Thursday, November 14, 2013

No-Stirrup November, aka I Hate Myself and Want My Legs to Fall Off

This month, I decided to opt-in for a riding challenge: No-Stirrup November. The goal is for riders to increase their physical fitness during a month typically devoid of serious work. Now that show season is at an end and the days are much shorter and colder, sometimes it's hard to find inspiration
for riding goals. My goal is obviously to kill myself, starting with my thighs.

Who knew that calf-skin could be more painful than a medieval torture device?
I remember being a little kid, with endless amounts of energy, posting without stirrups until I was blue in the face. In fact, the riding camp where I spent most of my summers, required riders to be able to post without stirrups several times around the huge arena before we were allowed to canter. No way was I going to miss out on that! Thus, little-kid-me had awesome strength and stamina. Current-me, however, seems to have lost some of that vitality even though I now prep for competitions every year. Time to go back to the basics.

Since I'm too lazy to get my watch out of my trailer, I've been marking my progress in laps. Every day I ride, I've added an additional lap of no-stirrup posting. On day one, I thought I was going to have a heart attack (or massive charlie horse in my thighs, whichever came first) after one lap. Day two was excruciating, but I added another lap all the same. Day four, I didn't feel like putting Tristan's saddle on, so we did four laps of bareback posting. Yes, you read that correctly, four laps, bareback.

With lots of days off for rest and sore muscles, I've now progressed to day six. We start the ride with six laps of no-stirrup posting with Tristan stretching into a low head frame and swinging over his back. Then, once I'm sweaty and tired, we go back to sitting trot to work on lateral movements and more connection. I've also been schooling lots of transitions, trying to conquer our issues at the trot-canter or walk-canter transition with definite progress. Hopefully next year's dressage tests will show some improvement.

After exhausting myself from posting, I'm finally in a state of mind to work on a concept that Eric introduced to me in one of my last lessons: lighter leg-aids. He wants the horse to move off pressure the rider applies to the hair of the horse, less always being more. I worked on this at the walk, and later at the trot and canter, simply keeping a lighter lower leg and expecting a result immediately when any pressure is applied. I was really able to pinpoint weaknesses that Tristan has at the canter, with light lower legs from me he almost can't hold the gait at all, so that gives us some homework to practice. I'd like to get Tristan in some more self-carriage and impulsion by the time December rolls around.

The best part about my ride yesterday? Even after 6 laps of no-stirrup posting, I still managed to post a long-and-low trot at the end with minor muscle soreness. Ripped legs, here I come!

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