Trials and Tribulations of the Adult Beginner - Page 16 - The Horse Forum
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post #151 of 270 Old 11-28-2016, 09:12 PM
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Originally Posted by bsms View Post
There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking the horse to work harder to perform a certain way. We do it for fast trots or slow ones, and we are asking the horse to work harder than he otherwise would every time we ride.

The ability to bend their body is much more questionable. Philippe Karl, in his book, Twisted truths of Modern Dressage, makes the case that horses NEVER bend their bodies (pages 30-32). Photos taken from above the horse, such at this one,

give reason to doubt any horse bends around our inner leg. That is one of those word pictures helpful for thinking about how we give cues, but harmful if we think the horse actually performs it.

We see the part of the horse in front of us and not the part behind. This does not mean a horse cannot turn "straight", just that he doesn't do it the way we pretend he is doing it.

I've also been told, too many times, that a horse who is not turning "straight" is unbalanced and more likely to fall. I've read supposedly authoritative books that claim a horse is not balanced or moving "properly" if it digs in.

I think the more we understand what a horse REALLY does, the better we can feel his motion and know how to ask him and train him.

It is kind of like with collection. If a horse bows its back up, rounding it, then instructions in books to contain the horse between the driving aids and restraining aids make sense. One might even postulate that a circle of energy DOES exist, and that having the horse bounce off the bit helps to do it. But if collection results from a horse moving like this,

then the energy is not cycling back to the rear, but being used to lift the front. And instead of trapping a horse between the driving and restraining aids, one is asking the horse to move forward and then divert the energy upwards in the front. Instead of squeezing the horse, you are diverting the horse.

That may not change how you and a great many others approach riding. Word pictures help us sometimes and distract us at others, and an image that helps one person might harm another. But for myself, the image of diverting energy upwards rather than holding it back creates a very different attitude and feel.

I don't have any interest in dressage and tend to favor long, flat strides for my horse. But I still find it helpful to think of my horse as having a firm, largely unbending lever for a back, and to think of asking him to change his foot pattern or stride rather than think of me shaping him. When I think of cues as "asking" rather than "controlling", I approach riding and training my horse differently. But if it doesn't help you, PLEASE toss it aside!

Last June, I asked my old college roommate the right way to use a certain piece of tack. "Out here," he replied, "there is no right way. But I'll show you what works for me." That is how I feel about HF. I can share what helps me, but I can't promise it will help you.
Holy crap! That one horse is fat as a pig and couldn't bend around to scratch an itchy spot in its flank!

My horse isn't fat. So when he has an itchy spot on a hind leg, he lifts the hind leg and brings it forward by moving his rib cage so he can reach the itchy back leg with his mouth. If he can do that, he can bend around my leg.

Unless of course I own Gumpy horse and he is just super magical with special bending powers.
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post #152 of 270 Old 11-28-2016, 11:04 PM
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that horse IS a bit of a sausage, isn't he? 'Gumpy' . do you mean Gumby?
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post #153 of 270 Old 11-28-2016, 11:28 PM
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Yep. That is what I meant to type! The hubster is yapping at me as I try to read/type.....*sighs*
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post #154 of 270 Old 11-28-2016, 11:29 PM
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I've never seen a horse as broad as the one in the photo. The rider is Harry Boldt. That picture came from an online source, but he published a book of photos of various dressage training maneuvers. I'm too cheap to buy it since I'm not a dressage kind of guy. Bandit and I have "You won't die walking thru a human neighborhood" training and "Let's leave the trail and walk between all these cactus" training blocks to fill first.

This is a chart on back movement in a book by Hilary Clayton:

Horses definitely have more lateral bend available than vertical, but I suspect they feel like they are bending around our leg because our leg is near their center of gravity in motion. That's a guess, though. It might be a well trained horse would show more bend laterally. I've known Bandit to scratch his nose with his hind hoof, but I didn't think to look at back curving, even though I was standing next to him at the time.

