Thursday, April 21, 2016

"How are you not sore?"

“How are you not sore after falling off??” MK asks me incredulously…


This was the actual question posed to me.

Yes, I fell off.  At the horse show.  In my class.  And I was disqualified.

Round 1 - Fence 3
My flippant answer to “How are you not sore?” was, “I work out.”
While it was initially spoken in jest, I think there’s some truth in there.
I put in a gajillion braids...
Because I’m following a complete workout program, my core is regularly and thoroughly worked and challenged.  Therefore, when the Fancy Pony slammed on the brakes, my core was available to hold me in the middle (for an extra second, anyway).  That extra second allowed me to slow my forward trajectory to better match my pony’s lack of trajectory so that I sort of fell onto her neck and just rolled on around until I landed in the dirt.  I wasn’t grabbing with out-of-shape muscles to stay on, so they were fully available to do the job.  It’s not like you use those muscles when riding is going well…  Thanks to my integrated cardio-weights workouts, they were available just how I needed them!

The story gets better though!

I like this one!
While I was eliminated from my first round, I still had a second round to ride.
We made it a little further this time…

I sat all my refusals without falling off.

I had a few nice jumping efforts.

I had a few not-so-pretty jumping efforts…

You would think we hadn't practiced at home...
I had this incredible save!!

Stay in the middle...
Just call me Karen?
Now, what you may find difficult so see here, is that I’m hanging off of the left side of my horse by my right knee and elbow…  Somehow, I was able to channel my inner Karen O’Connor and sit right back up!
…And re-approach the offending jump…
I’m pretty sure I just straight up choked in my first 3’ hunter class, but I learned.  I learned more than I imagined I could in those few short minutes.  And, now, I’m back home to implement the lessons learned while pushing just a little further out of my comfort zone.

after my second refusal...

Because if we don’t push something, we won’t grow.

Let's keep in touch!

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Thursday, April 7, 2016

How Working Out Impacts My Riding

As you work your way up the levels of your chosen riding discipline, you may find the your body becomes less and less cooperative...  The parts just don't seem to do what you told them to do...  Or what you *thought* you told them to...

Do you follow a workout program, or do you just stick to one thing all the time?
(such as running, biking, walking, whatever)

I've been following my programs that:
 - change up the muscle groups that get worked each day
 - include cardio components
 - schedule in stretching and flexibility
 - establish core strength and stability

You wouldn't think that any of that really affects my riding one way or another...
But, when it comes down to upping the ante, I'm realizing it *is* my own solid foundation!

Working out increases my confidence!
Now, I don't fully understand why breaking a sweat each day should make any difference in my confidence, but I still notice a difference.  I think body language has much to do with it.
Check out this TED Talks Life Hack by Amy Cuddy!  If you get a chance to watch the video, I highly recommend it!
I think exercise puts me in power poses (and for more than 2 minutes at a time) and contributes to my increased confidence.  I don't have any other science to back this up.  It's just a hunch.

confidence to stick with my horse when she puts in an extra push!

Working out heightens my body awareness at all levels!
Are my heels down?  Are my hips even?  Am I sitting up straight or collapsing forward?
These questions get easier to answer by feel when I'm working out.  Out of the saddle, I'm finding all of these tiny muscles between the big muscles and slowly becoming aware of all my body parts in relation to the rest of me.
In triangle pose, I feel squished between 2 panes of glass, but when I look up, my right shoulder is a bit forward.  So, I figure out how to bring it back in line.  That translates to square shoulders in the saddle.  Because I work on it every day.  At home.  Out of the saddle.

awareness of my position so that I stay centered and out of the way when we take off from a bad spot!
(I can't see that expression without cracking up!!  LOLOL)

Working out improves my posture!
Whether I'm lifting weights or stretching into a yoga pose, I must put my body into alignment.  The actions themselves slowly install a muscle memory of balanced body parts.  Squats, especially with weights, push my weight into my heels, helping them stay DOWN when I'm in the saddle.
Resistance training teaches me to keep my chest and chin UP.
Yoga and Pilates help me keep my spine and pelvis aligned.
Because I'm training every day.
Bonus - it improves my posture OUT of the saddle, as well!

Working out solidifies my balance!
Oh, the crazy things I do at home! Yoga balance poses.  One-legged squats.  Side plank.  Chair pose!!
The better my balance is, the easier it gets to stay out of my horse's way when we work.  And when I can get out of her way, she truly becomes brilliant!
As the muscles get fatigued, my ability to balance declines.  By pushing my limits out of the saddle, my muscles gain endurance.  If I fall out of a pose at home, it's not going to impact my horse.  I can push harder and harder - all the way to my limits!  Then, I can push those limits farther!
When I get back in the saddle, I have more to offer my horse.  More stability.  More balance.  More quiet allowance.  More partnership.

I'm putting as much effort into our performance as my horse is!

