Lesson With Joan

Doug and I were very fortunate in having a lesson with Joan yesterday. She can't come very often :( due to family health issues, but we sure appreciate her when we can get her. If only I could work with her more often. She astounds me in her ability to diagnose the cause of issues and fix them. Yesterday, in one lesson, she fixed the problems I wrote about recently (slightly counter bent when going left, sluggish canter transitions and loss of 'jump' and energy in the canter). I assumed the issues were there for now and that I'd need to work diligently for weeks (at least) to fix them. Honestly, we have our own personal biomechanical diagnostic machine and solution finder when she comes :)
I feel like I  should be able to diagnose these things myself, and fix them at this point. Although I'm very much an amateur, I think I should know these lower levels and basics fairly well by now. Somehow though, when I'm not having lessons, I drift. I try something I saw on a video. Something different works one day and then not again, although I keep trying it. I get a little worried that something isn't working and then try harder, and HARDER. A 'bad' muscle memory creeps back in and I don't even know it. And so on... Does anyone else do this or am I alone? Here in Canada, Newfoundlanders are known for their wittiness and colorful use of the English language, and I'm afraid I fall into the 'stunned as me arse' category!
Anyway, back to fixing the problems. Here's what Joan did (or had me do). In response to me telling her about the counter bending when going left, she got me to show her, then called me in and told me that the main problem was that I was raising my inside (left) hand. Additionally I was holding the outside rein a little too much (she doesn't have us use the outside rein to the extent that many/most people use it today; more on that in a future post). I rode it a few times with she and Doug watching and God help me didn't I keep raising that inside hand every time. I actually 'anchored' it (in my mind) by touching the saddle pad with it and thought I didn't move it, but she and Doug both confirmed I raised it even then! We worked on it a bit - inside hand staying low, look to the outside and weight the outside stirrup (to counter what has become a bit of a habit with him), outside rein keeping contact and supporting but not holding, seat pushing forward to keep impulsion. It helped a lot, but it was a fine balancing act and he wanted to turn out.
Then we worked on the canter transitions and carrying it. First she watched. The verdict? Yes, I was worried and trying to rush him and trying too hard. Yuk. So she got me to relax and quietly ask correctly. Duh. Instant success. How does my horse tolerate me? Why do I keep slipping into that bad habit?
Then she got Doug and I to work on transitioning within canter - working canter, lengthen, shorten, hand gallop, back again, etc. etc. They loved it! Problem solved. Lot's of jump and forwardness. Lot's of good transitions. Thank you Joan!
My other big challenge right now is keeping my heels down and legs quiet when trotting. The direction from Joan is bare back and lunging. I love bare back, but only do it on Savanah, or occasionally Dan. I tried it once with Rogo last summer, but he got very excited and didn't listen to aids and I haven't gotten around to working on it. Today I got Doug to lunge me on Rogo and we worked on quiet legs. I realized my hips are much too tense and I need to free them up to get my legs long, heels down and legs quiet in the trot. I'm going to keep getting Doug to lunge me regularly and next time will be bare back. This is our # 1 goal for equitation.
After lunging I did a bit of trotting to the left, following Joan's instruction, and Rogo stayed softly and easily flexed to the inside. I couldn't believe it! I've had this problem before (bad muscle memory!) and a previous teacher literally gave me the same lesson for six weeks, with not the slightest improvement, trying to fix it. She got angrier at me every lesson and didn't stop repeating the same lesson that didn't work until I called a halt to it. Anyway, enough of that. Don't get me started.
Doug and I are taking Joan's husband Roy for radiation treatments this week. I hope it gives him some relief from pain. He is a wonderful person and an icon in our community - volunteer, amazing story teller, heritage advocate, heritage home restorer, preserver of history, great cook, etc., etc.What ever I write about him seems inadequate, but I'll just say he's one of the most inspirational people I've ever met.
Thanks for the comments on my last post. Most of them disappeared, due to a Blogger malfunction. Just wanted you to know I didn't delete them.


So happy that you got a lesson in with your real trainer Carol! You must be relieved. Sounds like it was very successful :)

So - just to add my 2¢ (for what it's worth) on the outside rein issue... what I've been taught is that the outside rein contact is more contact relative to the inside rein, and in conjunction with the inside leg. More importantly - it's never holding, but elastic and dynamic through the elbow.

Regarding bareback - my thinline bareback pad makes me feel very secure - it is easy to stick to, and it sticks to my horse as well. So far bareback riding is the only thing that has consistently opened my hips besides lunging.

I hope your friend gets some relief from his treatments this week...
Anonymous said…
I wanted to comment on your "bad muscle memory" statement. Getting a very long story over quickly, I have fallen off probably 60+ times by now, which has left my body hurt, ached, and in pain all over. When riding, some of these aches get stronger in certain situations. For example, one time a young horse spooked in the shedrow and ducked into a stall unexpectedly (which nearly took my head off!) but he stopped so quick once in the stall I was thrown to the wall, then he had a mad fit and lunged himself into me again. Once I was down he stepped on me then eventually ran out of the stall. Now when I ride any horse into a stall after a gallop the parts of my body that were most injured stiffen up. Sometimes I will even walk out of the stall with a limp because the pain is so bad (even though the pain is in my head!) I feel so much better getting off outside the stall, but that’s not how it is done at the track. Yes, "bad muscle memory" does exist.
Jeni said…
I'm sorry to hear about Joan's husband my prayers to them.

As for your lessons... you'll get it, relax and enjoy.
I think it's great you finally got a lesson with Joan and she helped you fix your problems. It's always good to have a trainer on the ground who can assess the situation and give input to correct the glitches.

Sorry to hear about your friend and hope the treatments help him.
Julia_Julia said…
Rising Rainbow said…
I'm glad you were able to get a lesson from Joan. Sounds like she gets you thinking just by being there.

Remember this whole thing is a process. There are no set rules or timelines. It will go the way it needs to for you and Rogo to get there together. There will be all kinds of things you learn along the way and that's part of the process too. Don't be hard on yourself about what you didn't know. Instead appreciate what you have learned. It will make the process easier and more productive that way.
Jan said…
Carol, That was a great lesson! Joan gave you some good feedback, that we can't ever give ourselves because we don't see or even feel what we are doing. But don't feel bad, we all have probably given ourselves erroneous muscle memory at some time or the other. You are working really hard - good for you! I think that one of the best things Joan suggested (it applies to me too!) was to relax, when giving the cues. Sometimes we do try awfully hard to get all of the various bits correct. But being told to relax about it, helps us to not try as hard. And that is wonderful about working on the speeds/ collection within the canter. Tell me, how do you shorten the canter stride? I'd like to try to get better with Buckshot at the canter, but have only used/requested one speed (and my humming speed-slower). So I'm curious how you do it. (I'm sorry to hear about your friend undergoing radiation- so glad you can help with the transportation. I'm sure your presence is a comforting one.) Good work to both you and Rogo!!
Carol said…
Great feedback everyone, thanks. Christine, that sounds very scary. Glad you're okay!
So true that this is a process and I need to stay positive.
Jan, re shortening/lengthening or speeding and slowing the canter stride - it will take me a bit of space to write, so I'll do a post.
achieve1dream said…
Yeah blogger has been very irritating. I tried to go back and put comments on all of the posts it deleted but I'm sure I missed a few. :(

Sounds like a great lesson. I hope things get better for Joan so you can have more regular lessons with her. She's sounds so awesome.

I hope Joan's husband feels better after his treatment. So sad to have to go through all of that.