Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider

Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider
Click on Logo (Original artwork by Lanie Frick for Messick Quarter Horses. Not permitted to be copied)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

More Conditioning

Once I saw my scores from the Stephens Forest CTR, and I saw where I lost points, I knew what areas I had to work on. I need to be more conscience of keeping my body centered. I need to make sure that my stirrup length is the same and that I am not putting more weight in one stirrup, causing me to be off centered. I need to make sure that when I 2-point, and trot with “Dancing Knees”, I don’t allow my body to stay too relaxed. Being too relaxed makes it appear that I am not holding with my legs and that my body is hitting the cantle. It was disappointing to read this. I feel like I am very centered, and that I am sitting in the center of the saddle. It is obvious that I need someone else's eyes on me, to let me know when I am slightly off balance. To correct this, I will ride by finding my center and neutral pelvis. If anyone is around while I am riding, I will ask them to watch me from behind, and to tell me if I am riding in the middle of my saddle and if I am leaning slightly.

I gave my horse Monday and Tuesday off. Wednesday afternoon, I rode at Virginia’s again, riding almost 2 hours. Thursday I rode in the field, alternating walking and trotting every ½ mile. I had a lesson with an adult Friday morning, and rode in the arena. I was teaching the Centered Riding basics, and I spent time centering myself and working on Centered Riding exercises. This was an excellent time for both my horse and I to slow down, relax, and spend time on breathing and stretching exercises. Saturday, I had a shorter, 3 mile ride in the field, as I was riding Indian Caves on Sunday.

I finally was able to ride with my husband, Tom, on Sunday! He had time to go with me on the practice trail ride to Indian Caves. We met Virginia and 3 of her youth riders, that would be doing the Indian Caves CTR in 2 weeks. We needed to practice on the hills. Tom rode Chick. Poor Chick. She has been a lesson horse all summer, and hasn’t had the conditioning that she was used to when she was in reining and cow horse competition. She is a trooper, though, and she kept up. With the steep hills, we made sure to give our horses frequent rests. Every time that Chick was winded, we left her stop and rest. Tom was a trooper, too, and never complained, even when Chick wanted to trot to keep up. I’ll check with Tom tomorrow and see how he is feeling!

With knowing everything that I needed to improve from my last CTR, I made some changes in my riding this week. I decided to shorten my stirrups 1 notch. I lengthened them last year when my knees would ache after a 4 hour ride, let alone 2 days of 40 miles. This year, with my Centered Riding exercises, I haven’t ached. I know I could keep more leg on my horse if they were at the perfect length, and not longer as many of us older riders tend to do. With the shorter stirrups, I kept a little more leg on my horse as I 2-pointed, yet I still kept my knees soft and relaxed.

I constantly checked my balance. I kept aware of staying in the middle of my seat so I wouldn't change my balance as I moved. By doing this, I stayed equally aware of my stirrup and leg length. I asked Tom to check me from behind today, and being the loving husband that he is, he checked with critical eyes. I want to be perfect and he knows that. So he carefully checked, and told me that my right shoulder was a little lower. No one has ever told me this. I changed my arm position as I was holding the reins by lowering my right hand. I checked to make sure that I didn’t have tension in my shoulders. I told Tom to check me again, and he said I looked even.

As I rode the hills today, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t move side to side. While going downhill, I relaxed and walked with my ankles, so that I didn’t sway. I tightened my hold with my legs, and moved my pelvis forward and backward so I didn’t sway. I went into 2-point position, leaning a little heavier into the stirrups, so I didn’t sway. I think if I can slow Finny down as he walks downhill, I think the forward and backward movement of my hips keeps me from swaying the best. I know as I tired, I think stepping a little heavier into my stirrups, and holding with my calves, will help. As I type this, I think I will work more on grounding my feet before my rides this week also. I need my feet to feel solid in my stirrups.

Another issue that I have been having with Finny is chomping on the bit. He is not anxious or nervous. I have worked on him standing still longer when he chomps. I have tried correcting him when he starts to chomp by keeping him moving, both forward and backward. I have stayed relaxed when he starts to chomp. Nothing seems to be working. He is performance bred. He wants to go. He wants to keep moving. I have decided to try a bit-less bridle, a mechanical hackamore, and practice with one the next 2 weeks. At least if he tries to chomp because he has to wait, there won’t be anything to chomp on.

