Hips Don’t Lie

{I have officially been here one month! It is insane it has already been that long/it has only been that long. I cannot believe how much I have already learned, or the improvement Kelso has made in the four weeks we’ve been here. It makes me so excited for the rest of our time here! Thanks for being a part of the journey!}

While grooming the WP on Friday Paul and I were chatting about the plan for my ride. He started to lecture Kelso about staying round and working through his back but Kelso was avoiding eye contact…The quality of the canter is behind the quality of our trot, so we decided working on the canter more today was the way to go. I then told Kelso it took him four weeks to get a fancy trot so he gets another four to improve the canter. Paul told me there are no timelines and it will come when it does, as there is no magic or tricks in true dressage. I was sure to tell him that Kelso is called the Wonder Pony for a reason and we are magic together. (Kelso was holding eye contact at this point, by the way.) He challenged us to show him our tricks and then thought better of it when I said we have quite a few; I don’t think cantering around bareback and bridleless would be very appreciated.

This week’s lesson started with our normal lunging routine. I have roots in Natural Horsemanship, a discipline that is not particularly in favor of lunging; my views on the practice have changed drastically in the month I have spent here, so look for a focused blog post about it! Not only has it improved the quality of the gaits and the connection Kelso has in the bridle while riding, it has also started to physically change the shape of his neck and how he carries himself. We also introduced in-hand work on the wall. We practiced trot-halts, which will ultimately help him sit more in the hind end. Paul uses in-hand work to teach horses to respect the handler’s space or for horses who can be heavy in the bridle. When working on the wall, the side reins are nearly even, but horses can have a tendency to go into a shoulder-in as they are leaning towards the handler so side reins can be adjusted to fix this. (In that case, the outside rein would be shortened.)

In the riding portion of our lesson, we continued to work on shoulder-ins, and then looked at the quality of our travers (haunches-ins.) It is really important to pay attention to the waist while executing these lateral movements as it is common to collapse there. We then moved up to the canter and our canter-walk transitions. Kelso is still anticipating them so we would only walk for three or four strides and then immediately pick up the canter again so he couldn’t guess or get bunched up. From these, we worked on counter-canter figure 8s. When I asked Paul how they looked, he remarked a little fast but “Well, he does them.” Nowhere to go but up.

The biggest frustration I still have is not sitting as deeply as I need/want to in the canter, and when I asked Paul for more advice at the close of our lesson, he lectured I need to focus more on my hips. I have been focusing on loosening my back while keeping my core tight, but this not quite right as I cannot be a noodle in the saddle. I instead need to engage my seat. The hips are the conductor of the [seat] orchestra, and they are what determines every stride and move of your horse. If the baton is dropped, the music stops, while if it is in motion, the orchestra is at attention.  The seat, namely the hips, will be one of the most important components of Flying Changes (Oh my gosh, he said the F word!)

In a chat with Andrea, I asked how to glue my butt to the saddle, and she assigned me to ride without stirrups. This will encourage my leg to lengthen and my calves to come off the horse, a common reason riders ping out of the saddle as they can perch without knowing it; It is also possible a horse with a tight back can spring their riders in the air.

The phrase that stuck with me the most from Paul is “You don’t need to drive every stride, but you do need to ride every stride.” Of course, the whole time we were talking about the importance of the hips in the whole seat I couldn’t stop thinking of Sharkira’s “Hips Don’t Lie.” I refrained from breaking out in song. Maybe next time.

Off to sing some Shakira without stirrups!

Erin and the one and only WP

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