Working out manages my pain.
I am a rider with a chronic back injury.  Bulged discs never completely heal.  By maintaining my core strength and flexibility on a daily basis, acute flare-ups are shorter and less painful.  It helps me build what I call "coping muscles".
Recently, my back was so tied up, I couldn't sit the canter.  I had a performance to give. Since I couldn't sit the canter, I cantered in half-seat.  I had the strength to do that much, at least.  The flexibility comes and goes, but I continue to train it anyway.  I learn how to work in a way that protects my injury while still being effective.  The hurt goes away faster.  The muscles remain more pliable.  I remain functional!!
That doesn't mean I never have bad pain days...  I still have occasions where some outside force that I have yet to identify lays me low and all I can do is take NSAIDS and lay on the couch and wait for the spasms and ache to pass.  But it's no longer taking DAYS to pass.  It seems to only take 24 hours or less.  Then, I can step right back into my routine.

It doesn't mean we're perfect, but it does mean we are both doing our best!!

Shameless Plug
I'm not at my ideal weight, yet.  I don't have a 6-pack.  I modify and work around chronic injury and pain.  I like bread and chocolate and ice cream...
Despite all of that, I am succeeding at a pace that works for me.  I am sustaining small, consistent improvements.  And I am helping others do the same thing!!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

KYB Dressage Presentation

I was able to sit in on 3 of the KYB Dressage presentations at Equifest Kansas! Yvonne Barteau has a quiet, confident teaching style.  Life goals: lesson with Yvonne Barteau!!

For her Friday presentation, she recruited me to help! I headed into the arena with 2 strings of twine for a short talk about contact. I held the one end while Yvonne held the other and talked about different kinds of contact. She had me play a distracted horse, and demonstrated how she reestablishes a connection. I should have been wearing my go pro to take note on later!!
I am the kind of girl who shows up to these things with notebook and pen, so as soon as my time holding the twine was done, I scrambled to the bleachers to take notes!

First and foremost:
Establish a connection you can call "home base".
Yvonne explained that the connection will vary from horse to horse, but before anything can be addressed, that connection must be established and agreed upon.  Obviously, I'm paraphrasing...

connection and the half-halt
Then, we moved on to Flexing.  This is stabling the bend through the entire body (not just the neck).  Hind legs track the fronts on the circle and corners.

Try a radial turn:
Flex the horse left, then move both hands a little to the right - the shoulders will move right.
I felt like this exercise, without saying as much, was the cornerstone to capturing the shoulders and keeping them in line.  It seems like it gets pretty easy for the shoulders to pop out and you're left with a straight spine and a bent neck.  They riders played with this concept a bit.

Add leg to turn a radial turn into a leg yield!
How easy it sounds!  I can feel it in my body, and I'm not even on my horse!!

Change flexion to turn your leg yield into a half pass.
Really?  Is it really that straightforward?  I haven't had a chance to try it yet, but you know I'm going to!!

Do it in trot and canter, too!

Pirouette and move the shoulders out.
She went into great depth with the demonstration horse about the mechanics of the pirouette.  She explained how they will step into the pirouette with great balance and power, then will start to fall in with the shoulders in the second half.
So, do 2 steps into pirouette, then head straight out of it.  By moving the shoulders out, the horse is less inclined to fall in.
I'll admit I was completely engrossed in the tiny details unfolding before me to take any more detailed notes...  I'm sure pirouette is going to be a little while for us, anyway.

transitions within the trot
My notes are brief, but I broke it down to the essence: Give to the bit - go to the bit
The half-halt only lasts one second!  DO NOT hold the half-halt!

Initially, ask for the half-halt with the body.
If it doesn't go through, ask again with the body and reins.
Ask again if necessary.
DO NOT hold the half-halt!
Give to the bit - go to the bit

flying changes
Dressage through the levels:
I forgot my paper and pen, so I took notes on my phone!!

'Sit in the bend!'she said.
OK.  Wrote that down.  Pondered it.  Watched...

Discussing haunches in:
Always sit in the bend, however awkward!

Ride the trot to the halt.  Don't stop riding the gait just because you have another gait coming!

"You cannot change the subject by changing the gait." Said to the horse who would rather extend the trot than collect the canter.
Change the gait, fine - but the lesson of collection is the same.  That's the subject of conversation.

Shoulder in - oh, you want to canter?  OK, but continue to do it in shoulder in!
You get the idea.
I've been saying this to myself every ride since!!

On lead changes:
Collect, then change the lead.
Ask for the change, then ask again - ask if the lead is, in fact, correct.
I have some ideas for implementation on this idea, but I haven't had the chance to incorporate them into our work yet.


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Equifest Kansas

So, this happened!
Fancy Pony and I proudly represented the Arabian Breed at Equifest Kansas!

Seriously.  Can a weekend go any better?

(Don't be too hard on my mom...  She can't help it if she feels like the pony's feet are RIGHT NEXT to her head!) 

Monday, February 22, 2016

OMG - A contest!!

Have I mentioned how much I love Noble Outfitters products??
So, how can I resist entering this fabulous contest put on by A Gift Horse?

Check out her review and contest details HERE:

It's the littlest things, isn't it?


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