Student's thoughts on riding...
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Wednesday, February 12, 2020 08:58 AM
...I had such a super great ride on Chica today. Some of what you/Santo were working on yesterday, and what Sharon was saying just really resonated with me. I think it just fit in nicely to what we've been working on in lessons. I had already been thinking about some of these things with Chica in the last little bit, but watching you guys really just put it into a framework that made sense, and I think it really helped me in my ride today. Even before yesterday I had been thinking about that release Sharon was talking about, and how I sometimes struggle with that on Chica. The more good moments I've been feeling with Chica lately, the more aware I am of the moments where I'm fighting with her in her body- where I don't feel that release, and I feel like I'm arguing with her to get it.
I've also lately been thinking a lot about how I try to do too much with Chica sometimes. I can feel how it causes physical tension and gripping in my own body which I've been trying lately to be more aware of (Basically within me that same lack of release as what I feel I don't have in the horse). I have intermittent moments where everything is so easy, and I can stay so physically relaxed that I'm noticing so much more when I get tense/grip. I think some of my physical tension and doing too much is a bit of my reaction to her when I feel that resistance and lack of release through her body (or when she feels like she's running away which is basically the same thing). I think I often immediately feel like it's either something I have to fix, or something I'm doing wrong so therefore I must 'do' something to make it right. Or, sometimes I just have no idea how to fix it so I just try SOMETHING - often to limited success. I'm sure some of her resistance IS frequently a reaction to something I'm doing wrong, but regardless it all turns into a negative feedback loop. The way Sharon put it yesterday that you cannot 'make' the horse release, and that the horse has to give it to you kind of put a different spin on things. So some stuff I thought about before/after my ride today:
  • A) The horse has to kind of meet you half way with that release. So part of it is up to them, and I can't take responsibility for it
  • B) Focus on taking responsibility for myself. Ie: if things aren't going well check my position, line, etc... Do everything I can to set it up as well as I can for the horse, but then it's their responsibility to release into that request
  • C) If I'm feeling that resistance just calmly, persistently as best I can continue to request what I want, being in control of my body as much as I can within my ability, and repeat until they decide to give. And I feel like they need to be willing to do that, to give you that release, or at least TRY even if everything in you isn't perfect ( Mary Wanless: until the horse goes right you can't sit right, but until you sit right the horse won't go right).
  • D) Add in something(like a shoulder-in/shoulder-fore) to help get that release, or where you want your horses body to be, but don't try to take responsibility for where the horse needs to meet you beyond that. And when they give, then you can give the release to the horse physically, or by releasing the pattern, to say yes, this is what I want. Repeat the exercise (like 10m circle), keeping your intentions, and as much as you can control until you get (or closer/faster) the reaction you want from the horse.
Like when you were doing that medium canter with Santo to the 10m circle. He had to give you that release and collection on the circle, which you/he found through the exercise, but Sharon was basically telling you to do less so he had to take physical responsibility to find the balance/release himself.
When I was watching you do those tight spiral circles, I was thinking damn, I would be doing a 1000 things right now to try and make that happen. I would be way too busy doing unhelpful things with my reins and body. It looked crazy hard to be so quiet doing it. Watching you/listening to Sharon it just seemed to me that she was getting you to take responsibility for your request, your position, and a few things to help him find that release, but ultimately you also had to sit in the exercise, being as correct as you could, and wait for him to find it in his own body and meet you half way with it.
With Chica I often feel that resistance/pushback, and then sometimes end up arguing too much or just in general DOING too much to make it right. Which doesn't always help, and makes me physically more tight/grippy/pulley etc... So today, when I would feel that, I would do an exercise (10m circle/ shoulder-in etc...) Until I found that release. And if I didn't find it right away I tried just sitting in that exercise, or repeating things until I felt it. I thought about not getting tight or fighting. I would just think about staying as balanced as possible, keeping my line, keeping inside leg/outside rein etc..., but not trying to 'make' it work. I just worked on calmly keeping my intension to the best of my ability, and thinking about how she has to meet me half way. Then I would relax my request and either ride her out of the pattern back onto the straight line or whatever I was doing when I felt her give. And then I would repeat until I felt less of an inclination to push back.
Anyway, none of this is dramatically different from what we've been doing all along, but it put things in a slightly different conceptual framework which I think helped (actually, as I reread this I think you've pretty much said this same stuff to me all along. LOL). She and I had some really glorious moments today. And I felt like I was really able to keep myself more supple/relaxed, and give her clearer rewards to her efforts. Thinking like this I think also helped me focus a bit easier on my lines/geometry because I wasn't trying to micromanage so much, and it gave me mentally a clearer picture of what I was doing. Also, my emotional reaction to what she was doing felt different. It almost felt like her resistance was a little less personal somehow (Which sounds really weird but sometimes I feel dressage can be strangely emotional and vulnerable), and that I was simply seeking ways to find common ground with her. It all at least seemed like I was on a right track...
Stephanie Williams
Happy riding...
 
Comment by Jane Perry on Wednesday, February 12, 2020 03:30 PM
Well said, Stephanie! And Irina, you have another good teacher through your student - but you probably knew that already. Thanks from you both for this blog, it's really good.
 
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