My apologies to @Cammey for derailing her journal. How horses move and balance fascinates me almost as much as tack, and I too often just don't know when to shut up. I'll say this, though: A lot of Bandit's issues with straightness and flexibility are rooted in MY balance and riding, NOT his body or ability. The first time I encountered the term "straightness" in a turn, it was my daughter's riding instructor giving me a lesson when my daughter was sick. Her advice was to use the reins in a certain way with Trooper to help him move straighter. It kind of worked. Several years later, I found with Mia and now Bandit that MY balance is often what pulls my horse off. I was using reins and heels to put a band-aid on a problem my balance was causing. When I ride balanced - or IF - determines most of my horse's issues.
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Riders ask "How?" Horsemen ask "Why?"
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post #155 of 270 Old 11-29-2016, 12:24 AM
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Horses accomplish many things that seem like bending through the barrel by using their legs, necks, shoulders and hindquarters. I agree there is very little bending through the actual spine. I suspect much of what we feel as "bend," is the lengthening and shortening of the "latissimus dorsi" muscles that come back under the front of our saddle.

Interesting, I just posted some pics of my mare in my journal tonight, showing how the different types of work we did shaped her body.

My mare, Amore is shaped a lot like the horse in that "unbending" dressage photo, and once she was very fat and probably exactly shaped like him. She could still scratch her ear with her hind hoof.

I agree it is not wrong to ask horses to travel in ways that are less efficient, when we are training or asking for athleticism. As long as "less efficient" doesn't mean undue stress on the body - like athletes there are ways to exercise and lift weights that are using the body correctly and without causing harm, and there are ways that cause undue stress on parts that are not designed to handle that load.
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post #156 of 270 Old 11-29-2016, 12:39 AM
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I've read that one possible secret to Secretariat's speed was an unusually flexible spine. He was able to line up his front and hind end so his motor was always directly behind himself even going around curves at top speed.
Most horses running at you around a curve, you'll see hindquarter skewed off to one side or shoulder. The barrel you pretty much see on both sides of the horse. Check out how much of Secretariat's barrel is on the rail side in the photo below. It's quite possible he had more lateral and up/down flexibility of the spine than is usual. He probably could have done some spectacular dressage.

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post #157 of 270 Old 11-29-2016, 01:29 AM
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Catching up now with posts and see that earlier there was a big concern about weight, which opens up a whole new audience for my latest evangelizing tangent. So excited! Here goes: Cammey, you simply MUST consider what I call the “2-day a week almost-fast-days eating strategy.” Saw it on PBS (re-run from several years ago), read the book by Dr. Mosley (called The Fast Diet), even read a piece about benefits just recently in the Wall Street Journal. Definitely, just the thing for you!

Also called “intermittant fasting”, there is no question but that weight will be lost, but the more important benefits (especially as one ages, which is why I’m doing it over a year now) are all the other things that studies show go along with having significant breaks from eating.

Benefits such as improved blood pressure, improved cholesterol count, lower blood sugars (i.e. less risk of diabetes), lowered IGF-1 (relates to lower risk of cancer), even improved brain function (big worry of aging). How could anyone not want these benefits? Read the book to see what you think of the studies. Seem convincing to me, but then, I enjoyed the book called Ultra-Longevity, too — now do 10 minutes of yoga with meditation daily, hoping to be healthy to 100!

Of course, it does take discipline and willpower and the willingness to feel cranky a couple days a week (my DH says makes him feel too jittery and he works physically too hard, his excuse for cheating often, even though he could certainly use those health benefits even more than me.) The great thing, I think, is that you do get food on the fast days, just not much of it and only twice a day.

This new “eating strategy” allows for a tiny breakfast and tiny dinner on the fast days. I’ve found it easy to do Mon & Thurs. Have a vanilla Ensure, handful of pecans and half an apple for breakfast, lots of flavored water or Coke Zero in-between, then usual "Mediterranean-style" mini-dinner is glass of wine, kalamata olives, feta cheese and crocatini (crackers). Fairly easy for me, as no kids at home and quite enjoyable not to be thinking of meals on those two days for DH. As I said, gives a good excuse to be crabby, although sitting here typing about it puts me in such a better mood! Good luck, whatever you decide to do, great to see that you are working on getting stronger for riding.
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post #158 of 270 Old 11-29-2016, 12:16 PM Thread Starter
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@bsms and @tinyliny

Honestly, both of your posts provide me with a lot to think on (and I’m enjoying this discussion, so seriously no apologies needed). It’s going to take a lot of time to really research, analyze, and think about the details of these things to really get an understanding of the actual mechanics. I can say that when riding I certainly can feel when Dragon has the ‘correct bend’ around the leg vs when she does not (whether or not I can generate it to the extent I want to on any given turn is another matter) - but if that bend is a literal ‘bend’ in the horse or if it more just the relation of the shoulder and leg movements… I hadn’t yet thought to really think about or analyze it in great detail.

