Friday, May 9, 2008

Getting Better

I would very much like to thank the wonderful readers who posted some very supporting comments regarding my last jumping entry. I was feeling pretty down and it helped to read the opinions of those who have followed our story.

I also put a call into my jumping trainer in Texas and had her review the videos. She had some good advice and exercises to work on. So I gave Brego a day off and then we got back into work. My trainer advised me to try the following exercises to get my weight back, my hip supple, and my lower leg forward and stable:

  • Post the Canter
  • Double post the trot
  • Jump grids with arms forward in a superman pose
  • Some bizarre exercise without stirrups but leaning forward 45 degrees (I admit I didn't try this one).
  • Stand up out of the saddle
I did the other exercises though and they really helped! I spent a lot of time just trying to figure out what causes me to put my lower leg back in the first place. It appears that it is a response to both Brego and my conformation and him falling behind my leg.

This is a picture of me in the saddle with my leg relaxed. I drew in the gap between his side and my leg. My calf is mostly on the saddle flap, so beneath the flap, I have no contact with his side.

To put lower leg on, my knee comes off

In order to put my lower leg on, I have to take my knee of the saddle. Or, as I more commonly do, bend my knee and bring my lower leg back, while turning my toe out. Couple this habit with another bad habt of driving towards the fence whether Brego needs urging or not and you can see why I stiffen my knee and pivot about it. I have removed my entire base of support, my lower leg, by attempting to get leg on before the fence.

So it appears to be something I will have to work hard to unlearn. I shortened my stirrups 1 hole and got to work. The posting canter really helped my balance. Watching the video, my leg looks stable and useful, my upper body looks balanced, and although I am not driving Brego or picking him up, he is cantering very nicely around n a balanced fashion that is correct for his conformation. That is what it looks like. It felt horrible, however. I felt like I had nothing holding me to the horse (since I was not in a death grip with my lower leg), I felt like I was completely leaning forward and laying on his neck. Funny how perception works.

I then jumped a couple of lines with me focusing on putting my leg forward and off Brego and staying back. I consciously tried to stand up out of the saddle. I thought about water skiing and I asked my photographer to shout "Water Ski" at me before the fences. It seemed to work. I look much more stable over the fences in these lines, although I am not quite staying up. I also tried to throw my reins away in the superman pose, but it never quite worked out. I apologize for the upper body convulsions.

It was interesting that even without me driving and fussing before the fence, Brego managed to keep his wits and jump, although we had more chips today than last time. But he needs to learn to carry himself to the fence and not be nagged, so it's good to go through this together. When I put together a small course, with a roll back, you can see Brego doing one of his amazing "Not Quite Jumping, But Leaving The Rails Up" saves. He's a good boy.

My final course was better, I felt like it was getting easier to "water ski". I put the oxer in slow motion in the video so you can see the difference from last time.

So I am very encouraged. It seems my bad habits are solveable. And a day of rest helped Brego to get over the fences with very little effort on my part. He was active and trying, even with low fences, and his canter was relaxed.

Tomorrow we will do dressage in prep for the show next week and we will see if we can jazz him up a bit!


Anonymous said...

I have the same issue with my toes pointing out, just on the flat though. I haven't jumped in years. When I start to let my toes go out I loose the effectiveness of my lower leg which makes my thigh do too much and kills my seat. My trainer always take away my stirrups after the warm up when I get like that. I must say that I really do use my leg better without the stirrup. I like that your jumping trainer could still help you out all those miles away. You really ought to look into getting someone by you now that you really are staying and living up north.

Lisa said...

I admit I know nothing about riding english as I'm a western girl, but your toes appear really out. When I learned I literally overexagerated turning them in (to the point of pain) and once I could keep them like that the entire ride I started relaxing them. As your toes come in, your knees will come in as well.

You also appear to be leaning forward quite a bit but maybe that's english as well? The easiest way to fix riding form, in my opinion, is to ride w/t/c c/t/w bareback for several hours and several rides.

I just had to comment as I love reading your blog and updates. :)