Total Exhaustion: It's A Good Thing

I just got back from my day of lessons and pilates with Coach Cory, and have just about enough energy to take a shower, and sit down at my computer. I'm BEAT. But the day was awesome, I learned some new things, saw old friends, made new ones, and got my riding tuned up. All in all a great day, and totally worth all of the sweat, pain, and my now decidedly-bowlegged gait.

I got to ride a super-awesome mare named Apollo, who I'd been on a few times while I was still in college. She's petite, athletic, well-schooled, and super fun to ride!

Oh heyyyy girlfriend!

Our morning lesson focused mainly on flatwork. Cory had us do a ton of work in two-point and standing straight up in our stirrups, as well as some sitting and posting trot without stirrups. During these exercises, it became apparent that my leg tends to want to roll away from the saddle and stick out too far in front of me, so I worked a lot on correcting that, as well as keeping Apollo round and soft in the bridle. Cory helped me let go when she started bracing against me, instead of pulling right back, and it went a long way to keep her round and happy! We then moved on to working on shifting our horses' haunches away from our legs, and doing a little leg-yeild and half-pass while we were at it. Apollo was mildly cranky about actually having to use her butt, but once she conceded we had some really lovely moments. It was great to also feel a correct half-pass, since I'm just starting to work on this movement with Dino and he only gives me a good step or two at a time right now.  Cory also had us work on half turns and turns in reverse in preparation for the afternoon jumping session. We ended the morning session by jumping through a small grid, with and without our reins, and I continued to focus on keeping my lower leg back while I got a feel for Apollo's jump. I anticipated a lot more painful moments during the flatwork lesson, but was pleasantly surprised to find myself challenged, and not fearing for my life or in serious physical agony.

We took a break for lunch, and then got right back to work with a pilates session.

Now is when the pain starts. Since I am pretty used to doing pilates on my own at home, I wasn't expecting this part of boot camp to be that hard. I was wrong. Cory is SERIOUSLY fit, and really challenged us to push ourselves. There were a couple times where I found myself silently pleading, "PLEASE LET THIS BE THE LAST REP, PLEASE!" but I survived. I learned a few new exercises I wasn't familiar with, got a serious ab workout, and learned how to pay better attention to how I hold my lower back so I can avoid over-arching, which my signature move.

The last session of the day was a jumping lesson, and at this point both Apollo and I were pretty tired! We started out over the same grid we had jumped in the morning, and then moved on to some really neat exercises that utilized the half turns and turns in reverse from the morning. The first jumping exercise involved cantering past a fence along the rail, then performing a half turn to jump the fence on an angle, changing leads over the jump, and then making another half turn to come back at it the other way. Apollo thought this was an absolute blast, and during this exercise Cory had me work on making it slower and smoother. More equitation, less turn 'n burn jumper pony. The second turn exercise was really tricky. We had to begin on the rail in counter-canter, ride a long diagonal track to the fence, then land in the same counter lead and ride a ten meter circle on the backside of the jump until we achieved a quality canter. Apollo is a really awesome little show horse who knows when she should be on the right lead, so just getting the counter canter, and keeping it, was a challenge with her! Once I got that right, then the 10m circle after the jump became an issue. I just couldn't get her to soften and move her ribcage over no matter what I tried. So Cory hopped on and had a little discussion with her, and when I got back on after Apollo's tune up she was SO much more polite!

Our last exercise of the day was a serious challenge for me, in part because at that point I was really hot, really sweaty, and REALLY tired. Cory had set up two ground poles about three strides apart, and then right behind them placed about in the middle of the poles was a little hogsback fence. The exercise was to canter through the poles, then continue around on the same lead to make a sharp turn to the hogsback. The theory behind it is that it helps teach riders to keep balance and impulsion around tight turns, and our group also focused on bringing the horses' haunches around the turn with our outside legs BEFORE making the turn with the reins. I had trouble with the entire thing, honestly! I couldn't keep Apollo moving through the poles, I was letting my leg slip forward, and the whole thing was just sloppy. Cory had me just ride through the poles several times until I could maintain a forward, bouncy canter, and then I headed for the jump. I got through it, but didn't get a pretty distance every time, and had one pretty hairy turn to the fence. Thankfully Cory doesn't let us quit until we get something right, so I just did the exercise over and over until it was better. The last thing we did was string together a course of all the different elements we had worked on, and that went pretty well for Apollo and I! We even got a lovely, round canter at the end.

SO, things to take home from this awesome, exhausting, informative day:

-Keep the lower leg back! What feels 'too far' back is actually correct.
-When your horse braces, LET GO AND LEG ON. Cory said something that really stuck with me, that if your horse is bracing against your hand, it probably means they're also bracing against your leg. Move the body AWAY from your leg, and then soften with your hand.
-Turns! Use 'em! I'll definitely be utilizing all of the turning exercises we worked on today with Dino. They were really wonderful tools to supple and tune up the horse to lateral leg aids.

All in all it was a GREAT day at boot camp! I'm looking forward to the next one already.


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