beginner all over again.
My ride for the day was a 16.3 hand Hanoverian/Paint gelding named Frankie (short for Frank Sinatra). Frank is a confidence builder supreme and let me flop around while I struggled to find my balance. Being used to 15 hand Arabians, Frank was a tank to me but I really, really enjoyed him.
As soon as I mounted (using a massive mounting block I might add), my right hip started spasming. I’ve always had weak hips and it didn’t take long for my body to remind me that I’m no longer a teenager. The instructor – we’ll call her Trainer J – showed me some stretches that were challenging but really beneficial. And off we went!
The first thing I noticed was how tight my body was and Trainer J noticed the same. My seat wanted to stretch tall and long and be supple but there was a massive amount of rust. One of the first things I appreciated about J’s teaching style was her incorporation of baby yoga stretches. Frankie was content to plod along no matter how I contorted my body.
Eventually, my hips started to swing and my leg got a little longer and draped a little better. She also had my exaggerate pulling my shoulders back. A few years behind a desk will really destroy your posture! Looking at photos and videos after makes me realize my shoulders weren’t near as far back as it felt like they were. That was eye opening!
Trainer J encouraged me to keep the same width between my collar bones as between my shoulder blades. I think this may be a Sally Swift thing but that image really helped me. After getting my joints loosened up at the walk, we moved on to trotting. Boy, I better get used to eating humble pie.
While I can certainly post and I haven’t forgotten my diagonals, the rest of my trot work needs rebuilding. Immediately she called me out on posting much too far out of the saddle and not allowing Frankie’s motion to create the movement. I also started tilting forward and undoing my work to get my shoulders back and core engaged. Darn it!
Best husband ever took some video on his iPhone. Blogging is about the journey and being honest, right? Here you go. I wish it was longer but hubby had limited memory space.
Obviously my toe starts leaving the building but I’m ok with that because I know it’s a lack of strength. She laughed when I told her everything she was saying made sense, I just had to get my body to listen up.
I will say that by the end of the lesson, I felt a lot more confident and I could see a big difference in my leg. Big difference meaning instead of looking like a sack of potatoes I looked like a solid handful – but I’ll take it!
As humbling as it was to be hit in the face with yes, you are a beginner again, I haven’t been so happy since, well, the last time I was on a horse. I am completely consciously incompetent and I have never been so excited to be a novice.
My big takeaways and homework are:
- Post from your inner thigh, not your knee. Let your leg drape and your toe come in by engaging the inner thigh and not pinching elsewhere.
- The distance between your collar bones should be the same as the distance between your shoulder blades. Even though my shoulders felt jammed back, seeing myself proves that they definitely were not.
- Keep a following feel in my elbows while keeping my upper arm draped loosely by my side. This is the only way that I can (eventually) establish elastic contact.
- Let the horse’s motion create the post. I don’t need to come high out of the saddle, just barely and briefly (which if you switch to is way harder!).
- Practice stretching my hips (she showed me a few yoga poses) as well as keeping my shoulders back and stretching them regularly at my desk.
Another thing that made me like J is that she brought up lunge lessons. I may have said “YES PLEASE” before she finished her sentence. I would love nothing more than to be put on the lunge line and have my reins and stirrups taken away. Sign me up for independent seat bootcamp!
Money is tight right now with Nibbles’ show so my next lesson won’t be until around September 1st. I’m counting it down.