I have a couple of questions to ask. I recently started riding again, after having a number of years off. Last I rode was hunter-jumper, and now I've started dressage.
Now, the first 'lesson' I had was a private evaluation so that the instructor could see which group to place me with. She put me on a very hot and spooky mare who was extremely sensitive to aids. It went very well! The mare was calm and relaxed and focused on her task the whole time, and the instructor was impressed and happy.
Cue the second lesson (this past week's lesson). She placed me in her advanced lesson group, on a horse that was more-or-less the opposite of the mare I previously rode; he was like a brick wall, requiring extremely strong leg aids, and very very lazy. To sum things up, I was a mess, and he 'walked all over me' so to speak; he loved cutting the corners and no matter how much inside leg pressure I put on him, it was as though he were laughing and saying "Oh, there's a person up on me? Really? Har har, you'll have to work harder than that wee girl!" My legs were sliding all over the place (I was perplexed! Never have my legs slid like that before! Oh it was embarrassing indeed) and my hands were heavy
. A lesson indeed, if I had any doubts whether some of my muscle and balance were still in me, those doubts have been very much cleared up! haha
I made a point to stay after the lesson with the instructor and ask her for some tips. It being a group lesson in a quite big arena I found it very hard to hear her throughout the lesson. So I asked her for a few tips and things I should think about next week.
One thing, amongst many, that she mentioned was that I needed to ride him from his hind end into the bridle. I've seen this mentioned on here a number of times, but I'm a bit confused as to how exactly this is done; what are the aids that I should be using in order to do this? From what I've gathered, you maintain a consistent contact with the outside rein, use the outside leg to steer and steady, and the inside leg for impulsion. What does the inside rein do? Oh my poor leg muscles are so not there anymore and it will take quite a while until they are back, certainly. But how does that work, with the legs? Do you keep a constant pressure with the outside leg and urge off and on with the inside? I keep imagining that there is a belt or rubberband between his hind end and the bit, with me sitting atop it. So for the length of last week's lesson that band was loose and messy, my legs were all over the place (I'm still perplexed) and he was on the forehand. But the goal is to get it taught, with both of us balanced nicely, and he engaged from behind. What should my seat be doing during all of this? So many things to think of!
Another: This is something I have always been confused about; what do you do for your leg aid? Is it kicking, is it pressure at the calf? Is it squeezing? I seem to do a combination of all of these and am wondering if I'm doing something wrong; when I want him to be more forward I 'kick' when his hind leg is reaching under (this has been tricky, again, as I try to re-build muscle and balance, it's a bit sloppy at the moment
), when we're turning or bending or leg yielding it's more like a sort of..give-and-take squeeze with the lower leg, depending on how the horse responds. Am I doing this wrong? Seems it's back to basics for me!
Oh oh, one more question; does anybody have any exercise recommendations that can help build up leg muscle? I jog 3 or 4 times a week, but those are obviously not the same muscles used in riding. What are some exercises that one can do, without equipment, that can help build up those riding muscles? I have decent enough core muscle and balance, it's just those leg muscles that have become elusive!
Thanks so much for any help and advice!