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.