Left, Right, Center and Circles

Well, this whole thing with Chewbacca’s back being sore, and knowing deep down inside that I’ve caused another issue with another horse has been EATING ME ALIVE.  Literally, I’m sick to my stomach, nauseus.  You know how you feel when you’re hungry, like you’re intenstines are trying to eat themselves?  That’s how I’ve been feeling every waking minute of every day since the beginning of February when Chewie went lame and I noticed the back pain issue arising.

So I talked to my trainer, to my vet, to the saddle fitter, to anyone who would listen, for advice, input, and most of all HELP.

I also posted on Chronicles of the Horse, looking for insight.  I made a post all about my past history with ruining horses and how it coincided with my weight gain over the last 6 years.  I was amazed at the responses I got.

I held my breath when I clicked on the “start new thread” post, because I was expecting an onslaught of attacks about what a shitty person I am and how dare I disgrace my horse by climbing up on it.  That’s the kind of response I got years ago from a different horse forum when I posted about my issues with Spyder.

Instead, what I got from responses on Chronicles floored me. Amazed me.  Firstly, the sheer number of responses I got in a short period of time was just amazing to me.  How NICE and INSIGHTFUL and HELPFUL every single one of them was was also amazing.

Most amazingly, though?  Damned near every single person saw the same flaws in my riding.

I’ve been suspecting that my rise in weight over the years has impacted how I ride.  I’m also 32, and I don’t ride like I did when I was 20.  Back then, I weighed less, I rode MORE, and I jogged and exercised, and worked at a barn on the weekends and was just generally more fit and had more energy (and confidence).  Now, I’m suffering the ill effects that a whole extra decade bring with it, exhaustion that comes from carrying an extra 70 pounds of flab around on mme, and working full time and paying bills and cleaning house and dealing with the ups and downs and inbetweens of being married.  Life, basically. I’m dealing with life.  I don’t ride anywhere close to what I used to, I don’t exercise, I spent years battling a nerve problem in my feet (which I actually now think was related to my past saddle)… etc, etc. etc…  point is, life has changed for me.

And my riding?  That’s changed too.  For the worse.  Sloppy, bad habits, poor posture, lack of muscle tone, addition of fat tone (lol), have all added to how I ride now compared to how I used to ride then.

Every single peson on the Chronicles Forum used these words in some context:

“crooked” (to the left)

“unbalanced”

“heavy seat”

EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.

So, what’s the first thing I did? — I called my instructor.  I asked her if she feels I sit too heavy when I post or land from a jump (because that’s what 30 people said to me on the board).  I asked if I lean to the left… (actually, my vet the other week thought my saddle looked compressed to the right and asked me if I lean to the right…)…

My instructor’s response?  No.

So, why is it, I must ask, that two dozen people can watch my YouTube videos and come up with the SAME FLAWS in my riding, and my instructor that I’ve been riding with every week for 5 years says I don’t have those flaws?

Could it really be because I pay her hundreds of dollars a month?  Many of the responses I got really got me thinking.  They got me thinking about the mechanics of my new body due to age and weight… about Yoga, and Centered Riding and finding my balance and building my core and not being so heavy in the saddle…

But they also got me thinking that maybe I really haven’t had the issues addressed that I’ve needed addressed the most.  My trainer handled my confidence issues.  When I went to her, the first time I introduced myself, the first words out of my mouth were “I don’t expect to ever jump full courses again, but I’d like to at least do crossrails.”

She had me CONFIDENTLY jumping full 2’6″ courses in a few months.  My confidence rebounded and after she dealt with Spyder for me, she helped me work through my fear-of-riding-becuase-I-might-do-it-again issues and she has been helping me with Chewbacca.  And where did that get me??? Back to where I started.  With a sore horse that I can’t – or won’t – ride again.

So, really, how helpful was the instruction I’ve been receiving?  If I really sit too heavy or land too hard, or ride crooked, and my instructor doesn’t see it, how can I possibly see it?  How can I possibly fix what I’m not aware of?

Which leads me to finish this whole circle with — HOW CAN I POSSIBLY RIDE AGAIN?

Yes, I have a saddle fitter coming out to address the sadddle issue.  Yes, Chewie is on meds that will hopefully help his back.  BUT, if the core of the problem is a fault in my riding I’m NOT AWARE OF WHEN I RIDE, how can I POSSIBLY FIX IT??

