Thursday 20 April 2017

RWYM - 2nd Lesson Saturday Evening

I honestly do not know where the time keeps slipping away, by the time I actually finish recapping these lessons it'll have been weeks since the clinic!
Hopefully there are still a few peeps out there that are interested in watching these videos and more importantly I hope the info therein will help others as much as doing the clinic has helped me.

I don't know if I mentioned that this clinic ran over 2 days with 5 participants, one person couldn't follow the same set up as the rest of us as she has a young family and couldn't spare the majority of each day, unlike the rest of us lucky duckies. So she got a private hour and a half lesson & theory combined both evenings. Those of us that were lucky enough to take full advantage; each had a 45minute solo lesson in the morning, followed by lunch and group theory where the morning lessons videos were watched and dissected (see previous post for first lesson videos). The four of us were then split into two groups for an hour long combined lesson, which was basically mini-solo lessons where we each got 5-10 minutes of individual attention and then we went away to work on things alone while the second participant got some individual attention.

I really liked this set up, although admit to having had a bit of information overload by the end and my brain legit stopped working as you'll see in the videos. This second lesson was recorded for us to expand upon the info from the earlier lesson, add in the theory and practice under expert supervision. However these second lessons were not dissected in the theory sessions the following day.

 Link (36 seconds)
Quick refresher, the above video starts off with Kika & my worst side (I am bad at both, but this is worse trust me). EB had helped me by providing a visual of a screw/linchpin at the top of my right leg (where the limb joins my body) to remind me to support Kika with right thigh and lift my knee to stop her falling in so much - all the while placing more weight on my left seat bone to help both of us straighten up.

Link (34 seconds)
The above video runs through my provisional checklist - more gets added to this during the day 2 lessons.
Checklist at the stage of these videos:
  • 60-70% weight on left side of the saddle
  • lift right knee to allow weight down left seatbone
  • left ear towards left shoulder
Link (30 seconds)

Left handed is slightly better for us vs right rein, in the above video I am trying to learn the feel to encourage Kika to spend more time putting weight down her left legs. She is right-side dominant and tries to get back to putting more weight down her favoured side faster. I found this exercise quite challenging (even more so when we did it in trot) as I hold my hand up and admit I don't have the most natural ability to feel what the horse is doing. It will be a work in progress as we both learn to rebalance and shift everything slightly more to the left. I shall have to sing that one line from the BeyoncΓ© song to myself as I ride.

In fact I am secretly delighted to have thought of that little gem, here's hoping I can now ingrain it in my brain and sing to myself as I try to ride.

Link (55 seconds)
On to some trot work, boy does my inside heel make me cringe in the video above. While Kika looks alright, if not 100% stepping under herself I look like a hot mess and we unearth my biggest bugbear in trot work. I have somehow managed to master putting my legs on as I rise rather than squeezing as I sit. AKA - I am asking her to speed up while rising but then slowing her immediately back down when I sit in the saddle. Another friend who gave me pointers before couldn't figure out how I had managed to teach myself that nasty trick, but hopefully with EBs help I can start to undo the ingrained bad habit. This will be where the snow plow will come in, whereby I hope to over exaggerate (to my mind which means by the time the message actually gets down my limbs it won't be too loud) the skiing movement required to stop. Namely lower legs off as I rise, almost thinking toes in & heels out to stop me from using them.
Trotting checklist includes:
  • hips forward to reach balance point
  • hands have to be out of the way (aka forward)
  • lower leg off for rise
You'd think by now these things would be

but what can I say - I'm a slow learner and this is compacted by the fact that I have remembered wrong. I don't doubt I was taught correctly however too many years riding alone have given me mucho bad habitos.

Link (17 seconds)

The above is a very quick clip for comparisons sake so that I can see what straighter looks like. This video actually also reminded me that I forgot to mention at the start of the post that for this lesson I lowered my left stirrup by one to help me lengthen my leg and sit more left in the saddle. Something I am still riding with as I attempt to retrain my body.

