The sitting trot is not a passive action. You can’t sink into it, you push into it – that rhythm, than down action – it’s percussive, it’s powerful. And weirdly enough, it’s now doable.
But first. Piggles and I had a kind of embarrassing failure of a last outing in June, he planted his feet at X and nearly didn’t move, then we were called off course when we weren’t, and decided that collection just wasn’t happening. Oops. But the judge (David Schmutz) was super kind and encouraging and it wasn’t a total embarrassment (that’s saved for when Radar ducked me off, damn pony!)
Anyway. We had a great August, he was going great. Decided to aim for early September show… and then was told they wouldn’t shorten the court. Got it, that venue is out! In September Piggles got a bit ouchy and life changes meant that he’s now partially retired and enjoying his life at Mar Val.
So, where does that leave me? At a new barn, with a new horse to sponsor and riding with multiple trainers for the first time.
Meet Claire! She’s an aged Morgan x Thoroughbred (my favorites!) and is teaching me so much. It’s not easy, hello anxiety! But she makes it worth it. I’m learning how to take my riding to the next level, pushing myself for more, working on moving instead of being quiet, of asking for more. It’s fun! She probably isn’t consistently sound enough to do any rated showing, but for me that’s okay for now – especially now.
She’s teaching me how to bounce, how to push, how to become more secure.
Spent this weekend spectating at the Golden State Dressage show and CPEDI, watching all kinds of wonderful horses and riders, and making my paradressage classification permanent!
I also tried my hand at some equestrian photography, I love photography although with fine motor and vision issues… my results may vary! I clearly need to figure out if my point and shoot has a sports mode and would want a tripod if I were to do more, but it was fun to try.
Classification was interesting, as usual (wait… I’m supposed to be able to move that way?) and literally nothing changed numbers-wise. We got looped reins added to my dispensation, which will be nice moving forward as we try things out.
The riding – in the CDI, CPEDI and Classic show – was generally inspiring and is giving me things to think about (FORWARD! FORWARD! PUSH into that FORWARD!).
Goals are funny. I’m really not a competitive person, but I certainly am goal oriented. I think it helps me… focus? Or something like that.
So goals: Piggles and I are aiming to ride the Grade II Novice A test at the ginormous Rancho Murieta CPEDI 1* in June. It’s big, it’s fancy… and the little Morgan and I (and Team Pig) are going to play with the big boys. Or Warmbloods, whichever you prefer.
In order to get ready, I’m riding a lot, and doing a few shows in preparation, 4 in total. Show #1 at the UC Davis barn was a fun, low-key affair, turning it up a notch with my first rated show at the end of the month. I’m excited, for rated it seems pretty solidly low-key (waived coats etc). Then 2 shows in May, one an “away” show where I’ll test out the hotel and riding multiple days.
Should be a fun spring, with enormous thanks to everyone in Team Pig for making it all happen.
So things in equine-world are pretty fun right now. Piggles the Morgan has fancy glue-on shoes, and is pretty darn happy with them! I’m going to Los Angeles this weekend to get classified by the United States Paraequestrian Association/FEI to see where I classify and if this is a realistic goal. And having a lesson with their riding consultant, who also happens to be the one who has led the amazing British paradressage team for years.
I have no delusions of dressage greatness, the Paralympics or anything like that. I just want to have fun with the horses and have goals to work towards.
So in the name of working towards goals… my trainer has a new mantra for me:
Make it good-er
Yes, it’s grammatically incorrect. But the idea is this; I have a bunch of ways to do that in my riding toolbox. I can decide what to do. I can try something, see if it works, try again. I can use my experience and intellect and feel to make it good-er in a way that feels right at that moment.
There are many ways to make things good-er, and I’m cautiously approaching my non-equine life with that mindset.
I’ve always just kind of failed at the breathing thing. I’ve literally failed with all my respiratory stuff. And I’ve figuratively failed at just about every yoga class I’ve tried. The whole concentrating on your breath… I just never got it. My mind wanders, I can’t connect my breath to the movements… I just didn’t do it right.