Ok. Enough to work on for 1 week. I’ll let you know what happens as I am changing a lot of what I have been doing. I have 2 weeks.

Come along on the ride with me! Stay relaxed with me this week.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Stephens Forest CTR

Stephens Forest is beautiful and I love forest riding!!! I was looking forward to this ride, just to get out and ride. I knew my horse wouldn't be ready, but I didn't realize how un-ready he was until we started riding on Saturday, and by Sunday, he was just ansy and mad!

Conditioning is important to me too, and it was obvious that I hadn't done enough of it! My horse was a brat - I guess I shouldn't have given him 3 weeks off in Aug! My horse is a perfect gentleman at home, and you guess it, you never know what horse you have until you get to the show/ride! Not only mares are pissy, I can tell you that!

I trailered by myself so I didn't wait the extra 3 hours after checking out to find out what my scores were. I know, wimp! But that drive home by myself wears me out! I called my friend, Tammy, who I shared the trail with, and she told me I placed 3rd in horsemanship and Finny didn't place at all. I knew he wouldn't place after he came up with sore loins on Saturday check out and was very anxious the whole ride. We had minuses all over the place, starting at check out for Saturday start, and at almost every obstacle he was anxious and chomping the bit if he had to wait for his turn. He was great at some obstacles, where there was no wait turn and you just kept riding forward. That is the horse I have at home. oh, well...

I had a cantle bag with water, which I have used before, and this time I even double tied it so it stayed in place, but the waters must have been hitting him. I know at 1 trot time, a bottle fell out. I took the bag off for Sunday, massaged his back some Sunday morning and Sunday after I got in from the ride, and he checked out with a sound back. He did have some stocking up, but no
matter how conditioned he is, he always does. It may have something to do with his long pasterns, and I am going to research that. His metabolics were good, lost some points to hydration, but we have those gut sounds going!

I knew we didn't have the ride time in that we had in for the spring rides, so I just wanted to improve in some areas. We had some great maneuvers, and some awful ones. He is not a great backer, and we will work on that further. He is gotten terrible with chomping the bit, and at 1 time, I looked at Sheri and said, look at him, I am totally relaxed, not a stiff muscle anywhere as I was trying to sit very relaxed, and he was worse than ever!!! I'm not going to make excuses for his bad behavior- he is pleasure/performance bred and has a little hot blood in him, and it showed. Going down the trail was awesome, and he could have gone a long ways at a trot. Waiting his turn was miserable! what a brat! When he is great, it's great, but awful is miserable! next time, that guy is going to have his butt loped into the ground before we even start! If he doesn't do well at metabolics, at least he is going to stand tired!!!

But I have been working on my Centered Riding techniques, and I worked on breathing to help him stay relaxed, as well as that did for him! But it sure helped me as no matter what he did, I was relaxed and thought oh well, you better be good, because when I get you home, vacation is over! Lol

Some of the judged obstacles were:

Friday afternoon check in, with both the vet and horsemanship judges. We stood still while the vet judge checked metabolics and looked for cuts and marks on the horse’s body. The horsemanship judged checked for cleanliness. We then trotted away from the vet judge, lunged a circle in both directions, then trotted to a cone. I have lunged horses for years, keeping the lunge line coiled in my hand. CTR’s want you to figure 8 the line. Even after 2 years of practicing this, as I sent Finny out to lunge in a circle, he was sluggish, so I shook the line at him. As I did that, I dropped all of the line that was folded in my hand. I quickly picked it all up while lunging him, and had the line loped again before I needed to turn him. Finny checked in clean and sound.

Our first obstacle was 8 am Saturday morning. We were to wait until the person before us trots down the trail, then we were to trot away. The horsemanship judge was checking for balance. Finny wouldn’t stand still, but I kept him from moving around as quietly as I could.

