Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider

Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider
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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.

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