Originally Posted by bsms View Post
And instead of trapping a horse between the driving and restraining aids, one is asking the horse to move forward and then divert the energy upwards in the front. Instead of squeezing the horse, you are diverting the horse.
Yeah, honestly I think I will need to try on a different horse to really understand what I’m doing. Collection is easy enough with Dragon that if you recall I started getting it somewhat accidentally in early lessons. I will confess that how this is done is closer to ‘trap between the restraining aids’ but that description seems pretty wrong… it’s more ‘ask for slower speed without de-energizing horse, then cue for headset’. She starts collecting upwards and then we work her head into place… so the visualization of ‘trap’ isn’t really a fit for it. I’d say in this way it’s closer to ‘divert’ but it’s not the front that I’m diverting - her whole suspension changes, both front and back, and the back actually changes more than the front in my opinion. It’s not a ‘hinge’ it’s more a ‘bounce’.

But how do we get there? Here’s the thing: if Dragon can figure out what I’m asking for, especially if she likes it, she will give it to me even if I don’t ask quite right. Collection is a very easy request. This is probably a completely and utterly different experience for a horse that is being trained in collection rather than knowing exactly what I want and who isn’t so eager to do it.

I have little doubt that as soon as I get some other things sorted Jill will show me this on another less-trained horse.

Originally Posted by bsms View Post
Her advice was to use the reins in a certain way with Trooper to help him move straighter. It kind of worked. Several years later, I found with Mia and now Bandit that MY balance is often what pulls my horse off. I was using reins and heels to put a band-aid on a problem my balance was causing. When I ride balanced - or IF - determines most of my horse's issues.
My experience with this thus far has been pretty limited, since the only horse I’ve really ridden is pretty good with turns when I cue her properly and will happily go genuinely straight in a straightaway. I will say though that I know that most of the horses at our stable - being OTTBs usually a year or less off the track - I’ve been told tend to have a surprising amount of issues with turning right and can have some balance/flexibility issues in that direction which need to be worked through. Some of that may be horse-psychological, but I’ve been told there’s also a physical component to it as well. This is obviously an extreme case.

Originally Posted by gottatrot View Post
I agree it is not wrong to ask horses to travel in ways that are less efficient, when we are training or asking for athleticism. As long as "less efficient" doesn't mean undue stress on the body - like athletes there are ways to exercise and lift weights that are using the body correctly and without causing harm, and there are ways that cause undue stress on parts that are not designed to handle that load.
This is an incredibly important and good point by the way. This is why I think the ‘horse ballet’ analogy is possibly even better than some of the people making it might realize - ballet can be brutal on the body. It’s incredibly healthy when done recreationally - but when pushed and practiced daily (as it is in basically all professional companies) and the longevity of a ballet dancer’s health is often a sacrifice to the pursuit of art.

Many athletic disciplines when taken to high levels end up potentially resulting in health issues in the long run - and it’s even trickier in some ways, because some people go on to be just fine and are going to enjoy incredible fitness with virtually no downsides, whereas others are wrecked by the experiences and dealing with early onset arthritis and persistent strains. I know it’s tempting to want to say ‘X activity is OK but Y is not’ but unfortunately it’s rarely that clear-cut in practice. Sometimes there are better and worse (often the case with weightlifting for example) but even that isn’t always the case.

Because of this it’s easy to make an argument like ‘Well, athlete XYZ is perfectly healthy after 20 years in the sport. Obviously it’s OK!’ or ‘Athlete ABC was crippled after only 2 years, this sport is obviously too dangerous!’ And thus there’s lots and lots of room for everyone to have their opinions shaped by plenty of real-world experience on what is ‘ok’ vs what is ‘not ok’ based on what they’ve seen - even before people start looking for evidence to back up views they already have (as humans are always wont to do). It’s all about risk, and risk is an incredibly difficult thing to calculate objectively from the sample sizes a person sees only in their own lives.

So how much stress is ‘undue’? What methods/tools/techniques are ok vs those that are not ok? There’s so much room for very valid differences of opinion by rational actors working on the best information they have available.

Originally Posted by LlamaPacker View Post
Also called “intermittant fasting”, there is no question but that weight will be lost, but the more important benefits (especially as one ages, which is why I’m doing it over a year now) are all the other things that studies show go along with having significant breaks from eating.
So I wrote a post at rather long length regarding my dieting methodology in another thread.