I wanted to do some trotting, but the riders who left before us were still walking, and we would have just caught up to everyone too fast. Finny was anxious. We had to wait at our next obstacle. We were to turn around at the ribbon, and back between a rock and a stump. Finny didn’t want to back, and when he did, he was crooked. The judge commented that he did what he was suppose to, even though he moved against the leg that I was asking him with. Afterwards, I thought to myself, I backed between a stone and a hard spot!” ”! This was an old saying that I have heard from my relatives. It means that something was difficult to do. The horsemanship judge was hiding before this maneuver, and she was watching if we crowded each other as we came up a hill and if we were sitting light and off the cantle.

After a P&R, we also had a judged mount with the vet judge, after she performed a metabolic check. We were to back in hand next to a concrete wall of an outhouse, and mount. Finny backed but wouldn’t get close to the wall. I had to ask twice. He was a little farther than he should have been from the wall, but he stood while I mounted. He was to settle, and I sat a few seconds longer than necessary after he did settle.

For the horsemanship judge, we were to step over a branch with the front feet & counting to 10 before continuing down the trail. We did well as Finny was able to walk right up to the obstacle without any wait time and he wasn’t watching a horse move on down the trail. At another obstacle on Saturday, we had a trot by and the judge was checking for balance and vertical alignment. When I checked the cards Saturday night, the judge commented that I was a little off to one side. The next morning, I had Tammy watch me trot as she was behind me, and she said I looked evenly centered, from the saddle down to my stirrup length. We also had to trot to the judge and was asked to stop. The horsemanship judge was checking for light hands and how well the horse listened to the rider. The last horsemanship obstacle was while we were crossing a bridge and the judge watched if we shifted our weight out of the saddle as we went up a hill

Sunday obstacles started with a trot by the vet judge in the morning while she checked for lameness. Finny trotted out and was ready to go. Obstacles for the day included trotting down a path, and continue at a trot as you approach a log, and either trot over or jump the log. Finny approached the log with perked ears, and smoothly jumped the log. It was a very smooth feeling. I don't think I held 2 point position long enough as I felt I came down into the cantle too soon. At one of the metabolic checks on the trail, I should have dismounted, as Finny wouldn't stand still. Then we were to show where we were on the map and what trail we would be taking. I made the additional comment that we were to be heading west, as I looked at the compass on the map also. But they were actually checking to see if our horse stood still while we checked our maps.

For the horsemanship judge, we were to stay on the gravel path and walk through brush. I kept near the middle of the path and slowly allowed Finny to place his feet among the branches. At another time, the judge was hiding near a tree, watching as we moved up a slight incline. We had a good laugh at this obstacle. We had been on the horses for 3 hours without a restroom break. I told my friend that I needed to get off my horse and to watch the trail. I was already dismounted when the judge said that I should move down the trail and use the restroom that was just beyond the curve in the road. LOL! I almost mooned the judge as I had unzipped my pants by the time she said something! LOL! But I wonder how she jusged me at that spot. I was up and off my horse before she spoke, and then I had to remount, using terrain.

On both days, P & R's were good, but not perfect. After the first P&R, we were to hand walk the horse down the path and around a curve to the judge. We were to mount, using the terrain. I turned my horse sideways, and mounted from the high side. My friend moved the horse closer to a rise in the path, and used the higher ground. Finny did not want to stand quiet at the 2nd P&R on Sunday. At this P&R, we had to trot a long time into the P&R. Finny should have been tired, but he was excited and wouldn’t stand still as he saw other horses move on down the trail. At all the P&R’s, I remained relaxed. I tried deep breathing, hoping that Finny would mimic my breathing and calm down.

We had many metabolic checks on the trail, and I did lose hydration points. The days were cooler, but there was little water on the trail, and Finny didn’t drink much. Finny lost points as he did not stand well for the vet checks. I realize now that I should have dismounted and held my horse at each check. My daughter gave me a good idea and told me that I should have dropped his bit at the P&R’s and metabolic checks. We are allowed to dismount at the checks. I think I would have lost less points from the vet judge if I had held my horse. I also think I will work with a bitless bridle. I could use a bit with a roller, to give my horses something to play with. But that may also get annoying.

The Stephens Forest CTR was a wonderful time with friends, as always! I loved the scenery. Even though Finny wasn’t a calm horse, when we could trot down the trail, without any nervousness, it was glorious. Come along on the next CTR!

