Saturday, December 13, 2014

Steps to the Changes | A Better Canter (final version)

(Blogger kind of screwed up this post, and didn't publish it correctly. Here's the final version!)

My last lesson with Nancy focused on the canter I'll need to aim for the changes, and I ended up with a huge list of positional issues to improve before we move forward. For the most part, most of these changes have to do with my riding, not with Pig. While he is the Captain of Evasion, his naturally fabulous canter makes the majority of this work easy for him (when I get it right).

The problems I brought to Nancy were 1) Pig constantly falls on his right shoulder, in all gaits, and 2) We keep flubbing the right canter depart, and I wasn't sure why. Here's a video example of our right canter depart flub...
Did you spot the issues? I couldn't. It turns out, they were pretty hard to spot, but obvious once pointed out.
  1. Instead of pointing my inside hipbone forward and up, I was putting it forward and DOWN. Basically stopping the movement up that the canter depart required.
  2. I'm collapsing my upper body to the right, again stopping Pig from being able to lift up and move through with his body. Oops.
  3. My right thigh is STILL creeping up to my ears. God. Why?
Solving all those problems takes a lot of positional awareness on my part, and is proving to be difficult to do on my own. (Remember, I only see my trainer once or maaaybe twice a month. All my work is on my own.) My upper body collapsing to the right is something I do in my daily life. (Spoiler alert: I'm doing it right now!) It's hard for me to feel when I'm doing it, and harder to correct it without throwing the rest of my body out of whack. My trainer tells me to "lift from the armpits," which helps me lift and straighten my torso without losing the elastic elbows and relaxed shoulders I've been working hard on.

Once I get my torso up, I feel Pig take a bigger jump in his canter. Next thing I know, up comes my right thigh. It starts creepin' up towards the pommel of my saddle, like it wants to be besties with my belly button.

No thigh. My stomach wants no part of you. Stay down.

I fix the thigh issue by taking my leg off my horse, shaking it a touch to relax it (having a spectacularly lazy horse is useful here!), and thinking about pointing my knee at the ground. That lengthens my thigh, brings my heels up a little, and places my lower leg back where it's supposed to be.

Now with my leg in the right place, I realize that my hip bone has started pointing down instead of up again, and my seatbones have lost contact with my saddle. So I think about pointing with my hip up and in the direction of where I want to go. Leading the canter with my hip, if you will. At the same time, I locate my seatbones and make sure they are actually sitting, not hovering.

Now I've dropped my hands in an effort to manage contact, and instead totally losing my pony's cooperation. So, up come my hands and down and uber bent go my elbows. That usually offends Pig, so on go my legs to keep him moving into the contact.

My leg coming on hard will push my thigh back up. In the process of fixing that and keeping my hands up, I forget to keep my torso engaged and up. That means I can't keep impulsion going with Pig. So I pony kick, put my legs where they go, find my seatbones, and shove my torso up and through the space created between my arms.

We get a great big leaping and gorgeous canter stride.

Then my hip bone forgets to stay up. And the whole process starts over again... yeeesh.

Things to do: Shoulder's down, torso forward, hips up, seatbones on, thighs down, legs on softer.
Pig? You just keep doing what you're doing, horse.

15 comments:

  1. I totally feel your pain on the collapsing through one side. All of this just goes to show how intricate and complicated dressage becomes the further a rider progresses. I love that you (and your trainer) are so aware even the slightest imbalances. I've talked to friends and trainers about things like this before and been told I was over thinking. I don't think that body awareness and how it affects horse and rider is over thinking. Anyway, (I got a bit if subject there) because you are aware of all of that, you will fix it and have that gorgeous, flowing canter with awesome changes soon :)

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    1. *a bit off subject* Ugh, my phone...

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    2. My trainer is very in to biomechanics, which appeals to me. I can understand a biomechanics approach to training, and my particular sensitive beast responds remarkably well to it. Of course, there are other training approaches, and I know they work. I just don't understand how. (yet)

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  2. I collapse my left side! So ... yay for being collapsing sisters. hahaha. derrr.

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    1. Hur dur! I think I figured out the root source of my collapse... driving my stick shift. Whoops!

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  3. So much to think about and remember i am in awe of your body isolation abilities. One day maybe ill be 1/3rd as aware & maybe by then ill have convinced my heels to stay down ;-)

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    1. Just because I'm aware of it doesn't mean I can fix it! ;)

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  4. we all have issues to fight in our riding. I'm wondering though if some of yours might be with the saddle. It could be that your leg is moving forward and up because that's where the saddle is putting it. I only mention it because I spent years fighting positional issues that disappeared once I got a new saddle- one of them being the creeping forward leg......

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    1. I've considered that. My old saddle was a super old County that DID put me into a chair seat I couldn't get out of. This new one is much better, but doesn't hold me in position. I am pretty convinced the issue is with me. The only time I feel like I have my leg far enough under me is when I'm riding in my trainer's saddle with MASSIVE thigh blocks. I can't afford one of those, so I'll just be torturing myself to figure it out muscularly. :)

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  5. So many tiny inter-connected parts... makes my head hurt :)

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    1. I know eventually I'll develop the muscle memory, and this will all be just normal. But until then, I'm right there with you in migraine-land!

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  6. how could a non-horsey person understand how difficult riding really is? and it never stops to be surprising... but that motivates us, right? ;)

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    1. It does! If I wasn't so motivated by perfecting the little details, dressage would be terrible! :)

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  7. sheesh - so much to think about!! but as they say, knowing is half the battle. of course, i can figure out all my own little imbalances and unevenness when i'm sitting around thinking about it, but put me in the saddle and my brain just empties lol. good luck!!!

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