Butts and Giggles

Ok friends, get your heads out of the gutter; that is not where I’m going with this.

In my recent lessons with Courtney on Bimini and Fargo, we paid a lot of attention to riding their butts. With Bimini it started in the canter transitions. I can do canter transitions all day long thinking about the activity, the prompt reaction, or just imagining the feeling of a good transition, all good things, but there’s something about the way thinking about the butt going first triggers my body to ride it right.  Today Courtney said, “Butt canter… not horse canter… just the butt” and then we did it right. My seat sits a bit deeper and I feel like it just attaches to his hind-end while the other part of me sort of ignores the front end (though not shutting it down), which makes the shoulders and the rest of the horse secondary to the engine. It seems to make a better, more uphill transition every time, so now I need to remember to think those words from the start.

For Bimini’s flying changes, the same concept really helped the way I rode them. It’s interesting to me how just a simple phrase or combination of a couple of words can make an idea or understanding a reality. It’s not that focusing on the hind-end is a new concept; it’s the clear and simple words that create the way to make it happen.  So this time Courtney had me think of connecting my seat to his butt and then think, “Butt change!” and I had a couple of much better changes than usual. How can it be so simple?!

Just the other day at the very end of a ride on Bimini, I had been working hard, focusing, and then felt like I made a good difference in the horse.  I was trying hard not to overthink everything but to just ride. It’s such a tricky balance for me because there of course needs to be some sort of understanding and plan… it’s just that sometimes when my brain is constantly firing a bunch of signals it kind of shuts it down. It’s sort of like that feeling when someone asks you a question and you have so many different paths of thoughts or feelings that you can’t actually spit any of them out until you just relax and pick one – at least that happens to me sometimes! Anyway, I was really happy with the throughness and collection that the ride created, but it wasn’t until the last 15 seconds before I finished and walked that I just connected with how much fun the feeling of power and good connection creates in the gait! It’s such a good ride. There was a lesson that I remember having with Lendon at least a couple of years ago when I first started having the opportunity to sit on some fancier, more trained horses; I got to get on someone’s horse and ride around at the end of a lesson to just feel the trot and see what I could do with it… a little woah… a little go…. a little quick… a little bounce…. it was a slight variation of each, but the ability, the ride, the feeling was just cool… new… awesome… inspiring…. and fun! I noticed at the end of my ride the other day that the feeling I found with Bimini reminded me of that feeling I was so awe inspired by years ago, but it wasn’t until the end that it really hit me how cool the result of a good ride was! So I made it a goal to remember to notice and enjoy the awesomeness more often in my rides to come.

Well, I didn’t have a problem remembering that at all with my last lesson on Fargo. The fun factor hit me full on and I couldn’t keep myself from giggling throughout the ride. It’s not often that I actually want to keep myself from giggling… I sure love to laugh. But, the fun moments were so fun it was distracting! I had to keep reminding myself to refocus after a couple strides of pure joy.

We’ve been working on finding our good trot – one that’s active and pushing, not rushing or just bouncy. Courtney had me start by making sure the walk to trot transition was really good. We found it by asking with a little kick – not at all a big punishing thump, just a little bit of a surprise saying let’s go to work and let’s really mean it! Then when a little kick to trot transition made him ready to dance, I could ask with a very light leg aid and sitting down seat… the first stride into trot just pushed the giggles right out of me. This horse has such a big heart. I asked with a little whisper, and I could feel his immediate big effort to push and please, and I could see the fancy result of his shoulder lifting up in the mirror in front of me. How cool is it that just sitting on a horse doing a transition from a four beat walking gait to a two beat trotting gait could mean so much, feel so fun, and proudly display the heart and will of that horse? I love dressage.

In the actual trot I’ve been working to find the right trot. I often blast around the ring too fast or make a half halt to a step of passage instead of to a shorter, quick, active trot. I get moments of really good, fancy trot, but it’s not something that either of us can maintain yet… so I end up getting a few strides and then getting tired or it gets complicated with another aid and we lose the big fanciness and have to start over. But there is a way that I can just find a better, active and engaged trot that can be consistent without being too heavy of a work load…. but how? There are so many buttons!

