Four Down…One To Go

So a glance at the calendar today made me realize that exactly three weeks from today I will be headed down centerline for the last time this year at the CBLM USDF Region 1 Finals.
It has been a challenging show year, but not because our work. Mother Nature conspired to make the weather front and center at most of our licensed shows. She has a sick sense of humor…torrential rains right before our first and second shows made footing an issue. And hellish heat invaded the second two shows.  So, Mother N, what is in store for October?  Snow? Hail? Locusts?

Ike and I have made steady progress in our Second Level work as the season progressed.  I finally feel like I have a grasp on the concept of collection…we might not be 100% committed to our collected work, but we are seeing Ike gain more stamina and musculature to hold the collection for longer than the short side of the arena.  Today during my lesson, we actually found another gear in his trot work. (I am not sure I am quite as ready for that gear!!)

And while some would be disappointed to end up with three red ribbons (we scratched our last ride because we ran out of gas), I could not be more pleased with the results of our most recent show two weeks ago.  

Our scores from the Rose Mount show were our personal best for the tests we rode. Our first class was Second Level test 2 and we managed a 68.834%.  Yes, I know, it almost seems like I typed the wrong numbers. I was warming up for test 3 when I heard my score.  Pretty sure my mouth was a big fat O.  Holy moly!! I had whispered to Ike right before we entered that we should shoot for a 68%, but I didn’t think we’d actually pull it off. 

Our two test 3 scores were also our personal best – a 65.8 % and a 65%. Woo hoo! We held both canter serpentines. Another woo hoo! Ike’s attempted potty break almost caused me to giggle during my Saturday ride. He kept trying to stop during our turn on the haunches, then we botched our first canter transition while he finished  his business. Oh well.  I am still tickled with the overall effort, and we now have both scores we need for the 2017 GAIGS if we chose to attend. (The two days are run as two separate events so competitors can do exactly what we did.)

With those scores, Ike earned the final score necessary to complete his USDF Second Level Horse Performance Certificate. Not sure he is as proud of that as I am. He seemed to be more thrilled with the free treat samples we got in the competitor’s gift bag.

So now we are doing our final preparations for October 14th.  Ike’s pedicure is done. His winter coat is coming in fast and furious, so he has hair on his face again.  Ms. C  will hop on him once or twice for some fine tuning on his lateral work. Our lessons will be intense. I need to keep my eye on our goal: our best ride of the season.

Alison 

The Crooked Way

ike-and-alison-at-culpeper-aug-2016

Photo by Melana Krivitsky

 

We are all crooked in some way, shape or form.  Your left side is more dominant or maybe it’s your right side. Maybe you have an old or even a new injury that causes one leg to be weaker than the other. Maybe you had a Big Wheel accident as a child and chipped a bone in your wrist.  Or, perhaps, like me, you have some minor scoliosis that for the most part is a non-issue…until you are trying to train a horse.  And let us not forget we also ride half ton animals that have their own crookedness and stiffness to manage.

Add the two together and you have a recipe for a challenging, crooked path up the levels…a path that looks like it was cleared with a plastic butter knife.  The talented riders know how to compensate for their body’s issues and can easily address the issues of their horses…but where does that leave the rest of us?

There have been a multitude of books and articles written about straightening the crooked horse.  I particularly like the image that Lilo Fore paints in her article for Practical Horsemen of the horse moving in a “crooked, crab-like position.”  I have ridden that crab and left many points in the sandbox due to that crookedness.  Reading about how to straighten your horse is one thing.  Actually putting those words into practice can be much more challenging.  How can you effectively straighten your horse’s shoulders when you are collapsed to the left/right due to your body issues?

My scoliosis is not a new issue for me. It has been a lifelong conformation fault.  But it is only recently in my riding that I noticed my imbalance and it’s effect on my riding. Guess it took developing an independent seat to realize that the range of motion of my left hip is different than that of the right hip.  It comes across most in my struggle to help Ike with the left lead countercanter. Try as I might, I cannot move my left hip as easily as the right. While we can earn 7’s for our right lead countercanter serpentine; the left is a hot mess with me flailing about and praying that Ike can interpret what I want. Even when I consciously try and make my movement more pronounced,  it is still barely enough. I often wonder how this will affect our progress to the other levels.  Our goal in dressage is to show straightness and equivalent movement on the right and left sides. Hmm, when you don’t have the same range of motion with the left hip that you have with the right, how do you compensate when your seat is such an important piece of the puzzle? Ugh, the struggle is real.

There is no quick fix for this issue and there will be no cumbersome back braces to correct the alignment. I practice yoga which helps me focus on my body alignment and balance. Yoga quickly exposes your “weaker side” when you are balancing on one leg.  The wall has saved me more than once.  But if you fall down, just get right back up and try again.  Eventually the balance poses get easier (only took me 7 years to master scorpion pose…) Yoga helps me to maintain my flexibility, and I focus on deepening the hip stretches to increase the range of motion.  The warrior poses are all in my repertoire; and pigeon pose (http://www.yogajournal.com/article/beginners/pigeon-pose/) and I have a love/hate relationship.  Pigeon pose is the ultimate hip opener especially as you move towards the bound king pigeon pose.  Lotus pose (http://www.yogajournal.com/pose/lotus-pose/) is for those days when you just don’t feel as flexible.

I will continue to try Ms. C’s patience as she repeatedly screams, “move that left hip!”  For that, I must apologize.  Thank goodness she is a patient trainer!!  Acknowledging the problem is a start, and making an effort to minimize its damage on our progress up the levels is the goal.

Time to go practice that countercanter!

alison