Friday, July 20, 2012

"You've Got To Know When To Hold 'Em......."

".....Know when to fold 'em,
  Know when to walk away,
  And know when to run..."
  -Kenny Rogers, The Gambler

I'd like to thank both Kenny Rogers, and Calm, Forward, Straight for inspiring this post.  Kenny Rogers' lyrics are wise, but it was Calm, Forward, Straight who reminded me of this particular song and how good of an analogy it provides for riding a horse.

Since my "levade" incident, I have been working mainly on me: my position, my ever-elusive "feel", and my level of fitness.

I had my trainer out shortly after my unwilling excursion into the haute ecole, and he pointed out a few interesting things.

Interesting Thing 1:  I've developed a tendency to collapse my left shoulder.  A lot.  Which quite effectively blocks my left arm's ability to follow my horse.  And, when my left arm isn't following, it's slamming into my poor horse's mouth.  I'm still working on fixing that, which involves more yoga and more paying attention to my position while riding.

Interesting Thing 2:  I had my knee jammed into the knee roll.  Which was weird, because I never ride like that.  At first I was in denial when he kept pointing it out (kind of stupid, since he's on the ground looking right at me), but I eventually accepted the truth.  Riding with your knee crammed up into the knee roll is a problem because it causes you to grip with your thigh.  Gripping with your thigh is a problem because it restricts the horse's ability to move from his hind end and up into the bit.  Turns out it was an easy fix, though:  Are you ready for this one?  I had forgotten to lower my stirrups back down after the last time I jumped!  *Facepalm*  Once I put them down where they belonged, my position improved immensely (although the left shoulder slouch was still there).

Interesting Thing 3:  In addition to doing more stretching and flexing of myself, I also need to do more stretching and flexing of my horse.  I need to be able to put his head and neck anywhere and everywhere I want it during the ride, up, down, and side to side, all while maintaining the rythm and relaxation.  To get there, I've been riding him in a very stretchy frame, then bringing him back to collection until I feel that I've lost the schwung.  As soon as I lose the schwung, I send him right back to stretchy.  In cases where we fall apart as soon as I ask for the collection, I just go straight back to flexing.  In essence, I need to "know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em..."   Hehe.

I'm still working on knowing when to walk away.....

Spider usually let's me know when to run!

In other news:  Just look at that buff beast!  People are going to start thinking he's part Draft.  Well, maybe that's stretching a bit.....


  1. Tucker always lets me know, in no uncertain terms, when it's time to fold'em and walk away. Running would be fruitless as he'd probably just chase me. *G*

    You are proof positive as to why a ground person/trainer is so valuable, no matter how long you've been riding.

    1. Haha! I can totally picture that! Tucker would be thinking "Wait, come back here! I'm not through with you!"

      I couldn't agree more on the ground person/trainer! It's so easy to start to cut corners when you ride by yourself. And then suddenly everything is falling apart and you can't figure out why. A good set of eyes on the ground keeps a rider honest!

  2. Agree on the good ground person/trainer!

    Your pony is gorgeous!

    1. Thank you! I will relay the compliment to Spider, he will be pleased ;)

  3. I am a fellow left shouder/side collapser. *sigh*

    1. It seems to be a common problem. I'm told it's because most people are right handed, and thus weaker on the left side.

      But, perhaps we left slumpers are not actually wrong, but just normal, and the people who can stay straight and pretty in the saddle are the ones who are wrong? I think we should re-write the dressage tests to reflect our "normalcy". ;D

  4. I am a left-side collapser, too!
    We should form a club or maybe a support group would be more appropriate. ;)

    Spider does look awesome. Very muscular and fit.

    Recently someone started giving me tips about feeding to put on weight and muscle and I just had to sigh. No matter how much better my horse looks, there is always someone who thinks they can beef him up more.

    1. *LOL*... "support" group. A very apt name!

      I get the "how to fatten up your horse" comments, too. I nod my head, smile, and keep right on doing my thing. I like a muscular and fit horse, not a "beefy" one. I find that many dressage riders like to keep their horses quite obese in an attempt to emulate the old style dressage Warmbloods (who had more Draft horse blood, and were much thicker than today's horses). I don't think that's fair to the horse. Plus, Spider is a Thoroughbred, he's never going to carry weight like a Warmblood. He does his job well, he has no health problems and no lack of energy. He doesn't need to fit the dressage "standard of beauty". By being healthy and sound, he fits my standard of beauty perfectly!

  5. Right side collapser here.

    Spider looks great - don't change a thing! :)

    1. Right side? Hmm, I suppose you can be in the club ;D! (Are you a lefty? That would go towards what I've been told about "weak sides".) You and I could ride double, then we'd be one correct rider. I'll hold the right rein, you hold the left....

      Thanks for the compliment! I'll relay it to Spider, but I'm afraid all these compliments might go to his head!


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