Thursday, September 27, 2012

The role of history

I have a membership with  I love it.  I get to see so many videos of competitions and clinics.  Many a night finds me glued to the tv, trying to learn even more about riding.

I watch a wide variety of videos.  My first choice is, of course, eventing competitions.  A close second is dressage competitions.  I also watch clinics from dressage, eventing, jumpers, trail riding, and even equitation.  Tonight I had two videos to watch.  The first was Mary King's video on enjoying cross country.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  She only uses one stud per foot on lower level horses.  Huh.  I'll keep that in mind the next time I'm running late and feeling frantic.

My second was Frank Madden's Fundamentals for Rideability.  I haven't really watched an equitation video in awhile.  I've really been focusing on finding tips for improving my dressage performance, not on looking spiffy.  However, equitation courses are far more challenging than any other discipline and getting Fiona as rideable as an equitation horse would guarantee she could handle any course she'd come across as an eventer.

I'm watching these two equitation riders and all I can think is 'that's the problem'.  I'm one of them still.  You see pictures of me in dressage and I have that break at the hip and my hands are too low and forward.  I'm not correct and I get nailed on my position scores regularly.  I'm watching these equitation riders and seeing the exact same thing being praised.  I spent twenty years locking my body into that position.  I can sit the canter and trot just fine like this and be an effective rider.  It's just incorrect for my new discipline.

It took me twenty years to get that little break in the hip and to get my hands low and quiet.  Now I'm relearning, lifting my hands and rocking my upper body back.  It's slow, painful going.  Just today I got chastised for moving my body too much over a cross rail (yes, Fi dragged me over a cross rail, I was ecstatic!).  My trainers spent years teaching me to close with a big release, now I'm having to reprogram everything.  Now I have to stay back and use my automatic release.  I'm going to get hurt if I don't stay back on cross country, to say nothing about making my mare crazy with all of that extra movement.  I'm sure my trainer is frustrated, saying the same things to me over and over again.  We're coming up on three years together and she's still trying to get me to sit back.

I'm doing better.  You can see it in photos, my upper body is coming back and my legs are coming down.  I just need to figure out how to sit down in the saddle like a dressage rider. My frickin' seat bones never seem to be in the right place. Right now, I genuinely don't know how to sit like a dressage rider.  I feel out of balance most of the time, trying to find that safe, secure place that I used to have.  I'm very much in balance in my hunter position, but it's not suited for dressage or cross country.  It's almost terrifying making this change.  I find myself clamping onto the saddle and locking up.  If I get stressed or flustered, I revert to my old position to feel more secure.

It's just a phase.  I know it is.  I'll probably never be a stunning, classical dressage rider.  My childhood riding will always influence my position.  I can, however, be a pretty good adult amateur dressage rider.  Eventually I will learn where to put my seat bones and my body will learn to be comfortable in this new position.  I just have to be patient.

In the meantime, it's a balm to my pride that I still have a pretty spiffy equitation position.  Too bad there are no style points in eventing.  Sometimes I miss the hunters and equitation.  Maybe I should take Fi to a hunter/jumper show and play in the equitation ring . . .

Yeah . . .

Probably not the best idea.  I can only imagine what the judges would think of the princess and her excessive enthusiasm. 

1 comment:

  1. Changing into a dressage seat is HARD!

    But what I'm learning is - all those times it was hard to sit the trot in eq classes, or to get more canter? In a good dressage seat, it's easy!

    I've had to take classes with a biomechanics instructor (she has clinics here monthly in the cooler months), because she has the vocabulary to explain different ways to use my muscles to make me sit more correctly. I have trouble figuring out what to do with my body, so the theory of sit back and open hip angle doesn't connect - so she talks to me of bringing the points of my hips together which moves the seat bones apart to allow a deeper seat and helps turn the knees toward forward instead of splay-legged spider. She talks of pushing my ribs into my spine which gets rid of the hollow back and shifts my balance in the right place to allow the horse's movement to move my hips. From that point I can lift a seatbone to ask for canter or lighten the weight of my seatbones to ask for trot lengthenings... but DAMN, it's hard to break the habits of hunter eq! A year into working with her, and my knees want to come up, and my seat wants to rotate out behind me a bit still.