Monday, December 30, 2019

Lesson 2 - Still doing it wrong

Lucky me, after my last lesson I got super sick with a cold and my throat felt like it had been shredded with glass. Totally not great for riding! As such, I got to only "practice" twice before my second lesson. I was working with teaching Mia the new seat cues and with clicker training, she was picking them up pretty quickly! Progress indeed!

Then on Thursday we had our lesson and found we are still doing everything wrong. Ha! Isn't that how it always goes? For the walk cue I was pushing my left seat bone forward and then my right, but at the halt I was just looking like I was doing the cha-cha. I misinterpreted the cue, the "seat bone swing" was while we were walking and not when halted. The walk cue should be just a lifting/opening of the pelvis. The trot cue was pushing down with my seat bones before trotting off, I should just start posting with a forward motion with my seat.

My halt cue is also incorrect. I have always tensed my inner thighs to halt and that is incorrect. It should be a drawing in of the belly button and just halting my movement. When done properly, Mia stopped dead square several times! It is going to take work to "fix" my muscle memory, changing so much at once is certainly not going to be an instant process. What is right is my down transitions (other than halt). I do them 100% correctly every time already, win!

For this lesson, we worked on really focusing on working specific muscle groups. The lesson was a lot of true shoulder in on a circle at a walk. This is so much harder than it sounds! The goal is to slow down and really work on building new muscle structure so Mia can easily do harder stuff when we ask for it. A says that she doesn't have an indoor and so she rides her horses in all weather at a walk, doing laterals, and builds tons of muscles because she has focused on one muscle group at a time. Makes sense, and I'm willing to try it out. After 40 mins of on/off laterals, Mia was pretty pooped!

A did see some of my pics from my last XC schooling last year and was impressed. She asked how can I have balance issues in dressage if my jumping position is so good? I told her it is my Innovation saddle makes me! LOL! She loved my automatic release and my balance over jumps. She said she is super excited to have us jump in a few months, when Mia has the muscling she wants. She wants Mia to really be able to tuck her pelvis over jumps and thinks that our dressage work is going to fix it pretty quickly. Fingers crossed?!

I am actually more optimistic now than I have been in the entire 2019 year about riding. I was pretty optimistic in the spring, but my doubt that I could actually DO Training level really clouded things and (obv) affected my showing. The finality of the decision for App also seriously affected my entire year. I think I have successfully squashed those feelings of inadequacy and that I "don't belong", and I don't have the guilt for App hanging over me now. A does a really good job of being pretty tough, pointing out my flaws, but not calling me incompetent. I know the winter is going to be tough and long, but I really think this winter will be our turning point. I think we can do it!

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Lesson time!

With Mia's neck issue, we had to cancel my lesson. And then the next lesson was cancelled due to illness (not mine). With my extensive traveling, I haven't been able to ride a lot but I have built up some stamina in preparation of our lesson. On Monday, we did a quick fitness ride with lots of trotting before working on transitions. While not super crisp, the canter transitions are coming back and the canter is slowly getting better even with the haunches  moving around.

The lesson went well. Really well. The instructor, A, and I seem to get along great. The biggest takeaway of the lesson is that it is time to up my education game. I make all of my transition queues via my legs, and I need to start making them via my seat bones (GAH). This is going to take time, obviously, but Mia is super smart and the instructor is confident, I am sure we will have it in a few weeks. By using my legs, I am very slightly changing my balance and am affecting her balance. If we can cue off of seat, my legs will be free to do other things. Makes sense I guess!

She also had me change my hands again. I used to ride with my hands down by my hip bones. In MI, I started riding with my hands up. When I had that fix-a-text this year, the judge said (among a lot of other things) I needed to ride with my hands down and wide again. Ugh. A wants me to ride with my hands up, so I am changing again. She also said my saddle may be a little small, my thigh is much longer than my calf and as a result, my knee pokes the plane of the knee roll when I have my stirrups where A wants them (up one hole from where I ride now). Since I am still very passively looking for a new dressage saddle, it may work. A is going to bring out other saddles for me to try out to see if I can find a model I like.

We worked a lot on holding contact and timing of my leg to get Mia to not only step under, but also step out. As soon as I let my leg up, or squeeze when her outside leg is active, she will gladly swing her haunches in. Time to fix that!

My next lesson is next Thursday, after Christmas. I will only be able to ride a couple of times before then, thanks to the last travel weekend for the foreseeable future and my now being sick. I'm actually excited to ride again though, and am really hopeful that weekly lessons will fast-track my progress and success for 2020. Let's bring on change, I am so ready for it!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

All the updates!

Wow, I actually have a bunch to talk about since our last post! First, I had a new saddle fitter out. The saddle fitter we had been using for the past 2 years had passed away. We found Advanced Saddle Fit out of NH and had her out, she knows a LOT about saddle trees and was very detailed in her conversations. She brought 5 trees of other saddles and showed how differently they fit and how they interact and interfere with backs, and that tree shape is more important than tree width in saddle fitting. She said Mia is very steep in the scapula and wide in her rib cage. Mia would only fit trees that were super neutral, and flat in the back without a lot of tree curvature.

Mia's back 2017
We fit the County saddle first and she was super happy with it! While the front of the saddle sits low on Mia's withers, it is very well balanced and required only the minor adjustment of plumping the flocking under the seat. She recommended that I ride with a half pad on every ride, so I will use my Thinline quilted pad, to raise the saddle and reduce the impact since County saddles don't have a ton of panel space for shock absorption. She really likes Pro-lite half pads, however with 5 different kinds of half pads already, I am going to use the Thinline for now.

Mia's back 2019 - more muscle!
Next was my Wintec Isabel. While she doesn't typically care for synthetic saddles, she did like my saddle and said it was also very well fitting for Mia's shape. She adjusted the wool flocking that had been added last year to accommodate Mia's muscle asymmetry, as the flocking had moved (or not put in a great place) and gotten lumpy. She recommended using a sheepskin half pad with the Isabel as well. The synthetic material of the Wintec traps warmth against skin and doesn't transfer heat like leather, so having the barrier of sheepskin will allow air transfer and introduce slight shock absorption. I have several sheepskin pads, so no worries there!
Mia's back 2019
The downside of the session was that Mia had been bit/kicked on her neck the day before. It was so painful, Mia trembled when you touched it. And she REALLY didn't want anyone touching it. I gave Mia both bute and banamine for 2 days, and then bute for several more days to try to make her comfortable. Mia couldn't turn her neck or head, and it took 4 days before she could turn her head to almost her shoulder. As of now, she is about 80%, however is still very stiff in her neck and can't bend her head/neck past her rib cage when bending to the left. Baby steps! Because of her neck, we didn't do anything more during the saddle fit session than a quick w/t/c along the long sides of the arena in a halter in the jump saddle to test out different half pads and it was agreed she traveled the same in the thinline as she did the Pro-lite, but not the sheepskin.
Next post will talk about the lesson I FINALLY had!