At one point in the lesson Courtney called for a walk transition. I sat, Fargo sat, and then practically halted…. oops… hmm… well it was prompt and his butt went down. “NO! Forward and butt pushing into the walk!” I needed more leg without holding and making him slower. So I rode around thinking walk, but before that thought made his butt slow down, I gave little tiny bouncy kicks with my legs…. come… keep stepping… active… I had to keep thinking about that butt stepping forward quickly, while sitting down asking for walk. Anytime he felt like he wanted to slow or drop into the transition I would think, “quick, go forward, but don’t… I actually want to get into the walk eventually…” It worked! We had a really nice trot to walk where his butt felt just as active and ready in that transition and actual walk as it did in the trot. yay!

Once we were on our break, Courtney explained that “By the way… that trot before the walk transition was your trot.” Once again, I felt like a silly little schoolgirl giggling… heehee… yea…. it was good. She explained that it worked because I rode him thinking that he must stay active when preparing for walk, but I “didn’t let him go” forward, so I really got the good trot. Ding! There are the right words to trigger my brain into gear. I just have to think about preparing for a good walk transition to get my good trot.

So in rides to come, I’m to keep my mind on the butts, my own butt down connecting to that hind-end, and my brain thinking about each of those simple phrases while having a blast but not letting the giggles totally take over. 🙂

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Immense Gratitude

Those who know me well know that I am not very comfortable publishing details about my life to the world.  But, there is just so much that deserves to be shared. There are so many lessons I am blessed enough to learn in my position as a student that it’s selfish of me to keep it all to myself. So, here I am, diving in, joining the rest of all the brave online sharers, and making it a goal to use this place to record events and lessons learned. As a devout dressage nerd, said lessons and news will probably be mostly about my four-legged friends, and we’ll see if any other musings on life start to emerge.

I have so much for which to be thankful. SO much. If anyone gets even a whiff of griping from me, please, slap me upside the head and set me straight. I’m not even sure where to start (as I should have long ago, there’s a lot of catching up to do). The thing is, even in my extreme attitude of gratitude (hey, that came out cute), I tend to keep a lot to myself in order to keep from sounding like a bragger disguising herself by proclaiming “blessings” and “thanks” but with the larger underlying, “Hey look at me, me, me, meeee and the awesome things that have happened in my life.” kind of character. That demeanor is a bit of a pet-peeve of mine. I think that most people sharing their lives have good, true intentions, but my fear of being taken as the occasional fake, self-consumed snob keeps me from sharing a lot of good news. However, I’ve realized that as I do with most lessons in life, I’ve taken it to the other end of the spectrum and by keeping so quiet, am truly not giving back to those that deserve so much more than I could ever give. So, here’s to changing that!

I realize I am in a really special position with my job. It’s so perfect for me! I could have never dreamed it up myself; it screams of a perfect designer.  The people growing my dreams beyond what I could drum up on my own are incredible. Time and time again I have been shocked by how freaking awesome people can be! I don’t deserve them. For one, my trainer, mentor, inspiration, and friend Courtney King-Dye has been more generous with sharing her mind, heart, and energy than I could ever think possible. I’m so glad to be able to learn from not only her world-class dressage skills but also the way she conducts herself as a professional and as a really cool human being. I continually recognize what an amazing thing this life is and wonder how it’s possible that I should be so lucky.

New friend Fargo

A couple of remarkably generous things have happened in the last few months.  I’ll start by sharing that most recently, a longtime friend and client of Courtney’s, Francine Walker, donated her fabulous horse, “Fargo” to Dressage4Kids.  I’m eternally grateful for the support of D4K (including Lendon Gray, Fern Feldman and the many others supporting the organization) for allowing Courtney to lease Fargo, Francine for her mind-blowing donation and heart, Courtney for her indescribable support and will to give me the chance to ride this fantastic horse, and Clair Glover for always giving, always helping, and always making room for us at Bel Air Farm.  My body was literally (in the true sense of the word not this fad of using it figuratively) shaking in shock and excitement when I heard the news of Fargo coming (which of all days happened on my birthday!).  So many amazing people have given, given, and given some more, and it’s more than a dream come true to be able to learn from it all.  It has already started, yet I can’t wait.