Thursday 8 June 2017

Blogger Meet-up - Alberta Edition

Apparently last week was the week for blogger meet-ups! It may not have been as big or epic as eating sea bugs in Baltimore or horse swapping and riding to a vineyard in California, but a mini blogger meet-up happened here in Alberta this weekend between me and KateRose at Peace & Carrots, and it involved riding horse robots*!

*actually a horse simulator, they aren't very automated so I don't think robot is an accurate term, it just sounds cooler lol

When I mentioned that I would be going up to Calgary to scribe at the Gold Dressage Show there, KateRose said that she would be in Calgary as well and asked if we could meet up. I had already scheduled a dressage simulator lesson for Friday night so I quickly roped her into joining me.

Busy warm-up ring at RMSJ

The simulator is a really cool tool for targeted position work without any of the distractions that riding a real horse brings. I last used it in February 2016 on a dressage weekend where I needed to get some lessons without hauling a horse in winter (posts here, here, and here, specifically read the first one for more info on how the simulator works). The three simulator sessions I took in February helped me in several ways and their benefit lasted for a long time, but I felt like I was due for another dose of position boot camp.

Luke, the simulator

This time around we took lessons on the simulator with the trainer who was the dressage judge at my recent show (so I will call her Judge). Judge trains out of the barn with the simulators now and I really liked her feedback from the show so I knew she would be a good person to work with for fixing my position.

KateRose and I had arranged to meet at the barn with the simulators Friday evening. Unfortunately some different issues related to driving around Calgary meant that Judge, KateRose, and I were all running late. We all got there around the same time, but it made for a kind of weird start because this was the first time KateRose and I had met in person, but instead of having time for the introduction/small-talk thing, we kind of jumped right into having the simulator lessons together (not helped by the fact that I am kind of socially awkward, sorry KateRose!)

View of Calgary from near the show grounds

Since I had ridden the simulator before, I hopped up first for my lesson. We didn't do much playing with the simulator features, more just used it as a moving platform while Judge adjusted my position. The major take-aways for me were:

Me on board (PC: KateRose)
  • The weight of my legs is the amount of pressure I should have in my stirrups
  • My stirrups should be longer (I used to need them shorter because otherwise it was easier for me shoot my legs forward and off the horse, but I have finally improved with my lower leg position (yay!) so I can go longer now), we lengthened my stirrups one hole for the lesson, I should keep them here until that feels comfortable, and then eventually go down one more hole
  • The direction of my toes is pretty good when I'm sitting, but I need to prevent them from turning out when I apply leg
  • When I post I need to keep my shoulders where they are, not move them forward
  • My elbows tend to do the chicken flap thing and it makes my hands not quiet. I have been focused on keeping my shoulders back and my elbows at my side. Instead, I need to still focus on shoulders back, but hold my arms more straight out in front of me with my elbows slightly squeezing together in front of my body. This is a significant difference to what I have been doing, but the benefit of it was reinforced as I was scribing at the show because I could see all the best riders had their hands pushed more forwards. I am still struggling with the feel of arms forward without the shoulders going forward, so I'm trying to practice it while I type, walk and drive, as well as in the saddle.
  • Think of my hands holding a baby bird, and a half halt is keeping the bird from escaping while not crushing it. If you think of a baby bird trying to escape, you need to close your hand quickly in reaction, but without squeezing too hard. This is a really good analogy for me, because it reinforces the need for a half halt to be both quick and gentle. For some reason gentle always goes together in my head with slow. Half halts need to be quick to be effective. Also Judge demonstrated to me with her hands how keeping your hands soft around the reins instead of in a death grip, allows a much gentler half halt to be clear. I also need to remember that a soft hold does not mean open hands. 
  • Canter transitions: I identified my position in the canter transition as being a weak point so I wanted to practice these on the simulator. On Kachina I fall apart in the transition in multiple ways but I find it hard to identify exactly what is happening. On the simulator it was easier to break things down. I know that my body tips forward on Kachina, but that wasn't an issue with the simulator. There were other problems though. 1) My shoulders twist as I apply leg, with the inside one going forward, I need to focus on staying square in the saddle. 2) When I apply inside leg, I turn my toes out and this inadvertently brings my lower leg forward. I need to keep my toe forward and apply the inside leg in it's natural position behind the girth, not any farther forward. 3) I contort my upper outside leg when I attempt to bring it back to aid. Instead I need to keep my knee where it is and just move my lower leg back. 4) As soon as I get the canter I need to bring my outside leg back to the home position, not keep it back. 5) I'm not consistent or exact with where my aids are applied. Judge had me close my eyes when asking for the canter transition and it took a lot of attempts before I could reliably put my legs on where they needed to go to make the simulator respond. 

After my lesson was done, it was KateRose's turn. It was really educational watching her lesson as well. We have very different body shapes and had completely different things to work on. KateRose had such a natural straight looking seat in the saddle though that I envy. I would love to see her ride an actual horse as I imagine she is a beautiful rider.

KateRose on board

After the lesson we parted ways and I spent Saturday and Sunday at show scribing. I didn't find scribing to be quite as educational as previous years but it was still a good experience. While I cannot ride a good test myself at any level right now, my eye is certainly improving for being able to see what makes a movement good or bad. I am far from the amount of knowledge needed to be a judge, but when I wasn't busy writing, I practiced watching test movements and guessing what the comment and score would be in my head before the judge said it, I was right on or close more than 50% of the time which I thought was pretty cool. I also spent a lot of time looking at the equitation of the best riders and trying to find trends that I should use for my own position.

Awards presentation at Gold Show

Sunday evening after the show, KateRose and I met up for supper. It was great to have some one on one time to chat life and ponies. We both have followed each other's blogs for a while so it was interesting how we were able to talk like we already knew each other. Of course I did learn some new things about her, like how she works 60+ hours a week on top of riding her three horses! I am in awe of that and bow down to her time management skills! It was great to have an Alberta blogger meet-up and I hope to do it again soon, next time hopefully we'll get to meet each other's horses too!

Obligatory blogger meet-up selfie!


  1. Fun!!

    I recently had a change in my job situation (Funemployment!) and it looks like I'm going to be coming down to Calgary to be a working student while I'm off. Next time your up let me know.

    1. Boo for unemployment, but being a working student sounds like an amazing opportunity! We will definitely have to meet up!

  2. How cool! I want to take a lesson on a simulator!

    1. There's two in California! (
      I actually first found out about simulators from Karen at Bakersfield Dressage and that led to me to discover the one in Alberta!

  3. Damnit! I need a blogger meet up!

    1. If you're ever in Western Canada I'd love to meet up! The Maritimes are so beautiful but I was there a couple years ago so it might be a while until I get back. Do you have any other bloggers nearby?

  4. So cool! We need a Canadian blogger meet up:)

    1. That would be awesome! But also a lot of ground to cover lol! I will let you know the next time I'm on the west coast though

  5. Oooh I've always been intrigued by those simulator things!! So cool that you got to meet KateRose too - what a fun way to spend a weekend!!

    1. You should totally try it if you ever get the opportunity! They have jumping and eventing ones too! It was a fun weekend =)

  6. That horse simulator thing is cool. I'd love to try that some time.

  7. So much fun! It was great meeting you :) Can't wait to meet up again soon.