Lessons Learned

3rd Place 4th Level Freestyle 2016 Region 9 Championships.

3rd Place 4th Level Freestyle 2016 Region 9 Championships.

October has been very busy.  First out of the box was our regional championships.  The following weekend was a clinic with Isabelle von Neumann-Cosel.  This weekend was a clinic with Hans Biss.  Then in 2 weeks I will be off to Nationals in Kentucky.  I didn’t plan to be this busy but as the weather cools in Texas the clinicians appear like the birds flying south for the winter.

I have spent this afternoon reflecting on these last 3 weeks and how each event built upon the previous one.  Showing is something I want to love.  I do like to show I just don’t like the reality of it.  What I do enjoy is how I push myself to achieve goals that I’ve set in a certain time frame.  As I’ve mentioned previously in my blogs I don’t always meet those goals.  I’m a perfectionist at heart.  I know that things can be better.  I will always need more.  Whether it be bend, straightness, balance, a more independent seat, etc.

The deadline of the show lets me know that my time is up.  I need to put my best self forward and present the horse that I have at that moment in time.  I was at regionals for 5 days.  I showed 4 out of 5 of those days and on day 4 (my down day) I had a break through on just how to change my seat.  I felt a connection from my seat into my horse’s back and knew that I would never go back to my old habits.  It felt so right.

Without that breakthrough I do not think I would have learned so much from Isabelle von Neumann-Cosel.  She came for a three-day clinic on seat mechanics.  What freedom.  I didn’t have to think about where Winterfair was.  I had to think about how what I did affected her.  The biggest idea Isabelle articulated to me was that: “nobody can balance in slow motion”.  This added to the fact that she said my short pelvis was being challenged by Winterfair’s tremendous canter stride was a light bulb moment for me.  This explained why I was always trying to shorten the canter stride instead of riding more forward into collection.  It was easier for me to use my hands to manipulate the stride than it was to challenge my physique.

Then this weekend I rode with Hans Biss whom I have ridden with for the past ten years.  Hans is a true German master.  Everyone starts out their lesson the same way with Hans.  He said today: “start the lesson by stretching the horse’s back ALWAYS”.   After you demonstrate that your horse will stretch you go onto the ‘dreaded’ 20-meter circle.  I say dreaded; because you may or may not get off that circle for the rest of your lesson.   The key to moving forward is to demonstrate that you understand the importance of turning as it relates to bend and flexion.  You should not as I was reminded all too often the 2nd day; turn and go straight and turn and go straight.  A turn is keeping proper flexion and bend by riding from the inside leg to the outside rein and at the same time controlling the horse’s hindquarters enough that they are neither falling in or falling out.

The big breakthrough with Hans came about from what Isabelle had shared about my body type and how it was affecting my horse.  Once I could turn properly I implemented what she had shown me in my collected canter work with Hans.  One of the challenges I’ve had in my rides with Hans has been in changing from one circle to another by a flying change.  Now, I’m showing tempi changes but have been unable to consistently change from one circle to another.  The issue was that I was always slowing the stride in such a way that the canter stride was short, slow and flat.  Riding forward to the change and pushing the limits of my hips enabled me to change dependably from one circle to the other.

So with 2 weeks to go before my trip to Kentucky I will continue to reflect on the last 3 weeks and set my goals for the show to come.

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