I feel weirdly guilty about this, but I had a lesson with a new trainer last night. With everything going on, I am exhausted by the thought of getting out of work to rush to the barn to load up and drive 40 minutes away for a lesson where Cortney and I can meet centrally. Especially since daylight only recently extended into the evening hours, thanks time change.
I had briefly audited a lesson the previous week to see if I was going to work well with this new person, E. I'm still not sure I prefer her to Jim, but at the moment, she comes to the barn, so my time spent away from my family is minimized, which has become a priority recently. Ugh, I'm justifying, but also my lessons have been on Fridays, and after this recent fall, my hip and back are utterly worn out by Friday evening with all of the clean room gowning I have to do over and over during the week for my job. That gowning requires balance and lots of bending, very similar muscle groups to riding, so my still healing back just doesn't have the strength.
Anyway. New lesson person E. I got out of work yesterday and got the barn actually quite early. I ended up being able to take my time with my shedding beast, really get all the shavings out of her tail (remnant bedhead), restock her supplement cups in the feed room, lunge and have about 15 minutes to warm up and get my head in the game before E arrived.
It was right before sunset so we had beautiful light and I rode in the outdoor. Gwyn was a little sassy on the lunge line, but showing some decent strength in being willing to canter and not be totally out of control but actually balanced.
In my warm up with her I focused on transitions, mostly. Things that I work on with Jim. When E arrived I introduced myself and Gwyn, told her what our weaknesses were and what I wanted to focus on. She immediately picked up on the weakness Gwyn has stepping under herself with the left hind. I wanted to get Jean out to do bodywork but she's on self quarantine due to pregnancy and announced that RIGHT before I was about to message her.
I have a few problems and bad habits:
1. When applying inside leg/outside rein, I've never given Gwyn time to find the correct answer. I just ask. And ask. And ask. And never stop to listen or wait for a response. To this end, E had me apply inside leg, and ask with a little bit of inside rein for two beats and release and wait. Then ask again for two beats.
Suddenly I had a horse underneath me who was carrying herself.
2. Throwing her head away. For a while Jim and I were working on getting Gwyn to not have such a high/upside down head set. So we'd ask her to stretch out and down. Trouble is, she's a smart cookie and now she asks for that a LOT and ends up snatching my reins away. So I need to break the habit of letting the reins slip through my fingers. Yes, she can stretch within what I allow ONLY. Solution? Bridge my reins to fix me. And remember that contact with her mouth is not evil. The curse of bad habits from riding alone for years.
3. My seat is not anchoring me well enough so if she does try and stretch, it's pulling me forward. So E had me adjust my pelvis slightly and I became a lot more secure in the saddle.
4. Leg weakness. I can maintain a lot of this at the walk. And I'm going to need to practice it a LOT more so it becomes my new normal because I lost it when we tried it at the trot. Totally fell apart. And she definitely picked up on my asymmetry in strength. Now that Gwyn is strong enough to canter, I keep my left leg on too much, while my right is weak and so when she's hopping like she's in a canter transition it's because of me(hello, there's that ducking right issue we have too). So I need to work on my right leg being stronger in stability.
4a. But also regarding that ducking right, I need to utilize my thigh more as a block, and not just my calf. My thigh connects to the shoulder while calf is the hind, at least that's what it felt like last night. Since Gwyn so helpfully demonstrated that she thought leaving the arena was a grand plan while we were going left, I practiced using my thigh to block that.
I ended the lesson with a horse that was carrying herself while I steered from seat and legs only. She felt AMAZING underneath me and I'm so so excited to get back on and practice this. I woke up super sore this morning, but also motivated to figure out what I can do to strengthen that right leg of mine when I'm off the horse. I think maybe using an exercise ball and being on my side, right leg on the upper side and squeezing in? That should target the right muscles.
I'm signed up for a clinic day with E on Sunday, so I'll be riding again in less than a week.