Saturday, December 26, 2015

Monday, December 14, 2015

Power Posture

I was nervous about starting again with a green horse, but this journey has turned out to be one of the most rewarding things I've done in a long, long time.  I thank my trainer, Regina, for that.  Where I used to hit a road block and stop, Regina can see things from a different perspective, anticipate issues, and help me get past it.  

It has also been fun to have a winter project and to bond more deeply with Leah, who I've raised since she was two. I feel like the Grinch whose, "small heart grew three sizes that day."  .

During our lessons, Regina has been working with me on what she calls my "power posture"--seat down--in order to make a connection with Leah and allow her to move up from under me.

I stopped about half way through the lesson to ask Regina what she meant by "power posture", and she told me that my horse can ignore me when I lean forward or am otherwise unbalanced, but when I sit back, she has to give me her attention and respond to my request.  In other words, my power posture connects me to her.

Leah's response to my request Friday was, NO.  She had taken three steps forward and one step back and wasn't inclined to give me her attention or give up control.  I don't like to make excuses (and yet I do), but there were three other horses in the arena at different times.  She didn't do anything bad, but she was avoiding by bending her head or dropping her head. No matter the reason, the response is the same: patience, and stick to what I'm asking her, until she makes the right choice--no matter how long it takes.

After five or ten minutes, she made the right choice and we moved on to doing the same thing at the trot--which, of course, makes it more difficult to stay in your power posture.  And, I will add, that when Leah isn't balanced, the saddle isn't balanced.  I used to think the saddle rolled because it wasn't tight enough, but Regina says it's because her spine isn't balanced and it's rotating the saddle.  When she's further trained and collected/balanced, she said, I won't have the slippage anymore.  But for now, that is one more thing making it difficult to stay balanced in my seat.

I found an interesting website that explains it and had a diagram that shows what, I think, Regina is asking me to do: Horse Collaberative "Sitting On A Horse In Balance."

I tend to lean forward.  The article above had this to say, which I find very interesting and accurate. From The Horse Collaberative: "Sitting On a Horse in Balance" Follow the link to read the whole article.:

"The Error of Leaning Forward

The reaction which takes us away from finding the correct position on a horse is our instinct to lean forward when we feel the movement of the horse underneath us. This is probably because, when we feel the power of the horse coming through the horse’s back from the haunches, our impulse is to disconnect ourselves from the movement by taking the weight out of the back of the seat-bones, so that we no longer feel the power coming through into our own body.

It is also a natural human reflex to crouch into the fetal position in order to protect ourselves when we are under threat. When sitting on a horse, this defensive position equates to tipping the upper body forwards, so that the rider’s shoulder are in front of their pelvis.

The problem with leaning forward when sitting on a horse, is again that it makes us lose our connection with the horse’s body, because we lift our weight out of the back of the seatbones – the place where we can best connect with the ‘engine’ of the horse’s movement: the haunches. It is only when we become one with the horse’s power that we can be in full security on a horse, and be in harmony with the movement.

Leaning forward, even slightly in front of the vertical, tilts the rider’s pelvis onto the pubic bone, which is not the right orientation to be able to follow and engage with the movement. In this position, the seat-bones point backwards against the direction of the horse’s energy, and the rider’s lower back is hollow, exposing the vertebrae to compression, with the impact of the movement, and possible damage.

… re-balancing a horse with the seat comes from the leverage we create by raising the front of the pelvis into suspension off the saddle by way of engaged core muscles.

The other reason leaning forward does not help the balance of horse and rider is that the horse already carries around two-thirds of his weight on the forehand (front legs), which is fine for his natural balance without a rider, but when the rider adds their weight, already sitting further towards the front-end than the haunches, the forehand becomes overloaded, and the horse, out of balance, ‘runs downhill’. Leaning forward brings the rider’s center of gravity towards the horse’s forehand, aggravating the situation."
 It's all food for thought.  My next lesson is tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

When You Feel Them In Your Heart

"When you feel it in here (your heart), 
when you feel for him, 
when you feel of him; 
the confidence can go down through that body, 
or you can take it out.” 
- Ray Hunt

This quote spoke to me today, especially the first half of the line, "When you feel it in here (your heart), when you feel for him, when you feel of him..."

I didn't have that feeling for Leah until I started riding her.  It's one thing to be on the ground with a horse (and I don't want to take anything away from that), but it's another thing to be on your horse.  

Last year, I did an interview with a wonderful horsewoman who advocated no riding, and since then, I've mulled it over and over and over...while continuing to enjoy riding.

I have to say, I think my horses enjoy it, too.  

Last Saturday my husband and I went on a trail ride, and when we got back to the trailer, Cowboy wouldn't approach it.  He pulled me away from the trailer and back onto the trail.  We just started to laugh--this crazy horse wants to keep going!  So, we obliged and went back on the trail.  Penny was also happy to move back out again. 

Horses are curious, athletic, sentient beings.  I know they enjoy the new scenery, the movement, and the fellowship as much as we do. 

Yesterday I had another lesson with Leah.  I'm so proud of her. She's come a long, long way--further than I have, I'm sure!  Most of what we did was me sitting back and quieting my legs at the back up, walk forward and turn--getting her to round her back a bit more and put more purpose and energy into her step.  For the turn, I was to use my own purpose--no steering and no leg--and she was so sensitive--picked right up on those subtle cues. In fact, I'm not sure what the cues were.  Regina told me to think about turning, and Leah turned.  I imagine my body was turning a little when I thought about it, and that's what she perceived.

The stop work was interesting, too.  I was to sit back and gather up alternating reins a little at a time until she stopped.  It was important to stay quiet and not pull back, just these gentle gathers of the rein until she figured it out.  Then, when she stopped, I backed her up and moved her out again.  After a few times, she was really picking up that those gentle gathers meant to stop.  

I'm not sure where all this is going, but I'll let you know when I do.  

I find myself daydreaming a lot about Leah now, and wishing I was with her--Beautiful Girl, too, who is still in a stall and gets special daily attention.  And, of course, Cowboy.  

I feel them all in my heart, as Ray Hunt would say.