Friday, December 30, 2016

Stiff, sore, and a little bit drugged

Today was my first lesson back since before the Christmas rush season. I'd have to look at a calendar, but I think it's been about three weeks off?

I wasn't sure today was going to happen as, shortly after I had booked my lesson, I spent Christmas Eve, overnight, in back pain agony, and woke up so stiff and sore I could barely move. I figured it would work itself out pretty quickly, but it dragged on and after a couple of days I broke down and bought some back meds. Then I forgot to take any of them until later the next day (yesterday), when I texted Roxanne about my back, and she said, take some drugs, and I remembered, "Oh yeah, meds!!"

After an experimental quarter-dose to see if it made me feel drowsy or weird (they were Tylenol with muscle relaxant), I gradually ramped up half-pill by half-pill until it kicked in and... my back unclenched. I felt no side effects. I took another half dose this morning, hours before my lesson, to unclench any remaining stiffness, felt good, then drove over to ride.

I actually got there early for once! It was nice to have a leisurely brushing and tacking, and get into the ring a few minutes early (although I stood outside it chatting for a while so by the time I went in it was only four minutes before lesson time).

We did lots of walk, trot, canter transitions, and circling. Things felt fine despite my only-just-corrected back pain, though I was a bit rusty from the weeks off. We did some seated work and two point work -- if anything, I think my slightly stiff back improved my two-point, at least as far as getting my booty out behind me instead of tucking it under, which is what I instinctively want to do.

One thing that was a weird new problem: getting my posting trot diagonals wrong!! I'm usually a stickler and probably have it right at least 90% of the time, but today they were more like 60%. Amazing. Was it the drugs? The time off? Being more focused on other things? Meh, who knows. So weird though. I DID generally nail it on the downward transition from canter, but otherwise... hmmm.

We did a bit of jumping. Just wee weeee jumps, which suits me fine. One crossrail that was maybe a foot high, and one baby brush jump that was possibly even less than a foot. It felt a lot better today. I mostly trotted them, but did play with cantering them a couple of times. Some of the approaches were sloppy because I was trying to moderate her speed too close to the jump and the half-halts near the base affected her takeoff spot. Still, I went with it. I did try better to keep my eyes up today and just feel the jump happening, but I've got quite a ways to go on that still. The releases were a bit better too.

Exceeeept... hahahaha... On one trip over the tiny brush jump, I decided to try releasing more enthusiastically with my hands while moving my upper body less, and actually THREW away the left rein and my crop. Amazing. Laughed a lot after that and about whether or not those drugs were affecting me. We did more flat work again after the jumping. My back was getting tired and not cooperating as well at this point, and I found myself riding the canter standing in my stirrups -- not seated, not two point, just sort of weirdly hovering. I also kept twisting my right leg in some way that was making my heel catch the pad on the stirrup iron. THAT is a new one!!

The jumping was mainly better, other than my rein and crop moment, and I didn't end up slipping rein, even when the takeoff spots were awkward. It's all getting a bit better! And the more I do it, the less of a big deal it feels like, which is the goal for sure, for now.

Transitions continue to feel better, especially the trot to canter transition. Leads were all okay today.

One thing I noticed myself doing with the jumping today: I was pulling her unintentionally into a left bend on the way into a jump where I needed to land on a right rein. The cause: I was trying to firmly half halt with the outside rein, but I was giving away too much inside rein and lost the bend, so my outside rein unintentionally became my inside rein. Oops!! I caught it though. It's nice figuring these things out!!

Had a great chat with Roxanne after, and she paid my riding a nice compliment. I told her I hadn't been on a really difficult horse since I'd been back riding, and I didn't know if/how I'd handle it if one of them pulled something really dirty. She said (I'm paraphrasing), Oh, you'd be fine. You'd just put your leg on, and you'd handle it. You don't panic, and you're good at deescalating things.

I'm back on a regular weekly lesson schedule now, and will work on getting other rides in, in between, too. I've got a number of horses I can ride any time for free, which is pretty amazing! I continue to progress, bit by bit.

Oh, and my new $20 winter half chaps worked really well and were warm, and so were my rad $12.50 fleece lined tights! Yay bargains!!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Ankles and reins

I haven't ridden since Tuesday of last week, but had a bit of a nutty time between then and now, with the bazaar in Toronto, so just getting to this today.

Last week's lesson included a bunch of flat work, just a couple of flying changes (that were not the smoothest, but better than some!) and quite a bit of two point work. I was pretty stiff with the cold, and breathing pretty heavily. Partly the cold, partly the fact that I've let my cardio fitness (or any non-riding fitness) completely slide??