I’ve know IF works absolute wonders for some people and some people really love it. It helps people minimize their food intake without requiring calorie-counting at other times and the ‘on’ vs ‘off’ nature of eating makes it a lot easier for people to draw firm lines around when and what they’re eating. There are a lot of variants on it and yours sounds like one of the more reasonable ones I’ve seen.

Personally, I’ve also done quite a bit of work with fasting - mostly in a spiritual/meditative context. Usually these are 1-3 day fasts to varying degrees of strictness. I’m very familiar with how hunger can adjust to compensate for alternating periods of food-no food and actually am not even terribly prone to getting cranky when I don’t eat.

But IF doesn’t work for me for weight-loss. I’ve found I increase my food intake at other times to make up for the fast days - often even overcompensating. It also wrecks my athletic performance.

I’ve made the mistake of trying to do something like calorie counting and then adding in fast days twice - once was going from dieting into a meditative fast (why this would be a problem just didn’t occur to me), and the other was an attempt to add IF to a general dieting/exercise routine. The first time I almost fainted and ended up having to break the meditative fast midway through due to health concerns. The second time I almost fell off a treadmill as my legs gave out kind of suddenly and I got very dizzy.

So basically: If I don’t add calorie counting with IF I don’t lose any weight. If I do add calorie counting with it, the extra strain it puts on my body can be just too much for it. I know it works wonders for a lot of people, but I’ve ruled it out for me personally due to some unfortunate experiences.
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Last edited by Cammey; 11-29-2016 at 12:17 PM. Reason: Fix bad mention link
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post #159 of 270 Old 11-29-2016, 12:28 PM Thread Starter
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Post Three-Lesson Weekend Update

Lesson 10: Group Surprise and No Stirrup Work
So this was my ‘extra’ lesson Friday and it up being a bit flat-out-weird. When I arrived there were 3 other riders there. I wasn’t sure if they were part of my lesson or not, but I wasn’t utterly shocked to discover they were. To compensate for this it seems the lesson ended up running significantly longer - about 1 ½ hours of ride-time rather than the 1 hour I expected, and a full extra half-hour of general chatting, grooming, and discussion.

By necessity the lesson ended up involving a bit of learning arena etiquette and how to ride with a significant number of other riders around in a fairly small space. The other beginner horse Cookie was out, and then Cricket and Kitty - with Kitty being a bit of a firebrand.

Dragon was in a good middle-energy place for the lesson: neither sleepy nor excitable - starting off relaxed and getting bouncy as the lesson went on (which seems her usual pattern). The first half of the lesson was mostly just different sorts of trot transitions again, and working on keeping her from changing pace regardless of what other horses were doing and continuing to work on arena awareness (Jill seemed to be expecting this to be harder than it was - given her mindset it was trivially easy starting out).

The new skill for the lesson was working on seated trot without stirrups around the arena, and posting trot without stirrups… I can manage seated trot for a lap without too much difficulty and could have gone a lot longer - it’s tiring, but not bad enough to not be maintainable. I wasn’t bouncing, which was nice. That said I can only post sans stirrups about 6 strides without getting tired enough my form suffers. Jill seemed to think even that was pretty good for my first try out. I was glad, because honestly I felt a little pathetic and was VERY glad I had opted to wear some relatively sticky breeches today.

I’m not going to lie: riding around with the other riders gave me mild flashbacks to ballet. They were all sevette younger women (I’m guessing ranging from 16-20) who obviously had more experience than I did. There were no mirrors, thankfully, but it was hard not to be a touch self-conscious.

Right near the end of the lesson Dragon started to wake up and get ‘spicy’ and much harder to handle - clearly offended that everyone else was cantering besides her. I’ve decided my new weapon for this is the collected trot. You have WAY too much energy? Fine, let’s use as much of that going upward as possible. This seems to work beautifully actually and she genuinely seems to enjoy it - bouncing and showing off a bit. It seems sort of a happy-place for her, which strikes me as a little weird but I’m happy to oblige.

After the lesson we all took our time tacking down and chatted a little idly. The least experienced of the bunch, riding the other beginner-horse, had been taking lessons for 4 years but only recently switched from Western to English. The girl who seemed in the ‘middle’ said she had been riding since she was four. The one who was riding the trickiest horse and seemed the most advanced (just judging by what she was working on today - so who knows) had been riding nine years but ‘only’ one and a half with Jill (who she and the middle girl proceeded to gush about).