For comparison, picture from earlier lesson - considerable right overhang visible
Actually acute video watchers may have noticed an adorable guest in the corner (aka my marvelous mama) who came along to watch the lesson and was blown away by (a) the difference in my riding and (b) the great ways Elaine was able to explain what she wanted and why. My mother rode horses when she was younger, and it is actually her sister who bred Nancy and now runs the farm where both Kika & Nancy lived before joining me in Lux. When she drops in to watch me ride from time to time, she had been mentioning that I was over to one side but didn't know what to suggest fixing to fix me - we are both super glad for EB.

Link (32 seconds)
Checklist check in
Link (29 seconds)

Some more trot work in above video on our bad right rein, despite my floating outside leg I am very impressed with the strides we have made in this video. It is great to see the improvements EB has had on me and wish I could ride more like that every time I climb aboard.

The above screenshot with my awesome paint skills is hoping to illustrate some of the points I shared in the General Takeaway post I shared first - LINK.
  • Horse is down on the forehand when their chest is lower than the mid point on their belly
  • Horse frame/legs in trot should form an M shape. Outstretched foreleg should be under horse's nose and other foreleg should meet hind under the rider's seat bones and the space between both legs should be equal triangles.
Her nose is a little BTV and she isn't quite stepping under herself and we won't even comment on wtf my hands are doing (or the fact that a bus could be comfortable driven between them) but as the red line shows her chest is not lower than the mid point of her belly and while she could still step into her tracks a bit better; the triangles that form the M of her legs are pretty close in size.
The green arrow I indelicately added is to highlight what looks like a shadow - this is a clue to how the horse is using themselves.
I cannot remember exactly what it means, but I think it shows the use of a muscle that means they are lifting their ribcage and working over their backs comfortably.

Two other RWYM theory stalwarts that I have thus far forgotten to mention can be explained with the help of the above screenshot.
* The rider is in a good position if it looks like they would land on their feet/upright if the horse was magicked away
*The horse is working well if they land on their belly when their legs are magicked away. A horse down on its forehand would tip forward (arse-over-tit) without legs if it's chest is lower than the midpoint of its belly.

Link (47 seconds)

You can probably see she is beginning to tire, and let me tell you she wasn't the only one! Neither one of us have ridden twice in the one day for a long time - I'm actually not sure she ever has been ridden twice in one day & definitely not in a clinic setting where the concentration levels are considerably higher than on any other given day.
However in saying this can we take a moment to remember that the previous two videos are of us trotting on our BAD side - compare these to the ones in the previous post which were taken earlier the same day and I have to say I am super impressed with the changes - now to maintain them without the excellent coaching.
The end of this video makes me lol as you can see how we lose concentration just as I reward her, I know this is more my fault that hers - but this is Kika's character to a T and makes me smile every time.

Link (41 seconds)
This video shows us both tiring more, she gets heavy and a little sticky like she's pulling her feet out of muddy ground - but considering the concentration this all requires neither one of us can be blamed.
EB rightly calls me out at the start of the video for getting too "busy" in the saddle out of desperation and goes on to run through the laundry list of things I am supposed to be thinking of as I ride. I shall type them up here so that I can refer back to them myself at a glance, however my sheepish "yep" in answer to her query as to whether I have all that was a testament to my tired mind and in actual fact I was concentrating on keeping her from stalling more than my laundry list. #shame

  • heels away as I rise
  • leg off as I leave the saddle
  • leg on as I land on the saddle
  • thighs wrapped in and on the horse (so that I (a) support her and (b) can't use my lower leg #doublewhammy)
  • careful not to grip with thigh or tighten the back of thigh/buttock area as if I did I would land too heavily when thigh constricted
  • Right seat bone close to her spine (aka middle of saddle)
  • right hip light (translated to right hip forward in next day videos)
  • left hip down on saddle and left seat bone clearly felt
I feel like the above "simples" image should be reused here - but I think this post is going to be long enough without repeating imagery.