Week before Stephens Forest CTR

I had decided to take longer rides to the fields. None of the fields have been harvested, so I will ride the waterways. I have a 5-6 mile area of waterways that I walk and trot. I trot a lot since this is how I usually end up riding the CTR’s. My horse has a fast walk, but not as fast as a gaited horse. Usually, we walk the hills and stony ground, then trot anytime the terrain is flat,

Monday and Tuesday, I rode the waterways. I walked the first ½ mile, then decided to let Finny decide when he wanted to trot, which was most of Monday morning. His ears were perked and he was listening, but I kept the trot controlled, around 6 mph. I didn’t have my GPS, but later I figured that after we trotted about a mile in 9 minutes, that was close to 6.5 mph. Good clip. He was huffing a little, so I left him eat a little grass, and we walked another ¼ mile.

My goal was to condition my horse at the trot. I will see how conditioned my horse is by trotting him until he is winded, then walk until his breathing recovers, then we pick up the trot again. We trotted about another ¾ mile, grazed, walked and trotted some more. By the time we had walked and trotted about 4 ½ miles, Finny decided he would walk the last ½ mile, which was my plan, too! I’m glad he cooperated! He took his time as he loves eating that tall cut grass any time I stopped to let him graze.

On Tuesday, we added another 2 miles, as we did a 1 mile stretch of waterway 2 times. This time, I added the extra 2 miles when we were at the ½ mark to home. Those 2 miles were a very pleasurable trot, and he wanted to go a whole lot slower. He walked home, trying to stop on his own to graze. We walked until I decided to let him graze. I didn’t want him to develop the bad habit of trying to eat all the time while on a trail ride.

I had planned on taking another short trail ride this week. Tammy and I were going to ride a faster ride at Oak Creek. Since she was also going to this weekend’s CTR, we wanted to get in some trotting. But she was sick, so I called Virginia, and rode at her place. She lives near a creek, with a wooded area on both sides. The area was wide enough that you couldn’t see from one edge of the trees to the other edge. She zig zagged her paths, and I was lost, but that doesn’t take much if I don’t have a map! We rode almost 2 hours, and I meant to ask her what she thought the mileage was. Since I did 6 ½ miles in less than 1 ½ hours, I’m estimating that we had at least 8 miles since we had more trotting. I told her I needed to ride faster, with a lot of trotting, but later I found out that she kept the ride slower than normal. She thought Finny wasn’t keeping up with her Foxtrotters, but I was allowing them to go out of sight, then keeping Finny at a walk or regular trot. But I thought the pace was fast enough, with more than ½ of the time at the trot. She hadn’t ridden for a week, and I can’t imagine that her horses would have wanted to ride the whole time at the foxtrot either.

Since I was hauling Friday, I used Thursday morning to finish loading the trailer with hay and grain, and whatever clothes that I had packed and waiting at the back door. I filled the water tank, and moved the trailer up to plug the electric in for overnight.

Friday was travel day, and a few of us were planning a short, hour long trail ride. The judges were going to be very thorough, and we spent time with last minute cleaning, waiting in line, and by then it was late afternoon. We all wondered where the last 3 hours had gone! Now, with hindsight, we should have ridden when we got there, and not have worried if we had sweat marks! We could have always sponged them off!

Obviously, my horse needed some ride time each morning before we started! You’ll soon read why in my next blog! I had a perfectly mannered horse at home, and a nervous, impatient brat with me! Oh, we love the life of horses!

Come along on the ride with me! I’m going to be riding this guy a lot harder these next 3 weeks!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Riding Plans for the Week

OK, time to get serious! Stephens Forest ride is this next weekend. Not just a trail ride, but a CTR, Competitive Trail Ride. I just went to play with my granddaughter Makenzie this weekend, and didn’t ride my horse. But she is so cute, and I just had to go see her! But that meant less time on my horse.

OK, now stay on track, I tell myself! Quit talking about Makenzie. Quit thinking that you just left her 5 hours ago, and you won’t see her for another month or so. Quit thinking about how much you enjoyed playing with her and making her laugh. Quit thinking about how much fun she is! Ok, if I must, but I’m not liking it.

