Looking through the new set of uber exciting XC pics reminded me of the last set that was taken. After going through them, I thought it was worthwhile to look at a couple side by side to see the difference a year can make.
GENERAL POSITION SHOT:
In the interest of the best comparison I can possibly make, I tried to select three similar shots from each set. This one just shows a general snapshot of my position and ability at the time of the picture.
General position June 2011. Admittedly, this was really, really stressful for us, so my position might be slightly worse than normal, but not too much. My stirrups are too long and I'm generating all her momentum from my seat, so I throw my body at her in the air to catch up. Not pretty.
General position June 2012. We are comparing apples to apples here. I'm stressed because (I don't know it yet but) I'm going over my first ever novice-height jump. Still. Look at the change. My upper body is much more open, since I'm riding from my leg. I'm balanced over my feet and I'm not just waiting to grab him in the mouth when we land. I could be in a more defensive position since this is XC, but it's fairly pretty.
Also. Damn. I look way better now.
BIGGEST FENCE PICTURE
I'm certainly not claiming to have ever jumped a "big" jump by professional standards, but these shots of representative of something that really pushed me, especially height-wise.
June 2011. It's a little log pile (that did look suspiciously larger last time I saw it). My body position tells you I'm terrified, tight, and riding poorly. Izzy's head position tells you I kept catching her in the mouth, preventing her from stretching. Overall, a very unhappy picture.
June 2012. While it isn't the biggest or most technical thing we jumped, the cabin was the jump I came to the lesson saying, "It will be hard, but I think we can do this."
I actually love my balance over this fence--chest open, slightly behind the motion, leg forward, hands giving. It's a little too defensive for the average showjump, but it's just right for us at this fence.
UP BANK PICTURE
Ok, so you thought the differences were marked over solid fences. Ha! The banks are the most teling part. What interests me most here is the fact that I've always been pretty comfortable with banks. I just don't think they're all that difficult or scary and I never have. While stress and nerves might explain some of the differences in the previous shots, I was quite calm for this.
June 2011. Up bank. I actually love this picture because I love how Izzy looks in it. I love her square knees, her pricked ears, and her attacking this situation confidently.
I'm a mess. Again, leg in a different county, body hurled forward, super awkward hands. I have no idea what I was trying to accomplish here, but it's neither pretty nor safe.
June 2012. It's not 100% the same shot since this bank is up out of water, but it's the same idea. I'm still a little bit ahead of where I'd like to be on him--I've let my shoulders go a bit forward and seem to be pinching my knees somewhat, which is ick. That said, I have a nice long rein, hips back in balance, and am mostly waiting with my position.
I'm by no means perfect now and I certainly see things in the recent shots that I want to improve, but I love how I can see the progress I've made. The #1 important change was getting myself on an appropriate horse and #2 super obvious change was getting ourselves into a more or less regular training program. I take several lessons a month and then really concentrate on improving myself in between. #3 obvious change is in personal fitness. Breaking my jaw really was the kickstart I needed to begin eating better, which has complemented the exercise really well.
I hope next year I can write a similar post and show just as much improvement. :-)