Link (30 seconds)
In the above video my brain was really lagging, it takes me ages to answer as I honestly couldn't even tell what my legs were doing #mortified
Kika is a trooper to put up with me, she truly outdid herself - I honestly thought the toys would be pitched out of the pram but at no stage the entire weekend did she threaten any untoward behaviour. Amen says I, and long may it continue - she has been so good that Nancy's leasee doesn't believe the stories of our past disagreements and tbh i hope she never witnesses them as I most def do not wish to retread that terrain!

Link (22 seconds)
Back to basics - for lack of brain

In the next and final video (phew I hear you sigh) my brain had legit checked out. I may be talking, but I can honestly say that my brain had no idea what my legs were doing. I was in such a brain fog by that point that I couldn't even tell you where my feet were and that is probably why EB rightfully giggles at me and my utter lack of coordination #deserved

Link (29 seconds)

And that was Day 1 one of the clinic done and dusted.
These videos just go to prove that if you can get the basics right things just improve exponentially - the differences between the videos in the previous post and these blow my mind. I am under no illusions that the crux of the problem is me and I am miles from having this stuff down, but seeing what a difference a day can make has given me the boost to plug away at the basics and remedy my terrible habits. If I can make this kind of improvement in one day - what might we be able to achieve if we can get permission for EB to come back for another clinic?!
I will try to not take so long in sharing the videos and info from Day 2!

Wednesday 12 April 2017

RWYM - 1st Lesson Saturday Morning

(Videos have been uploaded to youtube - hopefully they can be viewed)

I hope you guys are ready for a media tsunami unlike anything I've shared on the blog before. I actually feel a little uneasy about dissecting all this info and still don't really know where to begin. Not to mention the fact that this is really laying it all out there, these videos really highlight the tip of the iceberg in my weaknesses as a rider, admittedly i am an absolute amateur and only hope others might benefit from seeing where I am going wrong and hopefully the tips being given to me might help others.

Apologies to those who don't like watching videos, if it's any consolation the longest clip is 2 minutes and most are under 30second snapshots of the lesson.
EB was awesome at explaining the ideas and concepts to the rider and then recording before, during and after instructions to give the rider something to look back on and check in with to help with the information overload. I will try to nab some screenshots to share, but honestly the videos are so short and packed with info & tidbits. That despite the relative shortness in run time, they are infinitely better at divulging information than anything I could ever hope to write.

I feel a disclaimer should precede the videos ... I had meant to make myself and Kika more presentable (aka pull her mane) but time got away from me as I played hostess. I did manage to braid it for the Sunday sessions, so at least in the later videos she looks slightly more presentable.
I also deliberately left the reins a little long for this first lesson as I knew I would be concentrating a lot on me and my seat in the saddle so didn't take much contact with her - perhaps unfair, but considering the bombardment of info my brain took on in this fist lesson, I honestly wouldn't have been able to concentrate on more.

Youtube Link in case above doesn't work
(16 seconds)

Screenshot of chair seat as mentioned in video above
I'm not quite sure what is the best way to share the mountain of info for this post, as not only is there the information being shared in the videos but there is also the theory I gleaned from watching these videos of this lesson as part of the group theory. I think I'll let those who want to watch the videos and then share the general notes I made during theory at the end of the post and hope it all makes some sort of sense to those reading. Even a week later I am still digesting all the information and as you can tell from this post, I am no closer to being able to share it coherently. This is really a gathering of intel for myself so i can check back in on it all in one place over a couple of posts.

Link (32 seconds)

Link (22 seconds)

The two videos immediately above and the screengrab below, illustrate the bones of what we worked on over the weekend. Between Kika and myself (chicken vs egg we cannot know what came first) when the right hand is the inside rein, Kika bulges out and my core collapses in, making her a right banana (pink chalk drawing below). I lose my right seat bone into the hollow she has created by bulging her ribcage out making my right leg longer on that side despite the stirrups being the same length.