Back to this coming week! How am I going to get my horse, Finny, ready! Poor guy, he isn’t conditioned as well as he was in June. I gave him some time off in August, but I did ride him for the 4 days during my Centered Riding Instructor’s Course. Then I gave him another 2 weeks off. I have only rode him a few times since! But one of those rides was a short trail ride, very short.

Well, I think I’ll do exactly what my friend, Tammy, is going to do. I am going on this CTR and enjoy the scenery. I’ll enjoy riding with my friends. I’ll concentrate on the obstacles and perform them as well as we can at the moment. And I will work on just staying relaxed so my horse is relaxed.

I will work on 2 things this week. I will work on adding some longer rides to my daily workouts. I can’t stress myself knowing that my horse isn’t as legged up as he should be. That would just make him feel my stress, and in turn, not stay relaxed. I have just defeated my purpose then. I will work on how I will get my horse to relax at this CTR. A Centered Riding basic is Breathing. Deep, belly breaths. Breathing relaxes a person. Breathing relieves tension. Breathing slows a person’s thinking down. AND, Breathing relaxes the horse.

I will work on deep breathing each time I feel any tension in my horse. I will take 2 or 3 deep breaths before I mount. I will center myself, pause, take deep breaths, and mount. I will repeat the deep breaths before I ask my horse to walk off.

As I approach an obstacle, I will breath slowly and deep, inhaling with long, deep breaths through my nose, and exhale very slowly. As I perform the obstacle, I will pause, take a few deep breaths, slowly perform the obstacle, taking as many deep breaths as I can remember to do, since I know I’ll be concentrating on the obstacle and not on breathing.

Any time I feel my horse begin to become anxious, and he let’s me know this by chomping on the bit, I will breathe deep and slowly, exhaling out my mouth with a little sigh. I need to “allow” my horse to focus on my breathing and to mimic my breathing. I need to “allow” myself the time to take his attention off of what he is focused on and what he becomes anxious about. As my horse feels my breaths, and feels my more relaxed body, he will begin to realize that there is nothing to be anxious about.

I need to boost up my ride times. This week, I will add some longer rides, but I’ll remain conscience of my horse’s condition. I definitely don’t want to ride hard and make my horse sore, whether it’s a soreness in his legs or in his soles, as he is barefoot. I will just start riding him an hour in my conditioning regime. Walk, slow trot, walk, long trot with alternating posting and 2-pointing, walk, a little loping. Then I start this all over again until I have ridden an hour. During any of this, I break up the arena work by doing serpentines, going over logs, working on 2-tracking or half passes, small circles, large circles, etc. What I don’t do is just circle the arena, staying on the rail. I’ll try to only be in the arena if we have rain.

When I have the time this week, I will take longer rides to the fields. None of the fields have been harvested, so I will ride the waterways. I have a 5-6 mile area of waterways that I zig zag and travel to put in the distance. I ride the waterways at the walk and trot, and the different scenery adds some excitement to our rides. I will see how conditioned my horse is by trotting him until he is winded, then walk until his breathing recovers, then we pick up the trot again. This walking and trotting helps us to cover more ground. I also feel that this alternating walking and trotting mimics how we usually end up riding at the CTR, especially when we are behind time.

I plan on taking another short trail ride this week, but I will add some waterway work before I go on this ride, so that I end up with a 10 mile ride for the day. I will probably ride the first 4 or 5 miles at home, in the waterways, at the walk and slow jog, then I will go out on a trail, and ride at a little faster trot. This will be mid-week, so the day after this ride, I will probably just walk the waterways. The following day is travel day, and once I’m at the CTR location, I will take a short trail ride, maybe for an hour.

At the CTR this weekend, I will make sure to give my horse longer warm ups and cool downs. I will try to be on him ½ hour before start time, just walking him around. At the end of the day, I’ll give him some extra walking time after we have unsaddled.

Hopefully, this ride will have cooler temps, NO rain, no slick trails, and calm horses. This ride will be calm for me because I will be practicing my deep breathing and my horse will remain relaxed. That’s my plan for the week. I’ll let you know how tomorrow’s ride goes!