I've started to be a bit concerned, over the last couple of months, about my current ankle position. I know I'm rolling them too much. Putting more weight on the outside of the ball of my foot was extremely helpful to getting my toes in and getting the wrapped-around-the-horse feeling with my legs, but it's not great for two point and jumping. Jumpers tend to weight the inside of the ball of the foot more, which, while it does drive the toes out on some people, does prevent a rolled ankle. And my ankle was definitely rolling! Cantering in a circle, in two point, on a left rein was making my right ankle HURT! Oops. Had to stop and shake it out a few times. It wasn't a problem on a right rein. I guess I'm weighting that ankle too much when it's the outside one. Grrr.

It's frustrating because I've been training my legs this way, consciously or unconsciously, all season. It feels "correct" now. And it feels great for seated flat work, and looks nice because my leg is so on and wrapped around, but it's going to cause me problems if I keep doing two point and jumping without changing something. Attempting to shift my weight further in on the stirrup bar makes my knees pinch though, and makes my whole leg feel tense and tight. I think I need to just put in a bunch more saddle time to feel out some different strategies. Find what works for me. Maybe do some ankle strengthening exercises at home, too. Tricky time right now to be trying to practice anything under saddle -- too busy, too cold!!

We did a bit of jumping this time -- just trotting and cantering on a circle over a single cross rail -- and that went better than it has. I'm still tense about it but I think the only way to get over that is to jump small things so often that it almost becomes boring. I've been having a lot of problems with my release over the jumps -- I feel like I haven't been able to get my hands forward enough (probably defensively, because I'm worried I might need to lean on them for balance if something goes awry) and I end up slipping the reins on landing so I don't catch the horse in the mouth, and then I have to reorganize after. NOT a good situation for jumping more than one jump!!

I think a contributing factor was that I've been choking up too short on the reins and riding in in too MUCH of a two point, instead of staying in a light seat to the base. That prevents me from having anywhere to go TO release. So this time I kept my reins longer and stayed more upright until I was at the jump. No rein slipping this week! Still not *pretty*, but more functional at least.

After taking the jump a half dozen times each way, we stopped that and went back to some trot and canter transitions on a circle in two point. (This is when the ankle thing started happening.) M was still so keen to jump, she kept trying to pull off the circle to go towards it. Haha, cute. She also got FAST and STRONG on me, especially when we went back on the rail. I was actually sitting right up, leaning back and PULLING with all my weight to get her out of the canter. Makes me apprehensive about what she'd be like to jump at a show. :/ At no point did I feel like she was taking off on me -- it was actually pretty humourous -- but woooooo, big fast horse!! :O She'd just been started on Previcox for stiffness in her hocks. If this is her being zippy when she's not moving at her best, she's going to potentially be quite a rocket when it takes effect.

My transitions continue to feel a lot better. My leads were either all correct or almost all correct? Landed on the wrong one a few times after the jump, but neither transitioned up into the wrong lead. The transition to canter feels faster and sharper -- not as much "work" in setting up. I can get it pretty much right away. The walk-to-canter transitions are better too.  My walk to trot has improved since I've switched from applying heel to bumping with the inside of my calf. Funny how doing things the RIGHT way helps.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Rogue in Rain

Okay, not really, because it stopped raining when I got there and started pouring after I left.

Much easier to handle on the ground today. She tried to get ahead of me a couple of times when I was leading her -- not maliciously, though, just seemed like she didn't know better. Backed and/or turned her and made her re-do things nicely. I cross-tied her in M's old stall and she was completely fine to tack up. I just brushed her once over very quickly and didn't do her feet (I was tight on time, she'd been inside all day anyhow, and the ring was muddy anyhow) and was able to bridle her without incident on the first try.

She was a being a bit ignorant about "Over!" so I just kept a crop in my hand. Voice command --> Push --> Smack! as necessary. Had to thwap her a few times during tack-up, but she always moved over. She was much better about it after.

She wasn't as nice to lunge today, kept falling in on the circle one way and wouldn't move out for love or money. Was cantering on the other end of the not-circle and pulling out so that I had to yank her back in. She was trying to tug her head down when I was leading her, and later when I was riding her she was doing the same when we crossed puddles -- to try to get a drink! Turned out in the end that she was SUPER thirsty, so I think that explained some of the fussing and attitude in general.

She kept swinging her butt away at the mounting block.  This time I was prepared and brought a dressage whip out so I could reach far enough to swat her butt when she did that. I wasn't able to move her over enough that way to set her back up without getting down again, but at least it annoyed her enough that she eventually stood in place.

Uneventful ride (in a good way!). She had more pep today but still wasn't ever "fast." She was lookier than last time, but still didn't do anything about it. Went through puddles fine, aside from the aforementioned desire to drink out of them. Would NOT continue trotting while pooping. :/

As for me: remembered to lift my chest, kept my hands low and STEADY while posting, and I'm trying to make pushing my left shoulder back and down THE main left-turn aid so that hopefully it becomes automatic. I noticed, early in the ride when I was still half anticipating something happening, that I hollow my back a bit and push my butt behind me when I'm tense. Had to consciously correct it. It isn't usually a problem otherwise, at least as far as I'm aware.