One of the main things we work on in these videos is getting me to sit more on my left seat bone, so much so that I end up feeling like I might fall off the saddle on that side! 
However as you can see from the screengrab above (left) more of the detail on my breeches design can be seen to the right of the saddle, so there is still plenty room for me to sit in the tack once I straighten myself out in the videos to come. 
EB is an advocate for each rider creating their own personal checklist for what they have to get right at the start of the ride (and indeed periodically check in with during the ride) to best help their horse and get the best out of the spin. My checklist is created during this lesson and I will address it better in the later post that will deal with the Saturday's second lesson & videos.
Link (10 seconds)

The video immediately above and those that follow start to delve into helping me correct myself in the tack. It is amazing to me, how much EB can (a) see from the ground and (b) know how to correct with what seem like tiny suggestions, but that have immediate effects. It truly has been a mind blowing experience for me and I am so glad to have these videos to watch over and over again and hope to train myself out of my nasty habits - here's hoping i don't over compensate and go to far the other way!

Link (15 seconds)

Link (2mins 15seconds)
I feel I should probably also address at this stage that I know my hands/shoulders & upper back are atrocious however EB rightly opted to concentrate on my seat area first and work up/down from there as appropriate. She did also recommend I go to a chiropractor to straighten myself out just to be sure I am not throwing us both out of balance and I have every intention of doing so. However after having received all these instructions while I'm "out of whack" I am going to work on them for a few weeks/months to straighten us both out as per these instructions and if/when EB can come back in the autumn I will go to a chiro before her return and hopefully the work we do between now and then will help re-balance my right banana and muscle the right side of her back.

Link (17 seconds)

EB had me use the mirrors to establish my checklist and check our straightness, seems obvious, but I am always terrible for using the mirrors to look at what the horse is doing rather than what I am doing on top of the horse - I hope to correct this going forward and to pay closer attention to what my body is doing and how it might affect the horse! Above shows me still crooked and below shows a slight improvement - small changes for immediate effect #mindblown

Link (23 seconds)

Link (14 seconds)

Above was our first trot of the day in all its hideousness as my reins are atrociously long and heels nudge and annoy her - honestly these videos highlight to me what saintly creatures I have! I cannot believe how they put up with me.

Link (51 seconds)

Trotting on our slightly better rein above, and below a close up tutorial for what I should be doing in rising trot and where the balance point is. As seen in previous post, it is considerably more forward that I had previously thought. Also eurgh, is that an unflatering rider angle - but very useful video footage for me going forward.

Link (32 seconds)

Below is an interesting video to me, well they are all interesting, but this one really captures a moment of satisfaction/relief from Kika when I get myself into a better rising trot position and rhythm around about the 0:45second mark.

Link (1min 32 seconds)

Watching these videos in particular I think my back is still quite hollow, but hopefully I can correct that now that I can see myself doing it.

Link (1min 6 seconds)

Link (27 seconds)

Screengrab for those anti-videolites. I'm still far from perfect, I almost seem to be grabbing
with my knee and deff still have a hollow back but she looks good even if not quite stepping under herself.

Link (39 seconds)

Above and below is our worst side for some trotting video, I know you must be thinking how could it get worse?! πŸ€—
The video below also introduces me to leg yielding, I haven never learned/been taught how to do lateral work so I typically tend to stay away from it. Although I have always wanted to learn to do it and am hopeful that with EB's continued help I may finally straighten myself out enough to learn correctly so as to not confuse the horses by asking when I am utterly out of balance.

Link (1min 45 seconds)

Link (48 seconds)

The last two videos are EB valiantly trying to help me straighten my head upon my shoulders - simple you'd think, but not with yours truly's brick like noggin.

Link (9 seconds)

Link (46 seconds)

Now for the notes I was given during the theory portion as we viewed the videos; I will try to list them in bullet points as hopefully they will make sense after viewing the videos - not to mention the fact that this post is verging on novel length already.

