Lots of things going on today. First I rode Bino for his daily Cowboy Song walk hack around our little valley. The song that popped into my head today is, “I know where love lives.” I don’t know where these songs come from, but I go with it. If you’ve been reading, you know that he has navicular and we are taking it very easy with him and enjoying what we can do together. Taking him on these hacks has a whole other dimension of enjoyment that I’d forgotten about–riding just to ride. Since I train horses, I had gotten into the habit of correcting any behaviour that could potentially get the horse in trouble with me or his owner in the future. Bino is in a different situation, though, so I get to let the little things slide. When I brought him to the mounting block today and swung a leg over, he didn’t wait until I’d entirely picked up my outside stirrup before he walked off. Usually I would correct this. Today, I just let it slide. When we were walking through some tall grass on the ride, he grabbed a mouthful on the way by. So what? No worries. I let him munch away. This must be what it is like when a mom realizes her kid is an adult, that she doesn’t have to, nay, shouldn’t, correct every last faux pas, but rather let the child live his life as he would like. Some moms never get to that point, to the constant annoyance of their adult children. Today I got to be the mature parent with the grown child. I got to enjoy his personality, strengths and faults, with no judgement, and totally enjoyable for both of us. I didn’t see that coming. Sometimes, on these beautiful autumn days, in the soft footing of the soybean fields, I think, “oh, he’s alright, maybe we are making the wrong decision.” But then, almost immediately when I think that, he trips as he often does. Since his feet hurt, he doesn’t pick them up very high, and therefore often trips. I also think of the radiographs and the coming frozen ground and the painful prognosis. I pull my mind away from that and I let him munch grass, and pat his thick black neck.
Then it was on for a ride on Elliot. You may recall a few weeks ago, that I found my sitting trot after it had left me for a short hiatus. (Ok, 6 weeks doesn’t seem short at the time…) Well, it turns out I didn’t really have it back yet. I had it back for working trot, and I had it back for Eddie’s trot, but I didn’t have it back for Elliot’s extravagant warmblood trot. I could only sit that well for about 5 strides, after which I would be left unceremoniously behind like some turnip off the wagon, and I would have to resort to posting to not be too much of an annoyance to Mr. Floaty Trot! But there is no crying in baseball or dressage (ok, there probably has been plenty of crying in dressage, but a lot of it is hidden behind post-ride wine and cheese clutches) so I had to figure out what the real problem was.
So I pulled out pictures of my riding to see what was going on.
I have no ego about my riding. I am only as good as my horses say I am, and they are pretty clear communicators. I’m not trying to be better than anybody and I know I am not as good as some. So, when I look at pictures of my riding, I am pretty ruthless, and it doesn’t bother me in the least because my heart is in the right place. Intent is everything. I had to explain that because when I look at this picture I think, “Overall, not a bad pictures, but 1) more inside leg, less inside hand, and 2) let go in your back, let your pelvis come forward and everything would straighten out, silly. ;-)
Ok, so the first comment is fairly self-evident. If you’ve ridden with a dressage instructor and not heard “Let go of the inside rein!” either you are a riding savant or your instructor is busy texting in an Ebay bid on Totalis tail hair during your lesson.
The second comment is more subtle. ”let go in your back, let your pelvis come forward and everything would straighten out.” When we ride, we should sit on the tripod of our two seat bones and our pubic bone. In the picture above, I am sitting almost solely on my seat bones, because my back is slightly braced. If I would let go on my back, which is to allow the lower back to come forward (and the belly button to come forward), the pubic bone would come down to support my weight, much like the front wheels of a landing airplane come down after the back wheels touch down. When all three sets of wheels are on the ground, things are very stable (and the passengers are much happier!). When the rider is properly balanced on the tripod everything else “straightens out”. By that I mean that the legs and the upper body may become correct.
Landing gear down. Why George William is my riding hero.
Here is a picture of George Williams who always has the landing gear down. You might remember that I ran into him at the WEG. He’s a very kind person too. Most excellent. In this picture and a million others, he has beautiful position in his upper and lower body because the center is correct. Now, I am not saying I am a bad rider, but I’m saying George is a great rider. If you compare my photo with Geo.’s, you’ll see that he is better able to stretch down in his leg and his upper body is much more solid than mine in that picture above. Because I am not elastically following the motion of the horse’s back in my lower back above, I am forced to bring my upper body forward to compensate. Because Geo. has allowed the natural curve of his lower back to act like a natural spring to keep him wholly connected in his seat to the horse, his upper body stays nicely aligned over his pelvis. My leg isn’t bad, but it appears jammed up into my hip socket. My stirrups aren’t too short, my pelvis is at the wrong angle. Geo’s leg seems to have an elastic connection to his hip. All these differences are pelvis angle. Front landing gear up vs. front landing gear down.
So I was playing around with that the last few weeks trying to regain the ability to sit Elliot’s fancy lengthened trot. When I focus on relaxing (this is an oxymoron. One can no more focus on relaxing than one can turn their head to test their peripheral vision.) my pelvis and to let my lower back move with the horse rather than sitting against it, I can fairly easily sit his lengthened trot for long periods of time. The trick is in not resisting — in reminding myself to flow with the horse in my lower back. So I channel George a lot.