I rode with Elaine once before, but I was only able to get one riding slot that time. On the September Labour Day long weekend, Elaine was back again and I had signed up for all 3 days.
I had originally signed up for 45 minute semi-private lessons. However, the organizers weren't able to find someone else who would fit in with me and so I ended up getting slightly shorter private lessons instead.
|Not me riding, but the only non-blurry photo I have of the clinic|
The first lesson, Elaine immediately dialed into my lower leg. I've been working on improving my upper body for quite a while and I think I've made good progress with that (finally helped by the new saddle), but I have been neglecting my lower leg in trade.
She had a few different points to make on my lower leg:
1. Put my stirrup irons a little further back on my feet (just more on the ball of the foot, mine were a little too much on the toes). Her reasoning was that there's an accupuncture pressure point there that helps your other leg joints too be loose. I'm not sure I fully buy that, but whatever.
2. Loosen my ankles.
3. Rotate my whole leg in at the hip. Focus on making contact with the saddle with the front and side of my thigh instead of the back and side.
4. Divide pressure equally between my inner thigh, inner knee, and inner upper calf when sitting in the saddle. This will feel like pinching with my knee right now as I'm not used to it, but it's not really.
5. Think about kicking the stirrup backwards with my foot to keep my lower leg back
6. Stretch my knee down an inch in the saddle as I post or two-point. This means I will only be fractionally above the seat of the saddle, but that's okay.
7. Keep 50% of the weight of my leg in front of the stirrup iron and 50% behind to keep my leg from swinging forwards or backwards.
If you think that's a lot to change all at once, you'd be right! It was hard mentally and physically. Especially as she got me to spend more than half the time in two point to make it stick. I haven't done much two-point in years and my body wasn't prepared for that!
There were a couple times towards the end of the lesson where I just couldn't keep going and had to grab mane or sit down and come down to the walk for a minute to reorganize. I normally never quit on anything in a lesson and I felt a bit ashamed, but Elaine said that it was better to take a break if I was physically giving out, than to push through and compromise the correct position instead.
There was so much focus on my leg position that we stopped worrying about pretty much anything else. That meant two things:
A) my upper body was leaning really far forward, especially while posting or in two point. Every time that I tried to lean back, my legs would try to go forward, so Elaine had me just focus on getting my legs correct, and said that once they were stronger in that position I would be able get the upper body back to where it needed to be.
B) Kachina got to just trot lots of 20m circles without a whole lot of input from me. This part ended up being really interesting. I've known pretty much from day 1 that Kachina is sensitive to my seat and upper body. Kachina tends to get tense and fast if she feels that my seat is tense or not where it should be. However, I now know that Kachina is also really sensitive to my leg position. At first, she was getting a bit upset because my legs being farther back were confusing her and I think she thought I was asking for canter. Eventually, she settled down about that and had a pretty good trot rhythm, when I was steady that is. Any time that my weight shifted and my legs started to move forward, even just by a fraction, Kachina would immediately speed up. Once I got my legs back to where they needed to be and steadied myself, she would slow down, even with zero rein contact.
Elaine said that she had decided to focus on my leg position because it seemed that my horse was sensitive to it, and the lesson really made me believe it! It was also very interesting to me that Kachina could be quiet and calm when my upper body was forward and my seat out of the saddle, as long as my leg was steady and underneath me. This horse is really going to make a better rider out of me, she won't let me get away with anything!
I am so so glad that I had my new saddle to ride in for this clinic. I still have a lot to improve about my position, but for the first time I really felt like the saddle was helping me to get it right. I was able to turn my leg in more than in my old Jag, and when I was doing things right, I could feel my knee settle in right behind the block. That feeling helps me to know when I'm where I need to be and gives me confidence that I'll be able to work on my leg position when I ride on my own. Elaine complimented my saddle and how it fit us both and it was really great to get some 3rd party approval on my recent buy.