  • Nose, chin in line with zip of top & mane of horse = central axis
  • Left leg my toe turns out
  • Ski/Snow plow position to wrap my thighs around horse // don't pinch knees
  • Core collapses right - right hip is lower than left - put more weight down left seat bone to balance saddle. Seat bone does not mean down stirrup/leg
  • Drive left seat bone down and lift right hip
  • 70% weight down left seat bone and have right seat bone closer to her spine
  • Left ear down
  • Kika stays longer/lingers on right front leg - I have to work slightly against her and place more emphasis on left fore leg lingering
  • Sleep lying in my left side = 8 hours of practice πŸ™ƒ
  • Also sit on chairs with left seat bone hanging off the side
  • Suggested ball excercise - sit on ball as if on horse, use thigh to pull leg up & forward and ease back down while keeping shoulders slightly forward for balance

Following this theory lesson, there was another riding lesson where I attempted to put all this info into practice. However I'll deal with that in another post - hopefully next Tuesday!
Massive thanks to those who viewed and read this far, apologies for my poor post construction. Hopefully you can still get a feel for the teaching method and can take something away from it. There is plenty more to follow, I just need to find the time to get it all from my phone (notes) & memory stick (videos) into something resembling a post format, even if only for myself to have a collected place to check back in and refresh my memory of what to do when riding by myself.

Happy Easter

PS - I really hope the videos work

Wednesday 5 April 2017

RWYM - General

I still have so much to process from the weekend that even three days later I am not sure I can really do justice to everything that was said. Apologies if the posts on this topic are a hodge podge of thoughts/notes, I really just want to get them down somewhere I can refer back to them as needed.

Rider alignment
ear > shoulder > hip > heel
I figured I'd start with some general tidbits/takeaways I got from the weekend that don't necessarily apply 100% to me but that I found interesting as an equestrienne in my quest to improve. I also snagged photos of the blackboard section of the theory which can reside in this post and not overwhelm the already media heavy posts to come.
I feel I should first commend the set up of this clinic, there were different options available for how we wanted to participate in the clinic. We opted for individual lessons in the morning, joint theory after lunch and then a group lesson in the evening with 2 participants. All riding sections are filmed for comments in the theory and posterity sake for the riders. My videos will appear in posts later this week/over the weekend.

Elaine was (is) amazing. She has so much knowledge and insight to share and no matter what questions were asked she had answers/thoughts/ideas/exercises to help both rider and horse. Not only could she answer every query, but if we didn't understand the first way she explained she could rephrase it numerous different ways with many different visual and/or key word examples to help us remember going forward.

I found this interesting as dressage saddles with their deep seats
can work against us if we're not careful to keep our seat bones plugged in straight

The theory section was not just watching the videos of the morning rides nor blackboard explanations; it was 100% interactive with each participant taking on the role of the horse - legit on all 4s - and rider to demonstrate the correct and most common incorrect ways of sitting on a horse. This was eye opening to feel from the horse's point of view just how much our balance/seat bones/position in the tack affects their way of going & ability to move. #mindblown
This was not the only interactive aspect to the theory section of the clinic, there was an exercise ball present upon which we could simulate riding a horse without damaging each other πŸ˜‚
We were all recommended to invest in our own exercise balls and given different exercises to help strengthen our weaknesses. Needless to say I was useless at balancing on my own on the ball without my feet on the ground (the videos will better show part of the reasons why) also hammered home my need to build some semblance of core strength - hello planking in my immediate future. πŸ˜…

Now for the actual tidbits & general takeaways I managed to make a note of:

  • Horse is down on the forehand when their chest is lower than the mid point on their belly
  • Crooked horse - chances are it is weaker on one side, to help it strengthen that side ride only the legs on the weaker side over poles and/or cavaletti
  • Horse frame/legs in trot should form an M shape. Outstretched foreleg should be under horse's nose and other foreleg should meet hind under the rider's seat bones and the space between both legs should be equal triangles.
Not perfect but illustrates what I am trying to explain
  • The rider's balance point in rising trot is further forward than we think and something I work on in my videos. Rider must almost clear the pommel of the saddle with pubic bone as thighs work in a windscreen wiper action. We should use the front of our thighs and open our hip angle to pull ourselves up not tensing our butt muscles
  • Make sure to carry hands up and forward so that we don't hit off them when rising
Still not perfect but better
  • We have to carry our arms from the core and hold them as if reading a book
  • Elbows should be in front of jacket seems as if holding a book
     to read // shaking someone's hand
  • To stop hands drifting loop twine between dee rings on saddle or wrap bits of mane around little fingers and if hands start to get too wide the mane pulls on fingers
  • If break at wrists (I do) eat a few magnum ice creams and use sticks inside gloves to help keep wrists up
  • If hands face down (puppy paws/pushing a pram) it changes the bit placement in the horse's mouth and can make the bit push down on the horse's tongue
  • Reins are for emergency // horses can be slowed & halted from seat by stopping/slowing the movement in our seat bones
  • Think toes up vs heels down as forcing heels down pushes foot forward
  • The transition up think "up" - sit up, breathe in and confirm with request from legs

