Thursday, August 13, 2020

He’s Here!

California Cruising aka Cruz made it to Ohio yesterday.  He had a 4 day trip across the country with a couple of layovers and showed up hydrated and in about the same condition as when he left California.

So far he seems to have the most lovely temperament.  Friendly, interested in people, nice ground manners, and comfortable with being touched anywhere .  I played with him a little in hand(think 5 minutes) the morning he came in and did the same and gave him a hose off in the afternoon.  I got the feeling he hasn’t had many baths but after a little squirming he stood pretty quietly.  He just seems inexperienced but pretty low keyed, which of course might change after he recovers fully from that epic trip.

Today we got a more thorough grooming, had a couple of quick in hand sessions, and got some turnout time.  I love how he sticks his head into the halter and follows my lead when he is uncertain about anything.  He seems really physically immature for a just turned 3(last Saturday) so the plan is to do lots of groundwork and general handling this Fall, maybe sit on him for a little walk/trot inside if he seems ready, and then let him grow until Spring when we can get more serious about under saddle work and field trips.

So far, I just love him!

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Jet Set Gets a New Brother

He’s waiting patiently here to load on the van from California(which he did like a champ).  He just turned 3, 14.1 hands, Hanoverian x TB/Welch, and he is the most fabulous mover.  I am so excited to meet him!

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Active Stretch or Neck Down a Lightbulb Moment

Last week I read something that gave me a big lightbulb moment.  I follow a bunch of Dressage pages on FB, so I can’t find the article, but the gist of it was that an active stretch is very different from neck/head down.  In neck down, the horse willingly puts his head and neck down, but there is no requirement for energy from the hind feet, through the back, and up to the contact.  In an active stretch the horse is reaching to the contact BECAUSE the energy goes through in a circle from the hindquarters, over the back, and to the contact.  I read this and thought ding ding ding, this is what Jet and I are missing and why we struggle with energy and correct contact especially in the stretch.

Even though changing my posture has improved his posture tremendously, I still felt like something was missing about the energy and contact.  By stacking my blocks and subsequently not pushing him on the forehand things were much better.  The working gaits felt and looked pretty good but the stretches felt flat and were still a touch behind the vertical.  The stretch happened when I put spaces between my vertebrae while staying stacked, but it felt soggy and not active like the working gaits.  

After reading the article I did a search on the Dressage Naturally Video Classroom and bingo the lightbulb really went on.  We’ve been closer to correct during the working gaits, especially after fixing (mostly!) my posture, but we’ve been missing all the benefits of a true active stretch.  By having decent energy in the working gaits and then just letting him drop his head and neck with the energy fizzling out, we’ve been missing out on all the back lifting, neck stretching, through-ness inducing goodness of an active stretch.  

I’ve been playing with this concept the past couple of rides and WOW has it made a difference to the volume of his gaits, how easy it is to sit everything, and the quality of the stretch in the mirrors.  Thinking connection,, alignment/balance, then energy while staying stacked firmly in my vertebrae helped my working gaits.   However, keeping all of this and adding spaces between my vertebrae to actively stretch instead of just going neck down has opened up all sorts of new possibilities.  How did I not know this?

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Yoga and Changing Posture for the Dressage Rider

I’ve been doing yoga for a while now to help my wonky back(total success-pain free) but also to improve my balance, straightness, strength, and flexibility for dressage. See my DRT post for my favorite free online yoga videos for riders.  I also started doing in person yoga classes in January which have been sadly curtailed by Covid 19.  Sometime in the past year or so I  made a personal commitment to do at least 30 minutes of yoga a day.  I noticed when I did yoga the previous day I had no back pain on the following day.  I’ve missed one or two days but have been pretty consistent, mostly helped by watching the PBS Newshour while doing my stretches.  This might sound very un-yoga like, but for me tying yoga to something that is mildly distracting in the background, plus having a set time every day, really helps me to be 99% on it. Not very spiritual, but very good for consistent practice and getting an in depth views of the crazy.

Anyhoo, this is not the point of my post, which is how doing yoga consistently has affected my recent posture change for dressage.  Frankly, it has been much easier than I thought it would be to stack my vertebrae while riding.  It takes some concentration on my part, but physically it has not been difficult other than a little stiffness fixed by, you guessed it, more yoga.  Riding while keeping stacked is starting to get easier mentally but I think the body control and flexibility gained with regular yoga has been the game changer.  I’ve even started stacking my vertebrae in my yoga poses which has made the transition even easier.  It’s amazing how a balance pose, say on one leg, is much more difficult while stacking, which then translates over nicely to something like a canter depart.  I’m so glad I started down the yoga path for my riding but especially for my general health.  Mr. Exploring Dressage Biomechanics has also been persuaded to do a little yoga 3-5 times a week and his blood pressure has gone down considerably.  Even when watching the News Hour.  Who knew?