Come along on the ride with me. With Centered Riding, this conditioning and CTR will be fun! What a journey we will have!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Centered Riding Lesson with an Adult Beginner Rider

Friday, September 4, 2009

I had a Centered Riding lesson with an adult who is new to horses, new to Centered Riding, and new to riding with me for lessons. When she called for a lesson, she said she had just received the Centered Riding book for her birthday, which was during the week that she called! What a coincidence! Then during the lesson, we found we had many similarities (except our age! Lol I‘m a “few“ years older!) I found out that she had a degree in a field in the horse industry as do I, and she was also interested in horse massage. I graduated in Agriculture in Animal Production and I am an Equine Massage Therapist.

I had a great lesson with this new rider. I enjoy having lessons with adults who wanted to learn, who are excited to be here, and who understand, or try to understand what is new to them, and what is being taught. She worked hard on understanding exactly how her body was moving. I look forward to my adult lesson group, which will be starting soon.

Since this rider was new to me for lessons, we started the lesson time with meeting her horse, Starlet, and grooming and saddling. We also started with a few exercises on the ground, especially with finding the correct seat position by finding the neutral pelvis. Once we mounted, I started with Grounding the feet, as I believe this gives you a deep feeling in the stirrup. Grounding gives you a feeling of stability, and makes you feel that you are connected to the horse and to the ground. When I grounded her feet, she felt the “grounding”, the feeling, up through her legs to her knees. Whereas with me, I have no sensation in my foot or up my leg, and I just have a duller feeling. I did a final adjustment to the stirrup length.

While sitting still on the horse, I had her rock her pelvis back and forth to find her neutral pelvis. We also worked on soft eyes and hard eyes. She understood this well, as she said it was hard for her to focus on just one spot. She has great peripheral vision already.

She sat very straight, and I needed her to relax her back. Since she has not ridden my horse, Starlet, before, I wanted her to walk around and just get a feel for the horse. But instantly, I noticed that she was trying to sit proper, and was stiff through her back. When I asked her to relax, she said she wanted to make sure she was doing everything right. I decided we needed some breathing exercises. She actually already knew how to breathe deep since she studied some music. We talked about exhaling and relaxing. As she exhaled, relax the lower back. Get the feeling that you would have if you laid on the floor and pushed your back flat against the floor. I had to laugh when she told me she felt sloppy, and she was still sitting tall.

Once again we went to the rail. I was riding Finny. We practiced breathing deeply in through our nose, and exhale, slowly, out our mouths. The quiet exhale is a way to quiet our horse. If we exhale loudly and quickly during riding, this is a cue for the horse to pick up momentum. If we exhale and push down into our seat, this is a cue for the horse to slow down or stop. Our breathing is important, and our inhale and exhale should not be taken for granted.

To continue the relaxation through our backs, I had her do some of the Centered Riding exercises. These exercises follow the Alexander Techniques, and I am excited to read the Alexander book that I just got. We did 3 or 4 arm exercises that open up our chests and lift our shoulders. Then we continued working on Seat Bone exercises. Oh, I think we know where they are when you do some of these exercises. We marched in place, first lifting one leg up then the other leg. Once again, I asked her to relax and ride the arena. I’m glad that I get instant feedback from her. Right away, she asked if the seat bones are suppose to hurt! Maybe some at first, but we worked on trying to find an area on the pelvic floor where it wouldn’t hurt. There is an area where you can sit, not just 1 precise spot. We rocked the pelvis back and forth, finding an area that was “less sensitive”! That seemed to help!

This rider also wanted to relax at the trot, which is why I had chosen Starlet for the first ride. When Starlet is really slow, she is extremely smooth! When a horse’s trot is smooth, you can allow your body to relax and feel the trot motion. It is very hard to do this, as a beginner rider, when the trot is rough! We worked on riding serpentines in the arena, so the rider could practice guiding Starlet. I wanted her to use her soft eyes as she made the turns and to look ahead as she turned. We practiced the serpentines at the walk and at the trot. This sounds easy, but try it with deep breathing, inhaling and exhaling deeply, and soft eyes, and staying grounded, and sitting on your seat bones, and relaxing. Yes, this will all become natural soon!

This rider is a natural, as soon after all of this, she was loping Starlet. I did have to get on Starlet and remind her how to lope nice. My horses really do need a job soon!

