Tuesday, September 19, 2017

An Overview of Me as a Rider: A Year Later

I just did my reflection on Casey's changes throughout the past year, so now it's time to turn that magnifying glass on myself. A year ago I wrote a post in which I evaluated myself as a rider, so let's look back at what I said and see what changes have occurred.

Training Knowledge

What I said: "I am very calm and patient and will work with a horse to get them to do what I want, rather than forcing them into it."
What I say now: I'm still pretty calm & patient with horses. In normal life I am an anxious, neurotic, sometimes difficult person, but I am different with horses.  They make me a better person.
Summer 2016
Spring 2017

What I said: "I end rides on good notes, which makes for a happy horsie."
What I say now: I always try to end a ride on a good note. Even if that means cutting a ride a bit shorter to make sure that happens. At this point, I know Casey well enough that I know which things are going to make her happy and which things will piss her off, so if I want to work on something that she hates, I always follow it up with something that she loves.
Summer 2016
Winter 2016-2017

What I said: "There are so many exercises that I don't know."
What I say now: There are still many exercises that I don't know, but I have a good repertoire of exercises that I can use in my rides. I used to just putz around on my horse because I didn't know of any specific things to work on. Sure we'd go through all of her gaits, but it wasn't really focused training. Now I usually start my ride with a rough idea of what I want to work on and do activities that will work on those skills. The things I'm focusing on right now with Casey are: bendability, adjustment within a gait (extension/collection), relaxation, and responsiveness to leg cues. In one ride I usually pick one of those things to focus on (although I might use exercises that address multiple of those skills).
Summer 2016
Spring 2017

Flat Position

What I said: "Most of the time I keep my eyes up and heels down." & "I know trotting diagonals & canter leads"
What I say now: Honestly, I feel like my dressage instruction started to hinder my ability to keep my eyes up. I'm much more aware of what my horse is doing now, but I still sometimes want to see how she is reacting/moving. BUT if I'm not focusing on technical skills it is just habit to keep eyes up. I don't ever really struggle with heels down. Trotting diagonal and canter leads are no-brainers at this point. I've improved in that area though, because at this point I am much more refined in asking for the correct canter lead.

What I said: "I am efficient at using half halts."
What I say now: I'd say that I am pretty solid with half halts at this point. I use them all the time with Casey, because she is a hot horse.
Summer 2016
Summer 2017

What I said: "At a canter, I push my inside leg too far forward." & "I also tend to try to help the horse circle at the canter by leaning."
What I say now: My position is soooo much better at the canter now than it used to be. For the most part my leg stays where it belongs and I'm balanced in circles. I usually ride the canter in a half seat, because it helps Casey stay off the forehand, but before her injury we were building up our stamina in a sitting canter. When I sit the canter it is definitely harder for her to stay properly balanced. Is this is a Casey-thing or an average-horse thing? I don't know...
Summer 2016
Summer 2017

What I said: "My position is all over the place ... really bad chair-seat."
What I say now: Part of the issue with my prior chair-seat was that I was riding in saddles that were too big for me. When I bought my own saddle it was still an issue for a bit, because the saddle sits just a little bit too low in the cantle, so I got a slight riser pad and now it's just right. I think at this point I might have a slight chair-seat at times, but overall I am so much more balanced.
Summer 2016
Spring 2017

Jump Position

What I said: "I am too far out of the saddle and my legs aren't beneath me."
What I say now: Commenting on my jumping ability is not the easiest at this point, because I haven't jumped since March... that being said, I did improve so much in the the months that Casey & I were jumping. I'd say this is the thing I still struggle with the most. I have a tendency to try to lift my butt out of the saddle to get out of the horse's way, but it's incorrect and not actually helpful to the horse. I've gotten slightly better at this, but I have a long way to go. My legs are actually a lot better than they used to be though, and while they still slip back at times, mostly they are beneath me.
Summer 2016
Spring 2017

What I said: "I need to work on my release over jumps."
What I say now: This is what I think I most improved at in my jumping form. I tried really hard to focus on giving Casey a correct release and I think I kind of got it before she got injured. I'm currently using a long crest release. It'll probably take me a while to strength my body enough for this, but I'd love to eventually learn an automatic release.
Summer 2016
Winter 2016-2017

What I said: "I am not the best at judging distances to jumps."
What I say now: I'm much better at this than I used to be. Obviously this is something that will continue to need work, but before her injury Casey and I were working at changing stride numbers in a jumping line and that really helped with this.
Summer 2016
Spring 2017

As a summary, I think that I've really improved in the past year. Not only have these physical things improved for the better, but my overall knowledge of horse training & care has broadened. There are still lots of things to work on, but I think I can feel proud about my progress in the span of twelve months.

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