My trip. Part I.
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Thursday, April 1, 2010 09:07 PM
My trip was fantastic. I would say even better than I was hoping for. I have got to do everything: riding - everyday, except stormy Friday, 3-4 horses/day, teaching - Frances invited me to work with her students plus Frances became my student couple times which was a lot of fun. To top all this fun Mariah Farm where Frances works had a schooling show on Sunday and I had a chance to show 2 horses. The intensity of immersion into learning and soaking in everything was unbelievable. Spending time with my dear friend - conversations over a glass of wine, discussions on Andalusian/Lusitano horses, dinner party and even shoe shopping, was absolutely priceless.
Coming to Denver I was excited to show Frances how effective I have became with my seat and I couldn't wait to ride her horses whom I rode last time 2 years ago. What a humbling experience it was when things didn't go smoothly during my first rides. None of the horses wanted to bend to the left for me, there was a substantial drifting to the left on a right rein. I had a hard time controlling trot tempo of a lovely tall 5-year-old Friesian/Saddlebred horse Frances has in training to sell. When Frances started to translate to me horse's reactions I couldn't believe it. The things she told me were opposite of what I perceived as my usual asymmetries.
Frances told me:
- I was leaning to the left. Of all the pictures I have ever seen of myself I was always leaning to the right.
- My left seatbone was sliding off the horse. Really? I thought my right had this problem.
- My right thigh wasn't snug enough on the saddle. I always thought my left thigh had this problem
- My left thigh was rotated inward too much ! That was big news to me. I didn't even think it was possible.
- My calfs were too far away from the horse and too far back.
- I was leaning too much forward, especially, in rising trot and canter. Coming back home to my own saddle I realized that partly
leaning forward was because Frances saddles did not fit me - the twist is too narrow and the seat is longer.
Leaning to the left -Good thing Frances recorded my riding of the Friesian cross to send to potential buyer. Looking at the video
made me see my seat and see exactly what Frances told me. My upper torso shifts itself to the left even though my seat stays in the saddle. The shift
was quite substantial, I couldn't believe my eyes. I always collapsed to the left, my left shoulder always was lower than right one. I have worked and worked
on this problem and I went too far. Now I have opposite problem. I'm collapsing to the right. The best way to fix this for me is imagine I have a diagonal
stretching from my left shoulder into my right hip. I tighten this diagonal. This brings my upper torso over my hips and makes me vertical.
Riding horses back home I started to see how easily I can loose the proper alignment and shift my upper body to the left. When I remember and tighten "my diagonal"
I can instantly feel more effective and balanced, especially, on the right rein. On the left rein I am able to bend horses better when "my diagonal" is tight and
my left seatbone plugged in.
Left seatbone, left thigh and left calf - This took some time to figure out. At first, Frances was after me to get my left calf on the horse's side.
It was sticking out, I didn't even feel his side. Working on that, Frances told me not to rotate my thigh inward so much. It wasn't easy. I have been working on
this rotation for so long it became a habit. However, this much rotation unplugged my left seatbone.
It took couple days and several horses to finally get it all organized. I was able to ease up on my rotation and get my seatbone forward and closer to the center of
a horse and the connection I felt was instantaneous. From there I put my thigh and calf on the horse only rotating enough to keep
snug connection and my toes pointing forward and just slightly out. Before my left toes were pointing inward. Frances was
amazed at my ability to rotate inward so much. I need to remember about moderation :)
These were my two biggest mistakes. I must say I really got too focused on the thighs and muscle power, forgetting about checking my
overall balance and symmetry, plugging both of my seatbones into saddle and keeping them there. The seat must start at seatbones and then come down the thighs
and not other way around. The seatbones must be plugged in and be level at all times! The thighs rotate inward without compromising seatbones. The thighs
stay on the saddle giving the feel of snugness at the top which spreads down to the knees. Calfs gently hug the horse's sides ready to be used at any moment.
More in the next blog...