I felt slightly guilty as the girl who was riding Cookie very clearly wanted to ride Dragon. If I could physically ride Cookie (who’s I believe 14.2HH and very obviously much more easily tired than any of the thoroughbreds) I might have asked Jill if I could switch for her sake. As it was I just let her happily pet and play with Dragon after we were done.

Overall, it’s coming along. It’ll be interesting how sore I am for my very-early lesson tomorrow.

Lesson 11: Leg Yeilds and Lease Preparation
The lesson’s new skill was leg yeilds at both walk and trot. I got the basic motion without too much trouble but definitely need some time to clean it up, as currently the horse’s forehand gets out a bit ahead of the horse’s backhand (or at least did until the last go) - but I can definitely cue the basic motion and get her to go very sideways for each forward step. I also was given a way of getting Dragon to speed up at the trot without disrupting my own posting rhythm. I feel a little silly now that I didn’t just figure it out on my own. I had been trying to cue via finding time to do a gentle kick/poke in the sides while sitting… the cue to go faster is to squeeze legs while posting, and only resort to a gentle kick (also while posting) if she fails to respond to the legs… which she never did once I started. This results in a much smoother speed transition which is now easier to ride because she isn’t lurching forward with startled acceleration. We’re much happier now.

I also discovered that Jill does want me to work to get the really exaggerated ankles that some riders can have. I’m physically capable of doing it (and she knows it) so she’d like me to work on getting that all the time rather than just worrying about keeping them ‘down’ and from rising up. The rest of the lesson was mostly more polishing on things I’ve already been working on - lots of just remembering to do everything at once while we chatted a bit (and thus I didn’t have laser-focus on what I was doing).

The conversation was about dealing with the psychology of the horse (specifically as applied to the horses at this stable) and how sessions need to be structured in order to keep Dragon relaxed and not frustrated. We spoke about Thoroughbreds and specifically about Dragon. Given that I’m leasing her next week this seems to be a really pertinent set of knowledge.

I was asking Jill about my idea of using the collected trot to try to exhaust/use up energy in Dragon, and she told me something that stuck with me: “That would work on most horses, but you can’t exhaust a thoroughbred. They will go until their lungs bleed. I tried that when I first started training them. They can just keep getting more and more worked up. You must be able to wind her down and relax her.” Then, even more specifically on Dragon “Her happy place is western jog. Normally you’d use walking with occasional halts to wind a horse down and get them focused on you - but for her she takes halting and backing as almost a punishment. Western Jog is her favorite for relaxation, but you have to make sure that you tell her to go into it - she doesn’t just slip into it on her own.” I’ve noticed this - Dragon is not happy at the walk for more than a lap or two around the arena, no matter how exhausted she is she will want to go again after momentarily catching her breath and keeping her at a walk involves careful watching and sometimes even slightly fighting with her (it’s a fight I will win, but it’s not really relaxing for either of us). I myself have taken to using backing as a gentle but potent punishment - because it very clearly is with her. I’m not sure why she hates it so much - she’s athletic enough it’s not at all physically hard for her - but there’s something about doing it that seems to evoke a kind of submissive misery in her in a way that even a much more aggressive rebuke (as I have seen Jill give her when she started to be difficult around food) never has. Startle or even smack her and the best way to describe her reaction seems to be ‘whoops’ and then to pay attention - she learns from it but her negative feelings seem very momentary and transient. Make her back up and the feeling seems to ‘stick’ with her for several minutes as she consciously works to exaggeratedly avoid whatever warranted the ‘punishment’.

I also spoke to Jill briefly about how I was thinking of putting together little lesson programs for us during lease-riding time, and she mentioned she plans to assign me homework (yay!) so I will know what I should be working on. Honestly, that makes me feel a lot better just starting this out. Jill also almost seemed somewhat apologetic that I haven’t gotten to ride any of the horses besides Dragon. I told her I was honestly perfectly ok with this, especially given that I’m still learning new skills each and every lesson. It’s not exactly like Dragon is getting boring to ride - though it may be true that I am starting to develop a number of Dragon-specific riding behaviors which I may need to watch out for.

Saturday Volenteering
So I made a little bit of a mistake. The woman who I’ve spent most of my time around at the stable wasn’t there today, so I ended up hanging out with a random horse-knowledgeable teenager. This meant I got swept up with a group of older teens when groups and projects were getting assigned out.

