Yesterday, I was lucky enough to be riding right after Elaine, the trainer, was finishing a lesson with one of her students. I strolled on over and mentioned that, after I finally find a job, I will have to start taking some lessons with her. She said, "Oh, Meghann, you know I like you, I can help you out a bit now."
My internal dialogue went something like this -- "YES! Please, please, please wave your magic wand and fix my horrible equitation! Every time I see a picture of myself riding, it makes me want to pour Draino into my own eyes!! Heeeelllp meeeeeee!"
So we started trotting and, thanks to Heather's advice, we were actually doing alright. My hands were much less retarded and Salem was actually staying pretty straight. Then Elaine started giving me suggestions for little things to work on, position fixes, etc. and....oooooooh myyyyyyy GAWD, I started to feel some of my awfulness melting away like a bad dream. They're things that, for a long time, I have known are not quite right, but I just haven't been able to figure out how to fix them.
List Of Things To Think About And Work On:
1. Keep your hands "in a box." Every now and then, if they are flailing all over like a bunch of flopping fish, simply touch your thumbs together for a second to bring your hands back into the box.
2. Bend elbows more
3. Softly open and close elbows in rhythm with your posting
4. Gently give and take with the inside hand
5. Steer more with your legs and less with your hands
6. Keep your hips in the middle of the tack. This is the advice that completely changed my position. It was truly a light bulb moment. For the longest time, I have been feeling/seeing that my leg is coming forward and I've been fighting like hell to keep it back. Elaine noted that my hips were a bit too far back in the saddle. I brought them slightly forward and, all of a sudden, everything felt different. I actually started feeling the backs of my legs working and my whole position felt instantly better. Elaine said, "That's it! Your leg looks great now!" and I internally grinned like the Cheshire Cat. YES!
7. Open the shoulders
8. During downward transitions, always keep the leg on
After the trot work, I was on top of the world. In a few short minutes, Elaine had made a huge difference in my previously-completely-crappy position. I happily walked Salem around and chatted with Elaine and her student's mother while the kids ran around the course jumping over fences. I figured we deserved a break after our spectacular-ness.
I thought Elaine was leaving since it was getting late, but she said she wanted to stay until I finished up with Salem. I said, "No problem, just let me canter a bit and we'll be through."
And that's when Salem decided that he would be a Giant Boogerhead. I asked for the canter. Salem said, "Caanntteerrr? What is this canter of which you speak? Does it mean 'put on your ostrich neck, hollow your back, invert, fall to the inside, and trot at mach speed?' Because that is my interpretation of the word. Whhheeeeeeeeee!"
I was, to put it mildly, completely embarrassed. We had not just misplaced our canter departures; we had, in fact, totally lost the entire gait. I tried several more times, in complete frustration and failing miserably. Elaine suggested we try it to the left. I agreed and we switched directions.
Remember The Bulge that Salem does when tracking to the left? Well, he decided that it would be way more fun than cantering. I built up my wall of outside aids. Salem promptly bulldozed through said wall and continued moving to the right in a hybrid side-pass/half-pass/some-kind-of-pass. I had to repeatedly kick hard with my right leg in order to straighten him out (eventually). Yep, I was reduced to a Thelwell rider, thumping on the sides of her Completely Disobedient Monster Pony. Good thing it was dark out because I am sure I was bright scarlet.
Long story short, we eventually got the canter. The departure was not pretty, but I got what I was asking for and we decided not to push the issue. Elaine pointed out that Salem always bulged out towards the barn and got increasingly sticky/bratty/bulge-y/disobedient the closer we got to the barn. She also noted that I usually ride with others, so working him alone (especially later in the day) was most likely the cause for his Extreme Boogerhead-edness. It's not an excuse and it's certainly something we'll have to work on, but at least it's a reason. He's just very herd-bound and social. She suggested that I ride with a crop from now on, just to let him know that he is not allowed to make the decisions. I am not afraid to play Whack-The-Pony (within reason, of course)!
I'm hoping that tomorrow's ride will be an improvement!
3 hours ago