Another lesson is scheduled in 2 weeks, when we both have a Friday morning free. Then she will be ready to join the adult group. She just wanted to be comfortable with the horses and my style of riding.

Everyone rides in the group at their own pace. If you ever wanted to practice, ride with a group, or even start riding, come now and ride with us. I have adult riders at all levels and skills. (Kids ride at a different time!) And adults love to socialize.

I’m excited for my next lessons. I’m excited for this cooler weather and getting my horse to the field. I’m excited for fall riding! I love the crispness! Come along on these rides with me!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Groundwork for Centered Riding

I have given 2 lessons to adult riders who are new to Centered Riding. Each lesson was totally unique, yet focused on the basics. The first lesson was groundwork and the 2nd lesson was on the horse. The first lesson is a rider, and who has previously taken lessons from me. The 2nd lesson was a rider new to horses and new to lessons with me.

There is a lot of information that could be given in just teaching the basics, and, as instructors, we shouldn’t do that. But that is what I did with this lesson. The rider, a good friend of mine, had only 1 day with me. And she has taken lessons from me before. And she lives out of state! But, the day before, and the day of the lesson, it rained, and rained, and rained! Yes, we could have pulled horses out of the muddy lot and cleaned them up. We could have used the indoor arena. But it would have been messy, and nosiy with all the rain pelting the roof.

We did an inside lesson with groundwork instead. That made it possible for me to teach all the basics. We went over the 4 basisc: Centering, Building Blocks, Soft Eyes and Breathing. Centered Riding is also about Grounding and Clear Intent.

We started with Grounding the feet and finding the “Bubbling Spring”. This is the area on the bottom of the foot where the middle of the stirrup is placed. Tap on the bottom of the foot until you find an area that feels different. This could be a tingling or just feel a little dull. We can do this Grounding to ourselves, or we can have someone else find the area. Interesting, this area is a little further back than most people realize. The Bubbling Spring absorbs the concussion of the body’s movement.

Deep Breathing releases stress and is relaxing. Breathe deep into the abdomen. Fill your lungs with air, moving the diaphragm down. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth, sighing quietly. During all the exercises, we practice deep breathing. Deep breathing needs to become natural. As deep breathing relaxes the rider, the horse relaxes.

With Soft Eyes, we use our peripheral vision and see the world around us. With hard eyes, we see only what we are focused on. Hard eyes also happen when we concentrate too hard. Hold your arms out in front of you, focus on something with hard eyes, and take your arms in a half circle out to your sides. Stop moving your arms when you can’t see them. Take notice of how far your arms went out to your sides. Now, with soft eyes, do the same exercise. See how much further the arms went out to your sides with soft eyes.

Our pelvis is a bowl. At the bottom of the pelvis is our seat bones. Our Center is in the top center of the bowl, “floating” freely. On the ground, we placed our hands on our abdomen, one hand in front, with our thumb on our belly button, and the other hand on our lower back, directly across from our front hand. Our center is between our hands. Once we found our center, we found our neutral pelvis. We tipped our pelvis slowing front wards and backwards, until we tip ever so slightly front and back, settling into a spot where we don’t move front or back. You have found your neutral pelvis.

Building Blocks. Think about stacking children’s building blocks. If the blocks aren’t stacked properly, they will tumble down. If our body isn’t in skeletal alignment, there will be no balance. Poor balance inhibits the horse’s movement. Good balance allows the horse to move freely. As with finding the neutral pelvis, we found our “Building Block” balance in the same way. Move each body part back and forth, a little less each time you move it, until you find the place where it doesn’t move. Remember the head, and move the neck the same way, back and forth, and stretch the neck up.

And always ride with Clear Intent. Have a plan, a goal, an awareness. Yet, don’t be so specific with what you want that you are unbending and unchanging. Your horse is unpredictable and you may have to change your plan for the day. This is fine, as long as you have clear intent. Be aware of where you are going, where you want the horse to go, what you want to do and what you want the horse to do.

I’ll talk about the new rider and her lesson in the next blog. I will go over more exercises for each Centered Riding technique in later blogs.

Thanks for coming along on my Centered Riding journey with me.


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