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canter, dressage, dressage lessons, dressage training, dressagemortals, equestrian, horsewomen

The Elegance of Elbows

Despite what non-horsepeople say about the horse doing all the work, those in the know are all too aware that dressage is a total body workout. To persuade the horse to do anything other than graze, run off with you, or haul himself around on his forehand takes a lot of convincing. It also takes a super-human coordination of the rider’s legs and limbs in concert with the seat, core, and shoulders. It looks so easy when done by a professional.
As an adult amateur dressage rider, I am constantly trying to align errant body parts. To have them work up to a full concert would be fantastic. For now, I’d settle for something resembling a recognizable melody.
This past week my elbows stepped up as the body part of the month. I’m sharing this story because I’m impressed with how paying attention to the elbows has made a significant difference in my effectiveness.

Assuming you don't want to look at my elbows, here's a shot of Micah (right) with Harrison, the handsome new guy at the barn.

Assuming you don’t want to look at my elbows, here’s a shot of Micah (right) with Harrison, the handsome new guy at the barn.


My trainer has long been nagging me to keep my elbows at my side (especially the right elbow, which colludes with my horse to give away the right rein), and while I’ve improved, I only really got it last week. (Note: I reserve the right to back-slide at a moment’s notice.)
We were working on haunches in, a counter-intuitive maneuver which messes with the mind and body of both beast and rider. We were flailing along, kind of getting it, when I glued my elbows to my sides and voila! haunches in happened.
I applied this technique to the trot and — amazing — it improved! As expected, gluing the elbows at the canter is more difficult so that’s going to be an ongoing effort. Gluing the elbows while remaining relaxed and fluid is another challenge, since it’s easier to turn into a chunk of concrete when becoming uber-focused on correcting a habit.
Try it and see if focusing on your elbows helps you. You may have noticed that all of the professional riders keep their elbows at their sides while the less skilled of us flail our arms about. Keep a mental picture of the rider you want to be in your mind as you try bringing your awareness to your elbows this week. Give it a go at the walk, then work your way up.
Happy riding!

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February 1, 2017
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cantering, dressage, horses, riding

Going to Great Lengths

In the past few weeks, my canter work with Micah has undergone a significant transformation. With a schooling show right around the corner, that’s good news.

Originally, Micah’s canter was on the forehand and felt like more of a ‘careen’ than a canter. Although I had basic steering, it certainly wasn’t power steering. I didn’t want to mow down anyone in our path — which is why Natalie kept us on the 20 meter circle for what felt like ages.

To clarify, with a better rider on his back, Micah was/is fully capable of a beautiful, balanced canter. The learning was on my end.

IMG_0431

Micah accepts a sugar cube, in payment for a job well done. He’s not worried about that cow in the background & is also ignoring that fantastic view of the Cascades.

Unable to resist playing tricks on the rookie rider, Micah enjoyed pulling me forward, out of the saddle. At the same time, he’d ease the reins out of my hands, making sure he was in charge. I’m quite sure he kept score and gave himself a bonus point every time he outsmarted me.

Continue reading…

Related posts
Working Out with the Outside Rein
February 1, 2017
Remembering to Ride the Outside of the Horse
December 1, 2016
The Elegance of Elbows
November 28, 2016
Bob Goddard, equestrian, flying changes magazine, Horse Crazy!, humor, riding, Trail Rider Magazine

Guest Blog by Bob Goddard, ‘Planning for Perfection’

Today’s posting is from one of my favorite humor writers: Bob Goddard. Bob’s been writing horse humor since 1991. His blog will celebrate its 4th birthday this June.
I met Bob when I was owner/editor of Flying Changes magazine and thoroughly enjoyed publishing his work — so it’s really fun to be collaborating once again! He currently publishes a humor column for Trail Rider Magazine and is the author of ‘Horse Crazy!’
After spending many years as a Horse Show Dad, Bob decided to take up riding himself. His blog www.horsecrazy.net/bobsblog/ documents Bob’s perspective from the saddle.

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On Lesson #114 we attempted to recreate Lesson #113: a perfectly pleasant winter’s day ride. However…

The temps were actually single digit – this time without the benefit of literary license. These days, we’re happy enough if we don’t see the minus sign in front of our numbers. As Gerry (on Habakuk) and I (on Windy) discovered as we followed Karin (on Charley) lemming-like through the Kiddie Trail, the footing was less than ideal. Discretion being the better part of valor, we headed inside. The Chicken Part of my brain – science calls it the cerebrum – insisted.

Within the confines of the Great Indoors, Windy and I performed some dressage moves. These included “Snappy Salute at X” and “Precisely Perfect 20 Meter Circle.”

Anyone who knows anything about dressage knows that after you enter at “A,” you proceed to “X” and make a Snappy Salute. Anyone who knows anything about the English alphabet knows that “X” should be “B.”

I’m wondering if the letter-sequencing discrepancy has something to do with the roots of dressage itself. While the Germans and miscellaneous Europeans developed dressage into the sport/art form we know today, it was the Greeks that first came up with idea. Way, way, way back. Its origins are in fact attributed to the writings of a gentleman named Xenophon who was actually an army guy. Xenophon and the Greeks had their own take on the alphabet with letters that were simultaneously very pretty and very confusing to look at. Kind of like the script you might see on the back of the One Ring to Rule Them All. The one that Karin wants.

Continue reading…

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canter, dressage, horses, humor, riding, transitions

Big, Ugly Frogs

In Japan there’s a saying that goes like this: “Eat your biggest, ugliest frog first.”

I love this phrase, which I take to mean, “Tackle your largest problems before anything else.” When it comes to riding, transitions are the biggest, ugliest frogs in my itinerary. Nothing else shows off flaws more quickly, other than falling off.

Continue reading…

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dressage, horses, humor, riding

Meet Micah

I wish I had a glamour shot of Micah, the 16.3h Westfalen gelding who has stolen my heart. I lease Micah part time at Natalie Perry Dressage, where we’ve been taking lessons together for nearly a year.

I would love to portray Micah’s finest, most generous moments in a photo that shows off everything beautiful about him. In that photo a halo of heavenly light would appear behind him as he gives to the aids, despite my lack of finesse. Angels would sing (off camera) every time he gives me the benefit of the doubt.

Continue reading…

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dressage, horses

Why Mere Mortals?

If, like me, you’re a mere mortal struggling with a sport requiring supernatural skill, grace, and absurdly long legs, this blog is for you. Surely we dressage riders are gluttons for punishment. Why else would we choose a sport where e.v.e.r.y single movement is judged on a scale of 1 to 10; and you’re more likely to get hit by lightning while marrying Elvis than score a 10.

Clearly this is a sport where the gods are amused at our mortal attempts to attain perfection.

Join me on a journey to reconcile my love of dressage with my lack of talent. Mine is a story of doing my best with a rebellious body and a wandering mind. Perhaps you sometimes feel the same.

The constraints of family and work; a body built with  design flaws; and limited finances have made pursuing this sport a start again/stop again endeavor for me. If I could borrow an extra lifetime to learn dressage, I might finally graduate to the next level.

Micah & I try to make sense of First Level, Test 1

Micah & I try to make sense of First Level, Test 1

How I love dressage — and how it humbles me as I start over and over again.

Continue reading…

Related posts
You’ve Gotta Have Go
June 28, 2017
Ride Like You Mean It
April 25, 2017
I Wish You Rode
April 11, 2017