Saturday, November 7, 2015

Too much of a good thing

I'm trying to recall when it happened.  When it went from, the right thing to do, to, the beginning of all your problems.  You hear it everywhere.  Every trainer says it.  Every book pens it.  Every blog waxes eloquent on the subject.  But is it all it's cracked up to be?  Is it the be all end all?  Of what am I speaking?  Outside rein.

I am dressage dummy.  Always have been. I can ride the shit out of a horse.  But that's because I came out of the womb riding. Rode every kind of horse you can imagine.  Not kidding.  You name it I've ridden it.  Any vice, trick or tactic a horse can pull I've been on that horse and most likely as a dumb kid who knew that the only thing that really matters in the end is that you stay on your horse long enough to get back home.  Because trust me that several mile walk back out of the woods after your horse has dumped you and took off like a blaze of glory, sucks.  I rode the fancy hunters and spent years showing them and spend equal time flying bareback through an open field racing a with a neighbor and her horse.  I can ride the shit out of a damn horse.

What I do lack is finesse, polish.  Where I struggle is the details.  That is where I seek professionals.  It does NOT come natural for me to be a poised, quiet and sensitive rider.  If you need someone to point a horse at a fence, a ditch, a steep ravine with no fear and ride a horse through it with complete confidence, I'm your girl.  But if you want to teach your horse the subtleties and tactfulness that belongs in a dressage ring and show jump arena, well you are barking up the wrong tree.  I think this is the reason I can watch my kids come flying off a horse and I don't even skip a beat barking orders to "hurry and get up before your horse steps on her reins."  Falling is something I figured out the science of very young.  THAT I am good at!  Leg yields, shoulder-ins, half-halts I am not!

In those cases I need very specific step by step instructions.  And more than likely I am going to do a really good job at making look it like I am doing it right but actually royally screwing it up.  Not on purpose of course.  I mean even I make myself  believe I am doing it right.  This is the reason that I need very observant and good instructors.  The run of the mill trainer and I just don't work.  I need someone who can see my bullshit riding style and call me out on it.  Many times over and over before I finally get whatever it is they are trying to get through my thick skull.

This royal screw up I must have been hiding for a very long time.  No one had picked up on it before.  I obliviously have no idea how to ride so I didn't get it.  But I knew the problem that it was causing.  I would tell trainer after trainer what was happening.  Good trainers but no one had spotted my mistake until just a few weeks ago in a lesson with M.  She has earned my loyalty for this and one other huge break through she facilitated but I will cover the other one(equally life changing yet as easy a fix) at a later date.  I have for years now struggled going right.  I had gone through every explanation I could think of.  Steady would bulge his inside shoulder tracking right, especially at the canter.  We could NEVER hold a right lead canter in a dressage test at a show because the added tension is all it took for our Band-Aid method of making it happen to fall apart.  At home we fumble and struggled.  Explanations I explored ranged from, my biomechanics (convinced I was crooked AF and ruining my horse), Steady's biomechanics, he's a career race horse they just don't do right, weakness, pain, soreness (because we all know if all fails blame it on lameness), and even resigning to the fact that my horse is just being a complete effing dick (which makes complete sense that he's 100% willing to do ANYTHING except canter to the right.  Yeah I never said I was smart).  I got pissed at him many times over this because I am really that crappy of a person and I do that sometimes.  You know, have a completely useless, uncalled for reaction toward someone, to a problem that I am causing myself. Yeah, I do that.   We could be having a lovely ride and then it come to cantering right and he pushes through my inside leg, falls in the circle and just pushing his inside shoulder against every aide I can muster up and the whole ride would change to frustration for both of us.

This has gone on for YEARS!  It got to the point that I just knew we would take the points in dressage tests for the lead swapping and lack of bend.  It was just what we do.  So imagine my surprise that when every one of those problems immediately disappeared with one sentence from M.  What was the sentence?  If the dressage police were standing around they surely would have arrested her for saying it and given her the max sentence for such an offense of all that is dressage queen. "Let go of your outside rein."  That's it.  I didn't believe her, being the skeptic that I am but she insisted "let it go".  She even said "I don't usually tell people this but you need to let your outside rein go."  So I did and it was immediate.  My horse unlocked his inside shoulder, stopped drifting, bent right and cantered around to the right BALANCED!  WTF! that goes against everything I've ever read, heard or been told.  Apparently it is very possible to have too much outside rein.  Who fricken knew?  Most likely everyone on earth but me.  Hey I told you I am not good at this shit.  Like really not good.  It is possible to completely block the outside shoulder by abusing the outside rein.  See my non natural riding abilities always told me well if it is inside leg to outside rein then when it isn't working then just do more inside leg and outside rein.  And more and more and more.  It's still not working?  Well my horse is broken. I mean he doesn't work the way the book tells me he must be broken.  It's really quite ridiculous how dumb and by the book I can be when it comes to riding and pretty much everything in life.

Look at the engagement, reach and bend you can get when you aren't ccompletely blocking the the outside shoulder.

I read this definition. "Correct lateral bend engages the inside hip,  causing the inside hind leg to step toward the center of mass."
Yas! Zoom in on that inside hind!

Not much in life is easy.  But fixing that chronic, ongoing, long term problem was really THAT easy.  On one had it's awesome that it was that simple and fast to fix but also equally annoying that it was that easy and took YEARS to figure it out.  If I ever needed any more proof I do not need to be left to my own devices this is it.  Lesson learned. Books are good but my horse is not text book horse and if it's not working listen to my horse.