Why was this a mistake? Well, because our task for the day was incredibly physical - specifically, digging out an area of caked muck that had developed under one of the shelters and had gotten bad before anyone realized it. It was 4-6” thick, packed down hard, and covered about half a garage worth of space. It took our team of five almost two solid hours of what I’d describe as seriously hard weighted cardio - literally digging and hauling muck/dirt/rocks. It was probably the hardest thing I’ve done physically since I used to do some brutal cross-training several years ago.

I am honestly proud that my body could do it and keep up with the teenagers, who were about where I was exhaustion-wise. I was just thrilled to be keeping up. But wow it left me sore. My legs were wobbly afterwards and I was flooded with the sort of adrenaline/endorphin ‘runner's high’ that I usually only get from very hard workouts. Thankfully my back was fine, but one of my knees which had been a little sore Saturday started hurting a fair bit as the workout-high wore off. Later that night I would end up falling asleep while visiting some friends out of sheer exhaustion.

After we wrapped that up I gave up and decided that being lazy and letting my body calm down was only fair. As most of the teenagers went off to pet random horses I headed over to the tack/kitchen area, hoping to touch base with the person in charge regarding the website before heading out. Well, it turns out that the women who had handed out my work assignment for the day was the old web admin who, with very little fanfare, seemed more than happy to hand over credentials… ok, I get it, you guys really want someone else to maintain this so it stays up to date.

I’m going to need to find a little time to really sit down and take a look at their back end and (hopefully) bring up a test/QA copy somewhere so I can make changes, show them, and make sure they like it before I send it live. Then I can hopefully hunt someone down to start doing photoshoots and life-stories for all these adoptable guys.

Lesson 12: Easy Being Green and Cavaletti Patterns
I was pleasantly surprised that I wasn’t legitimately a wreck when I woke up this morning, but I was still quite sore. I knew I would have the entire week to recover, so I did something I know is slightly irresponsible: After carefully stretching out I popped 400 mg of Ibuprofen with breakfast. Why is this irresponsible? Popping Ibuprofen right before exercising is a pretty common practice amongst certain groups of athletes - often much more frequently than I’m willing to resort to it. Beyond the potential for digestive track issues (which I’m less worried about since I only do it perhaps once every few months), it also masks pain - which for me, because I already have a somewhat unhealthily high pain tolerance, means I become very prone to either severe overwork or mild injury when I do this.

I actually warned Jill I may not be in top form today and that I probably should take it a touch easy. She checked in on me a couple times and I seemed fine - but I do appreciate we didn’t do any of the really intense posting-without-stirrups or the like.

The lesson itself was mostly continuing to work on fully breaking the habit of crossing over the neck with the rein and using my legs to get the proper bend under different circumstances. It was honestly a lot messier than it has been previously, and Jill felt the need to reassure me that just because it looked a lot worse doesn’t mean I’m doing it wrong. On the contrary, we’re getting it right and just doing it a harder way. I was honestly OK with that and fully understand the need to get it right. I also worked on trying to get my ankles into the very low position she wants them at. She says for now she’d rather my ankles be down and my stirrups swing a little as I post rather than I get my stirrups quiet but risk my heels rising up - so that’s what I’m now doing. We’ll get them quieter later - but it meant that today this was a hilarious mess.

We also talked about getting my inside rein down a few inches since I have a tendency to ride with it higher than my outside rein and apparently the way I’m riding is almost a mirror image of where she’d want to see them - with my outside rein up and a little shorter, and my inside rein down and a little looser. I tried really hard to get and keep it there, but can’t yet get this to stick without paying a lot of attention.

Leg cuing properly with one leg while posting trot remains a serious source of struggle for me. It’s not even that Dragon isn’t trying to listen to me - it’s that my cues are bad and I suspect my seat still has a bit of ‘noise’ in it because my balance/timing isn’t perfect (especially as she changes speeds). Because of this she either try to listen really hard to every little movement and we weave all over the place or she misses it when I am trying to actually tell her something. It’s not awful (it’s not like we ever end up more than a foot or two out from where I want to be) but it’s not good either. My weakness here makes me sad and I am working hard to correct it. She shouldn’t have to compensate for me - but I adore her for trying.