  • Look for two sausages (above left) either side of horses mane means that the horse is working properly over its back and balanced
  • If horse hollows don't drop hands // add leg and give with hands to allow them to move forward. The horse hollows because it looses engine/back end push
  • Rider is sitting in the right place in the saddle if there are the same amount of fingers width between rider's body and front/back of the saddle when hand held flat in front & behind rider.
  • Rising trot need to come from hip/top of thigh not from the knee. When it comes from the knee it pushed the horse back. When the rider uses hip/thigh to pull ourselves up it brings the horse's hind end forward with us
Downward transitions DONT'S:
  • Don't pull reins
  • Don't lean back
  • Don't pinch knees
  • Don't pinch bottom/grab horse with seat
  • Don't hold breath
  • Don't sit taller as it leads to hollowing, looses seat bone connection and pushes horse forward
Downward transition DO
  • Do breathe out but don't let go of muscle tone
  • Woah/Moo (like a cow) as is goes down to pelvic floor
  • Do stay plugged in with seat bones but don't grind into horse's back
  • Do close thigh a little from outside in to make sure legs don't bounce around
  • Do stay vertical with a neutral spine
  • Do stop movement in seat bones
Left to right balance points for:
jumper, hunt seat, dressage, everyday
and bottom is race jockey
Half Halt
  •  Is a feel/energy change
  • If horse needs a bit more instruction (aka doesn't heed energy change) - close little finger on outside rein
  • If horse still doesn't respond close little fingers on both reins
  • Don't pull reins back to hips
  • Don't pull & kick (sometimes an instruction given to riders)
Canter work
  • Best time to ask for canter transition from walk is when inside foreleg is moving forward thereby freeing inside shoulder to lift up as outside hind pushes off the ground and up into canter
  • In an arena setting max canter work on a circle is 2 turns/circles as horse cannot balance for longer // dressage tests never ask for more than two consecutive canter circles in a test without changing rein or going straight between. Even GP only max ask for 2 pirouettes consecutively
I know this is a lot of info in one post and the wording may not make sense to those who haven't followed a similar course before, but hopefully you can still take something from these tidbits and won't be too turned off ahead of the verbal vomit/media heavy posts that will follow as we delve into my actual riding lessons!

Monday 3 April 2017

Monday Meet Ups

While I have every intention of sharing multiple posts about the Ride With Your Mind clinic from the weekend. Hopefully sometime this week as we rode 4 times and had theory inbetween so there is a lot of info to digest and breakdown - I hope to whittle it down into readable chunks.
So for today I'm going to share the fun photos I nabbed from @equigeo's visit today. I feel privileged to have been able to help her add another country to her impressive list of places she's ridden. Check out her awesome blog if you don't already follow it, She has made it her goal to capitalise on her job involving a lot of travel to ride in every new country she visits and/or neighbouring countries if she as already ridden in one. Such a fab idea and has deffo inspired me to start riding on my travels...whenever I get around to international adventuring again lolz

Her visit was perfectly timed as a stroll in the woods was just what we all needed after the weekend clinic'ing.  We were truly blessed with the weather too - it really was glorious. I can only hope she enjoyed it as much as I did.

Between the ears shot of the "grand canyon" as I call it

Don't worry I haven't forgotten my Equitana post, I just didn't get around to it last week and then we had the clinic at the weekend so I'm hoping to write about that while it is all still fresh in my mind and after I get the copiess of the videos...hello media overload 😈