Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Re-educating my legs (and seat and hands)

I still retain a a very juvenile sense of justice from my childhood a major tenant of which is "if you work hard, you should see results". Clearly this isn't the most preposterous belief; in many disciplines this is true. And for much of my life, when I have put in days, months of hard work into something, I have seen positive results. However, with riding I have discovered that hard work does not merit results, rather correct work merits results. I am by no means saying that it does not take hard work to make progress in riding; indeed it does, but it is only perfect practice that makes perfect. You may be saying "well, yea, I knew that", but I don't think I did before pursuing this sport.

Before I began learning about and practicing dressage, I thought it was boring; I now have the utmost respect and awe for any rider who pursues dressage. It's ridiculously hard and the skills it requires seem almost mysterious (how did she get that movement from that almost invisible adjustment of her hip?). In my pursuit to ride correctly, I am having to re-educate my body, especially my legs, seat and hands. Those who ride dressage know this all too well. Currently I communicate with my legs through harsh thumps (oh, the horror) especially when I want Caesar to move off my left leg. It goes something like this--he pushes his left shoulder in, or out as it may be, I get tense and frustrated and go THUMP, THUMP, THUMP with my left leg. He doesn't like this, but he's got such a good heart that he tolerates it, trusting that I am really saying something he needs to hear. Oh, man, it can be so bad! My hands are similar--I pull to slow his tempo, I pull to turn him, I pull to push him off my outside leg (all of which should be accomplished by seat and leg).

So today when I got particularly frustrated by his tendency to fall to the left, I went maniac with my hands and legs for a bit; yea, another one of my beliefs still lagging from childhood seems to be "if I get frustrated enough, it will fix the problem". Ha! Of course not, especially with horses! Finally, I removed my stirrups and rode for 30 minutes without them, just focusing on using soft aides from the seat, leg and hands. Eventually, Caesar got nice and forward and round, happy really, like "I get this." The last 20 minutes saw good trot work and for the most part he was not leaning to the left, and if he began to, responded to my firm press and release (rather than thumping). Despite the frustration, I love rides like this, where I really begin to feel what I am supposed to feel, where what I have learned through lessons and reading actually clicks. It's really all about breaking bad habits, re-learning how to use my seat, legs, and hands (and everything else in between). Days like this I am taking what I know cognitively and applying it biomechanically. Never having seriously practiced a sport, I find this particularly refreshing. In riding, I feel the ah-has moments are greater than in other sports because it's not just you saying Ah-ha; it's your noble steed chiming in as well.

1 comment:

  1. You know, I'm not sure if I've ever taken the stirrups off Prima's saddle; I may have to give it a try... although I'm scared! Maybe I'll wait til after the Silva clinic, incase I fall off and break myself ;)!