One of the biggest changes that took place while I was in FL was the effectiveness of my seat. Denny Emerson is constantly posting his life experiences as a competitor and trainer and he too goes on and on about The SEAT. And with 70+ years of competitive riding, I have a feeling he knows what he is talking about - even if he is an eventer! ;)
I could try to break down all the intricacies of what Catherine had me visualize, do and struggle with but I think I'll opt for the meat and potatoes version - she took away my stirrups. For both horses everyday for multiple days. I think it was at least 5 days straight...and in the end it doesn't matter. I was using my stirrups to protect my position and compromising the effectiveness of my seat. That made me balance on my hands, pinch with my upper leg, straighten the knee and disconnect my calf from a solid contact with the horse's sides. All foolishness and bad habits that had to be broken!
A few people have asked, "did it hurt?" when I told them that was her solution for my issues. The answer is "Somewhat" with the immediate tag of "but that's what I was there to learn." Realistically, I did not go to Catherine to have her say what a good rider I was - I went to have her help me become a good rider! Strip down my asymmetries, bad habits, poor skills and start to mold me into the riders I was before I started to think too much all the time! The pain in my ankle is usually a constant - so to add in a bit more discomfort from other body parts was part of the deal I made with myself when I asked Catherine if I could come to her for training. There is firmly understood acceptance that to improve my riding I will struggle, it will be difficult and, yes, it will hurt to make those changes.*
That touches on the final topic of this blog - the thinking part of riding. I have been riding for a very long time at a high level with difficult exercises being 'normal' for both me and the horses. With a bit of a fresh perspective, I (re)learned that I am an instinctive rider and Catherine bolstered my confidence that my instincts were correct and to ride without thinking about the how and why so much of the time. By helping me to tap into the proper use of my seat and timing, she helped to guide my instincts into the quicker response time that is needed to help the horses perform better, more accurate and powerful movements. I do not have time to think of which book each correction may have come from or which school of a training system each exercise might be a part of - "Just RIDE!" became a running joke in the stable and I was more than happy to have a reason to giggle at my ineffectual efforts and attempts to work harder rather than surrendering and accepting the struggle will improve when I relax. No more passive riding - I can try to create the good moments and be more proactive about achieving my goals and influencing each stride rather than reacting and/or putting out fires after they ignite!
So that's a bit of an explanation of what The Big Boss had me work on! :) Now it's time to make my way out to the first of the horses for today. :)
*Note - I have to give full props to Catherine and the rest of her crew - when my ankle took a turn for the worse and made riding excruciating, they were the first ones to step in and make me take it easy...which is not always the easiest of tasks, apparently. Hopefully the ankle resolves the damage in short order and riding becomes more comfortable ASAP. Walking will take a while longer, I fear , but cross your fingers and toes as I am itching to get back to competing!!!