in a poetic mood

Last week Beka got me all in a poetic mood, so I also wrote one for Horse Junkies: Ten Things I Hate About Dressage.

Thing #1:¬†No Heath Ledger. ūüė¶

And now that I come to think about it, Joseph Gordon Levitt hasn’t made an appearance in my dressage life either….


old lady problems

I had a lovely, relaxing weekend of celebration (with beer donuts! anyone want a recipe?) and pony rides.  I honestly travel or have some kind of adventure on so many weekends (usually 3 per month) that a weekend at home with the creatures is a luxury.

Anyway, after a long few days off to recover from camp Pony was back in work, and then promptly terrified me by looking lame on the lunge line. ¬†SIGH. ¬†He wasn’t, though, just stiff and sore still from our camping adventures. ¬†Though I was obviously sad he was sore, it does fill me with a little bit of joy that despite it being a very tiring weekend, Murray was willing to give me his all for our stadium and XC rides. ¬†So we took it easy Wednesday and Thursday with light, stretchy dressage rides, asking pony to remember how to stretch since he had clearly forgotten in all of that jumping excitement.

As we worked towards returning to our former dressage “glory” I decided to accept “good enough” stretch and warm-up work and just move on to some of our current exercises, like shallow counter-canter serpentines and crisp simple changes. ¬†I suspect I am suffering from a kind of shifting baseline-like effect — I’m so used to the new “normal” that it seems that we have made no progress, despite having made LOTS of progress in the last year. ¬†I’ve also been working hard on my own position lately, since I discovered how freakishly crookedly I ride. ¬†[I wrote about that for Horse Junkies last week.]

Glorious for the dressage hating baby

Saturday I got on for what was supposed to be an easy, quiet dressage ride and Murray decided he had completely, utterly, totally, entirely forgotten the concept of bend. ¬†I am sure that holding my body in a new way is freaking him out, but it will be better for us in the long run. ¬†So I took a cue from many of the blogs I’ve read lately and just worked on shifting his shoulders around both on and off a circle, and finally worked towards the spiral in. ¬†We only got to about a 13 meter circle in the middle before Murray’s bend would break down, but we did¬†finally get true bend in there, and I managed to control his bulging shoulder on the spiral-out too. ¬†A hard exercise for a pony generally disinclined to acquiesce to that request. ¬†I try to include some canter work in every ride too, since I know it helps stretch hamstrings and limber the back by using the pelvis in a different motion, so we did some of that too.

Sunday I did something I have never done before — you all are going to laugh at me — I jumped in the rain. ¬†Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever even ridden outside in rain like that. ¬†We had an uncharacteristic California Spring shower (THANK YOU ALASKA FOR THE COLD FRONT!), and I was already tacked up and had set my jumps outside when it started sprinkling. ¬†No worries, I thought, time for some George Morris style saddle breaking-in. ¬†Well, then it got colder and rainier and the only way to stay warm was to keep moving so I did. ¬†Fortunately, we came in before it started POURING freezing cold rain on us.

And that brings me to my old lady problems. ¬†In getting Murray and myself fitter, I’ve been doing a lot more two-point. ¬†And lots more two-point has actually really been helping my balance and position so yay. ¬†However, lots more two-point also makes the outside of my calf hurt. ¬†You know that tendon that runs down the outside of your shin bone? ¬†I have no idea what it’s called, but it’s always stretched when I two-point because my heels get so deep. ¬†And then after some trotting and cantering it starts to kinda… hurt in a stretched way. ¬†As I’ve done more and more two-point in my rides, it’s hurt later and later in the ride (so it’s getting stronger, I think?) but I can’t really two-point around every day since I do a lot of dressage work so… any exercises to help that tendon/muscle/whatever strengthen and hurt less?

The other old lady problem I have is my left foot. ¬†The big muscle under the arch/base of my foot starts to cramp after a while. ¬†And then I have to kinda pinch my knee to relieve the pressure, or shove my foot into my stirrup so the stirrup bar puts pressure on that muscle. ¬†I suspect it’s because I’m tensing my foot up somehow, but attempts at relaxing it are futile! ¬†Any hints on that one, fellow old ladies?

The language of dressage

When I first started riding dressage, about four years ago now, I was certain that I knew what dressage was all about: The Headset. I had seen it in the videos. I knew The Headset wasn’t easily achieved, and that it took a Good Rider to get The Headset. When I watched Grand Prix freestyles, I was perplexed as to the differences in scores from one ride to the next: they all had it, The Headset, so what were those judges seeing that I wasn’t? Every horse was beautiful, but why were some more beautiful than others?

[read more at Horse Junkies United]

Pressure Proof Your Riding with Daniel Stewart

I’m not a seasoned show Jedi like my trainer, so pretty much whenever I am about to enter the jumper arena my stomach drops, or rises to my throat, or does flip flops…. or whatever it feels like doing that day. ¬†I’ve gotten a lot better, in part because I am pretty confident in my ability to remember a dressage test or jump course these days. ¬†But there is still a lot to remember — keeping Murray calm, uphill, and forward, or relaxed, stretching, and loose, as the case may be, not crossing my lines, keeping my heels down, not throwing myself at the jumps — and under pressure most of those fly out of the window.

There is something you can do to help yourself perform better under pressure: practice under pressure! ¬†This is the central tenet of Daniel Stewart’s Pressure Proof Clinic Series. ¬†DStew simulates pressure by asking riders to do some really near-impossible things (ride a course of their own design, not cross their lines, don’t repeat jumps, count strides up to 7 out, and do it in exactly the time assigned!!) in his clinics. ¬†Setting us up to “fail” isn’t the point of this clinic — though being okay with a less-than-perfect performance is one thing that DStew encouraged — it’s to show riders how well they CAN perform under pressure, as well as to get riders used to performing under pressure in order to improve our performances in other pressureful environments.

Help me Obi Wan, you’re me only hope.

Since I can’t get Obi Wan to help me, I think I’ll be employing Coach Stewart’s methods much more in the future. ¬†For more details on the clinic, check out my clinic report on ¬†Horse Junkies United!
Pressure Proof Your Riding: My Clinic with Daniel Stewart