Sunday, January 01, 2012

first ride of 2012

Today was gorgeous but as it turned out by the time I got into the arena it was overcast and gray again, and then dark, and an hour or so after our ride it started raining! Which I wasn't expecting at all. I was even more glad we'd ridden when we did after the rain started.

Keil Bay was very alert again and moving well. Tonight I felt two very distinct things that may be contributing to our good rides. My legs feel very secure. And by that I mean secure in terms of balance and evenness, but even more than that, they feel like they are an inseparable part of the motion. As we were trotting, I let my focus land on my legs - and I experimented. I could easily go from a loosely draped leg to a gentle hugging leg to a completely open leg without changing any other part of my body. I had the ability to shift very subtle things without anything else going askew. I'm not sure exactly how to describe it, but the closest word I can come up with is effortless. In a way it felt like my legs were not there, except if I chose to think about them and note what they were doing.

I've put the saddle a touch further back lately and I wonder if this is making a difference.

After warming up and doing a fair amount of trotting, we finished with some 20m circles at the trot, and happened into a routine of rising trot around the circle, then changed direction through the circle at the sitting trot, then picked up the new trot diagonal going the new direction. We did this for a number of rotations and it was the rhythm of the change from rising to sitting to rising that best illustrated this effortless leg thing for me.

It may well be that my body and Keil Bay's body are in better shape and in sync physically more than we have been for awhile. It definitely feels that way.

The other big thing that feels different and good is my hands and the contact I have with the reins and the bit. It feels like my arms and hands finally caught up with the rest of my body, and something that seemed elusive to me previously (specifically the amount of weight to have in the hands, and contact without pressure, not throwing the reins away, etc.) has suddenly just happened without me paying much attention to it at all. One thing I have done is ride with different bits (basic eggbutt snaffle, loose ring double-jointed snaffle, bitless) as well as different reins (very soft web reins; thicker, stiffer web reins, very soft curb reins) to see what works best. Interestingly enough, my least favorite reins, Keil's very nice but slightly too big for my hands web reins are the ones that now feel the best to me. What changed? I don't think the size of my hands changed but maybe the way I use my hands and arms is making a difference in how the reins feel in my hands. Everything just feels softer, easier, and better.

We're also riding with the Thinline Ultra sheepskin dressage pad, and I am riding with my sheepskin seat saver pad too - and although if you measure the thickness of all these "things' between my seat and Keil's back, it's thicker than ever, it feels like less. I can feel his back and I can feel my own seat bones much more clearly than I have ever been able to feel them.

It's an interesting exercise to try and sort out what is making things work well, as opposed to why something isn't working. But it was wonderful to roll into the new year with a good ride, on the very best horse in the whole world, feeling truly thankful that all these pieces are, for the moment, in sync.


Calm, Forward, Straight said...

So glad you're having such success with Keil Bay lately billie. It's a joy to read about...

Do you suppose that your newly balanced feelings have anything to do with the recent dentistry experience? Works for the ponies. :)

Grey Horse Matters said...

You've definitely found the magic with your rides on the Big Bay. If it were me I wouldn't think so much about why but just keep going with what you're doing. It's obviously working out very well for you. Glad you had another great ride to ring in the new year.

billie said...

C, I don't think so. My surgery was to do with the gums. And this riding leap started further back than this recent string of rides. There has been a gradual shift forward that seems to have really clicked lately.

I think on one hand that stopping lessons was a good thing for me. The work I did with the last two trainers was good and important, but there were pieces of it I disagreed with and I needed the time to myself to sort out what to take and what to leave. And to get outside the umbrella of that work enough to trust my own judgments about Keil Bay and what works for him.

I continue to read and think about classical dressage and refer frequently to both Walter Zettl's book and Jane Savoie's Happy Horse series which I have. Between soaking that in and reading/posting on the classical dressage forum I have built up a lot of things to try when riding. Pair that with a number of other factors:

Keil Bay is on a new mix of supplements and it is clear he feels good

both of us have been getting regular chiro

the Thinline pad

I've lost weight

Keil has new dentist (but just one floating so far)

And somehow, a few sticky points for me seem to have just clicked. The leg stuff was mostly there but there's something new with my hips and seat bones that feels important and contributes to more finely-tuned aids plus more balance all the way up and down.

And the hands/arm thing is just new. It feels like my shoulder is connected to Keil's mouth and then his poll, neck and back - almost like there's a long rubber band, but not even rubber - actually more like we share a long muscle and nerve endings that connect us through the rein. I guess it's that big circle of energy that often gets referred to - where both our bodies are working together and doing what they are supposed to do.

And the most important piece of this whole thing is that what is happening is not because I am trying hard to MAKE it happen. It's almost like letting go of a bunch of things - too much input from trainers, tightness/tension, trying too hard, control, in some ways the actual idea of dressage itself, etc. - ALLOWED this to happen.

I don't think it's possible to get this feeling of pure power and lightness except by letting go. Any pushing or trying or forcing would ruin it.

We have always gotten pieces of this - but suddenly we're getting entire rides where it feels this good.

I'm feeling it when I ride Cody too - although with Keil it's like I have caught up to what he already knows, and with Cody it's more like I'm guiding him toward something he doesn't yet know.

Fascinating, clearly, as I can go on and on about it. :)

billie said...

A, thanks, and great advice not to over-analyze. :) I do think it's a combination thing and I am not thinking about it in the saddle at all - I am too busy being happy!

I forgot to mention that Salina's fall and that morning thinking we were saying goodbye had a profound effect on me. There are no guarantees of anything when it comes to horses and riders and good health and soundness. So I felt compelled, from a very deep place, to seize the day and ride as much as I can, not for the sake of training or improvement, but to make as much magic as I can with the Big Bay.

I have said this before about reading books - I open each book with the feeling that I am perfectly willing to be amazed.

I do the same thing with each ride. And that mind set almost always allows for magic to happen.

Máire said...

Billie, you sound very connected, both to yourself and to Keil Bay. And well described, as always. I almost felt I was riding your wonderful horse myself. Enjoy the experience! A reminder not to take what we have with our horses for granted and to seize the day is quite timely for me. Thanks!

billie said...

Maire, we're definitely in a good space together right now. I look forward to reading more of you and Ben on this path. :)