If I take lessons so consistently and **RELY** on an instructor on the ground paying attention to how I’m riding, what I’m doing, and what needs to be corrected, but I don’t get the correction, then I assume everything is fine and press on, and end up with a ruined horse.

So now I know I’m off balance, I post too heavy and hard, and I lean too much to either the left or right (although the consensous is left).  But if I wasn’t aware of it for the last 6 years, how can I correct it?  If I don’t have someone on the ground saying “hey, you idiot, you’re leaning again”, how can I fix it??

It looks like I’ll be driving Chewbacca after all.  Joy.  

I really cannot ride again.  I cannot correct these issues that have developed.

Yes, I can *try* to lose weight (we all know how easy that is… uh huh)… but how can I ever trust myself on a horse again?

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About kshai1715

I am a lifelong equestrian, photography enthusiast, sci-fi lover, and sci-fi convention & costuming geek that also loves movies and video games. I am a hard working 30 something woman that survived cancer and am looking forward to a long, healthy, self-empowered life. Welcome to my blog and I hope you enjoy reading about my horses (and the rest of my life) as much as I like writing about them. You can feel free to check out my YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/yautjakshai
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4 Responses to Left, Right, Center and Circles

  1. April says:

    I apologise if you have talked about this already, but have you thought about finding a riding instructor with a really good eye for position and work only on that aspect of your riding? I have taken lessons from many different trainers and some excel at the art of getting the rider right and others focus mainly on the horse.
    I sit crooked too and one of my teachers never said a word about it even though it interfered with my horse’s way of going to the right (we worked all the time on ‘fixing the horse’) and then when I went back to an old trainer she saw it right away.
    Please don’t get so down on yourself and maybe think about lunge lessons on a solid quiet school horse. It can work wonders.

  2. Astra says:

    I’ve been a reader for quite a while now, and just wanted to say please don’t give up. I really agree with April’s suggestion that it may be time to find a new trainer who is better at correcting your position. Trainers are people after all and just like everyone else, they each have their own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to coaching their clients. Some are better confidence builders, others are better at correcting the rider’s equitation. Taking a few lunge lessons with someone on a quiet schoolie where you can focus on YOU and not worry about what the horse is doing does wonders.

  3. Liz Goldsmith says:

    Yes, you can ride again! The first step to solving a problem is figuring out that you have one!

    The next step is the hardest. When you change your position it will feel WRONG and you need good eyes on the ground to reassure you that you are now RIGHT. We all get into bad habits that start to feel normal and those are really hard to break. If you can’t find anyone local to help out, you can try a cool new coaching service that allows you to work with someone over the Internet. It’s called http://www.my5minutecoach.com. I know that Lesley Stevenson coaches on that (she posts on COTH) and she’s a good trainer.

    I’ve read through the post on COTH (I am Bogie there) and you’ve gotten some good advice. Please when you have the saddle fitter out, have him/her check how the saddle positions YOU. I really think that it’s putting you in a chair seat and that you are fighting the tack when you ride.

    Good luck & stay positive. Where there’s a will there’s a way and you have a lot of determination to succeed.

  4. justpeg says:

    You’re on the right path. Don’t quit now!

    Some horses tolerate crookedness better than others. None of them like a crooked rider. Getting yourself straight is a lifelong goal for some of us. I’m still working on that–10 years after my first sensitive horse told me I was crooked by getting back sore. You’ve gotten lots of good suggestions–keep trying different combinations of them until you find the right mix for you and your horse.

    This is something you have to fix yourself. Even once an instructor starts helping you, the changing of your entire body position and posture has to be done mostly on your own. There’s plenty of info out there if you have to work on your own, too. You have a camera, obviously–use it. This is not an overnight fix.

    In the meantime, it’s not as black-and-white as you sound. You don’t have to quit riding! While you’re working on yourself, ride a little less and work your horse in other ways. Learn how to lunge and use sidereins effectively to help your horse build muscle and travel straight–Lunge for 1/2 the session and ride 1/2. Line-driving works, free-jumping thru grids, groundwork can help–your horse doesn’t need to be ridden for the entire work session. As you get stronger and more aware and can maintain the straighter position longer, ride more each session. Just keep “straightness and balance and light seat” in the front of your mind. When you have a jump school jump less times. Etc.

    You can do this!

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