I Need New Legs

15 05 2013

I had a bit of a disheartening lesson on Monday, not helped by the fact that I was feeling tired and a little bit under the weather, it was a hot day and the horses were all palpably unmotivated and lethargic, and I sensed that our teacher wasn’t having the best of days either – although she managed it well, if indeed my assessment is correct.

The young blonde lady who had instructed me during my private lesson the previous week had been very critical of my leg position, saying that my lower leg was too far forward and I need to work on bringing it back. I’m conscious that I need to keep my thighs soft when I’m in the saddle and on the move, because tension in my lower body can be felt by the horse and is confusing for her (I’m speaking in general terms, but since I mostly seem to ride mares these days I’m going to make that my generic horse pronoun). But correcting something like your leg position when you’ve gotten comfortable doing it a bit wrong over the course of several months – without incorporating musculature in a directly connected body part – is really hard.

Anyway. I rode Bramble again. I’ve gotten to the point with Bramble now where I actively look forward to seeing her (when I booked my private lesson, they asked me who I usually rode, and after being told Soapy was on holiday, I asked for Bramble without thinking about it), and when I’m on the ground at least she has begun to show recognition towards me. Since I shouted at her for trying to bite me she hasn’t been grumpy with me, either, which I take to be positive. Soapy was in our lesson this week, too. Both of them were already in the arena having been used in the previous lesson. The lady who recently joined the group rode Soapy, and there was a moment while I was sitting on Bramble where she looked over at us quizzically as if to say, ‘Aren’t you riding me today?’ It was lovely to see her looking so cheerful, though – she must have appreciated her rest!

So, yeah – the lesson was all about improving leg position. Given its relevance to what I’d been taught in my private lesson the week before I wondered if there’d been collusion between instructors, but this seems unlikely. I’m getting better with my hands now – I think I’ve figured out the difference between having a good contact on the reins and squeezing or pulling unnecessarily, and for all my frustrations in trying to maintain the correct leg position without coming off my seat bones, I did enjoy the work we did in trot and without stirrups. We got onto canter well in time for all three of us to have a good, long practice each, but Bramble had had enough by this point and didn’t want to walk positively, let alone build up enough impulsion for a smooth transition to canter. Consequently, when she ignored my asks – even though, I am sure, I was doing them correctly first time on each attempt – in my frustration, I pushed on harder with my inside leg and kicked back with the outside instead of just sweeping – and got told that what I was doing was wrong, frustrating me even further.

When I finally did get a canter going, it was noticeably half-hearted and I could feel Bramble trying to slip back into trot. My instructor was yelling at me to push her on and keep it going. Now, I’ve not actually had all that much practice applying my leg while at the same time trying to sit the canter; it’s good that we’re being encouraged to improve and progress, but I’m reminded of how long it took me to be able to push on in trot. I can do it without too  much trouble now, but this is a recent enough development that having exasperated instructors shouting, ‘Leg! Leg! LEG!‘ at me while I thought to myself, ‘Yes, I heard you, but how?’ is still pretty fresh in my mind; I think I am undergoing the same process with the canter. I tried to explain this to my instructor at the time, interrupting her to tell her I knew what I was supposed to be doing but was finding it difficult, and she just looked… taken aback, is the best way I can describe it, and continued what she was going to say anyway.

The sad thing is that I’d been feeling a lot of pressure and a bit sad before going riding and was looking forward to my weekly dose of horse to cheer me up. As lovely as it was to see the horses, I didn’t leave the place feeling especially uplifted. I’ve had to take stock and remind myself that I’ve made loads of progress in my riding since I restarted last April, and that horse riding is hard, I still have a long way to go with it and you can’t have good days all the time.

Nevertheless, I am still very much looking forward to my next go, and since we have another bank holiday coming up I’ll probably still be booking in for another private lesson.

On a brighter note, I realised I never mentioned this, so I’m going to correct that right now: For my birthday this year (which has been put back two months to facilitate it), I am going here for a whole day of training. Now that is going to be amazing…

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6 responses

15 05 2013
Sparrowgrass

I’ve been struggling with leg position (too far forward, just like you) and have put my stirrups up a couple of holes and it really helped. I think because they were too long I had less stability. Perhaps it would help you to try slightly shorter stirrups?

I also have asked questions about how to use my leg in canter that confused the instructor. I was told it was just the same as using your leg in trot, which I found pretty unhelpful. I also think instructors get used to teaching children who don’t question things and are thrown by adult students who challenge them when they’re confused.

18 05 2013
onahorse

Thanks, it’s helpful to know that other people have the same frustrations with instructors not understanding their problems. I shall give it a try with shorter stirrups this week 🙂

15 05 2013
thecasualrider

So glad I am not the only one with legs too far forward. It appears this is a common riding ailment! I raised my stirrups one hole, and that seems to have helped a bit. I have also read that a shorter stirrup is a more stable stirrup.

A whole day of training on your retrograde BD? FanTAStic!

I can sympathize with the leg cue in canter — “leg, leg, leg” often doesn’t help! Saw the comment above, too. How frustrating when things cannot be answered or explained so that they make sense in the mind AND body. My trainer has always told me that the canter cue is a slide back behind the girth, keeping heel down. Easier said when I am asking for right lead….better with left lead.

I also felt what you were saying about not every riding day being good. I do love my horse therapy, but sometimes the lessons leave me feeling disheartened. Take solace in the fact that you have improved over this time since your riding restart. It is NOT easy. If it were, we’d all be elite riders!

Hope you get the private lesson.

18 05 2013
onahorse

Thank you! 🙂

16 05 2013
theInelegantHorseRider

Don’t be disheartened, we all have days like that. Even my instructor admitted that one. I used to have problems with my lower leg positioning and it still isn’t great but I found shorter stirrups definitely helped along with focusing purely on my inside leg once in canter. Although to be fair my instructor will try to help explain what she means until we get it, there has been occasions where she has gotten on to demonstrate! Keep remembering how far you have come, that’s what all the folks in my lesson remind each other when we have an off day.

18 05 2013
onahorse

This is all very good advice. I will have a go at shortening my stirrups next lesson!

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