So I was skeptical when my trainer told me breathing was something that would help me get to the next level in my riding. It was one of those things that sounds great in theory, but it practice… not quite.
A few months ago, we started working on it in my rides… expanding my breath over a few strides, breathing in rhythm with the horse’s feet… generally, just being aware of it. Then we moved to actually doing something with that breath, with moving the horse forward in a rhythm.
I am not the most rhythmical of people or riders… but somehow, this made sense. I get how to use my breath in this way… and it works! Now that I’m actually using some sort of rhythm, the horse goes “oh, I can do that!”
Since we had that breakthrough, I’ve gotten some really good walk and trot work, collected and really moving through his hind end. Because I’m actually breathing correctly, I’m giving my horse better direction.
Poor guy is probably thinking, “finally!” And so am I. Now the trick is to translate that Zen from riding to other parts of life… easier said than done.
Sometimes I question why I had to fall in love with horses, of all things. And really, it doesn’t make sense. I am uncoordinated, sometimes fearful, and a perfectionist… and I choose to sit upon a one thousand pound flight animal and attempt to tell it what to do. Sure.
But then I have a ride like I had today and am reminded why I ride. Pig (the horse) and I started off a bit eh – he wasn’t engaging himself and was throwing his weight on the forehand. And we worked on it.
I activated every muscle I could access to raise hands, sit back, and use my body more effectively. He realized he could in fact bend, collect, and get light on the reins. This approach to riding suits my anal side perfectly. I love piecing it apart and putting it back together to improve. I love messing up but then figuring it out and improving. I love feeling the lightness. I love the intellectual challenge.
This weekend I am going to MedX, a big conference this weekend about tech, social media and health. Super-excited!
They have an espresso bar. Enough said.
Had a great riding lesson today! Big takeaways: horse has four feet (duh), counting one two three four helps so much with getting a good collected walk; sitting trot: lower legs off, seat back, use thigh blocks.
Grateful for the work trainings I’m having, nice that continued education is valued.
12 days until DogFest East Bay!
Sometimes you get to the barn and your horse has a peacock feather left in his forelock from the girl before you and it just makes you happy.
This was really miscellany. Props to anyone who read through this rambling list.
Sometimes you just need a bit of leverage. In riding, in life, in anything.
Today that came in the form of a jointed kimberwicke bit on Mr. Piggles the Morgan. Being a bit on the forehand, he is sometimes tricky to get truly yielding to the bit and light in your hands… actually, he’s usually the opposite of light! The kimberwicke is not dressage-show legal at the lower levels, but using it correctly can give me the feel I need to work on acheiving the same results with a snaffle if I decide to show next year.
The main takeaway from today’s ride (besides the usual – go forward, hands higher) was about my inside and outside reins working together and being complementary… inside to a heave bend, outside to enhance flexion. With the bit of extra oomph from the stronger bit, I could really feel the change and responsiveness.
Best part of the day, besides just being out there and having a good ride, was overhearing the other trainer in the arena complimenting my position… to have someone say I’m straight in the saddle is testament to the hard work of my trainer and I.
We talk a lot about expectations in the disability community – about how they are too low for people with disabilities, about how children with disabilities are unchallenged and under-estimated, about how we need to set higher expectations for everyone.
But sometimes, we underestimate ourselves. Today was one of those days for me. I was convinced my horseback riding lesson was going to be ‘meh’. I was a bit dizzy and tired and was worried I was a bit out of shape since I didn’t ride last week.
That was not the case. For the first time in awhile, I had both strength and timing to keep Piggles (yes, I ride a horse named Pig) straight, forward, and (sort of) light on the bit. We had great balanced transitions and light halts.
Everything just came together. Now there were many factors for this (barre class on Friday? lots of walks? who knows!) but it this reminds me to continue to set both realistic and high expectations for myself.
Sometimes I need that reminder, and this great ride when I didn’t think there would be is a good push in that direction.