Jill talked about forming good foundations and how difficult it is to break a bad habit once it sets in - because as you go up in levels and face new challenges you will always be tempted to go back to the first set of things that really worked for you in your bag of tricks. Much like she’d prefer to take an almost completely green horse and train it up rather than re-train an experienced one with bad habits, it’s good to get the foundations in properly now even if it’s a little slower and less pretty. She talked a bit about the challenges some of her other students have faced really having to work to undo old patterns and instincts. The analog she was making between me and a green horse were pretty transparent, and appreciated. Overall, the whole discussion made me feel a lot better about what was objectively a very drunk-horse day and couple times I have managed to flat-out-fail to cue Dragon in a way she could make sense of. Honestly, Jill’s comparison was a very useful pep-talk and I started to really see some of the things the other girls were saying about how good she is at being encouraging/supportive.

After the difficulty of the first part of the lesson we ended on something incredibly fun: Cavaletti Pattern Work. Basically Jill took down a couple of the jumps in the arena and turned them into cavaletti sets to post-trot over and then gave instructions for a pattern to ride through them involving a fair bit of tight-turning and needing to think ahead to make sure Dragon would be squarely lined up before we went through. This combined a lot of the planning required for tight pattern work along with the balance and timing required for Cavaletti-riding (which I am finally reliable enough at that I feel confident even if we did skitter-step once or twice going in). It was like a twisty-jumping-course without the actual jumps and it was one of the most fun things I’ve yet to do on a horse. Dragon seemed largely to agree and was what I kind of want to call ‘happy-relaxed’. It was a very good note to end on for both of us.

Just overall I’m feeling very good about Jill as my trainer. She’s very good at keeping spirits up when I’m not at my best, and also at constantly challenging me. I also feel like she’s serious about wanting me to improve and the potential of me going on and actually competing. I kind of feel a little like I’ve been added to a mental stable of riders being trained alongside the stable of horses she’s training. Given how much she loves those horses I take that as a pretty high compliment.

Getting home I felt… wrecked. Several hours later I’m still waiting for the Ibuprofen to fully wear off so I can know which side of the ‘overworked’ or ‘injured’ lines I’m on. I do know that stairs were painful enough on my knee to make me giggle (I have some weird pain responses - laughing/giggling involuntarily in response to pain is one of them, it’s apparently a little creepy but it’s the way I’ve always been. I will do it even when I’ve been seriously injured - which is just as unpleasant as it sounds). I have put myself on full rest for the day and don’t plan to do anything more strenuous than showering and sitting at my computer.

Day-After Update
I feel… weirdly fine. Several muscle groups are a little tight and I have some very mild DOMS in a handful of places - but nothing is crying out in agony. My knee isn’t even that tender, and while I’m not going to push it I’m now wondering if most/all of the pain was from my joint inflammation issues (suspected RA) rather than any injury/overwork just based on how severe it was yesterday (near mobility-limiting) vs. how gone it is today (almost unnoticeable).

I’ll confess, this whole issue can make it very difficult to know what I should and should not be doing. I felt like I was being a little bit of a stubborn idiot exercising yesterday and quite possibly did something I would be trying desperately to recover from the whole week. Today I feel like I could easily go riding (or heck: climbing/doing physical labor/weightlifting) again today. I feel at least as good as I did on Friday.

Part of me wants to go back to my doctor… but to do what now that the problem is over? I’ve already been through all the blood-work and have had all the foundational x-rays done so we can watch for cartilage degradation (we can see a little - enough my doctor can see I’m not just imagining things or making something out to be more than it is, but the damage is really not bad yet). Basically for the next steps this either needs to get unmanageably frequent/severe to the point where we start talking about putting me on medications that can have non-trivial side-effects or if I can do so I need to catch a severe episode in action so we can re-run blood work and verify our current suspicions as to what’s causing it a little better. Catching the really bad episodes is tough though because they’re only at their worst for a day or two and when they’re that bad I often mistake them for unexplained injuries at the time.

Gah. Well, at least I’m not actually injured, so that’s good.
bsms, gottatrot, falling and 1 others like this.
Cammey is offline  
post #160 of 270 Old 11-29-2016, 08:38 PM
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: Kentucky
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You must be QUITE the phenom, Cammey!!! Wow, very few of us get to leg yielding the 10th time we have ever ridden a horse! Most of us were still trying to find trot rhythm! Jill must be quite excited to have you.

Good work!

I don't break horses, I FIX them!
greentree is offline  
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