Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Hips Don't Lie. Neither Does Video.

do the twist
As part of my goal of being a viable competitor at first level next year, I am forcing myself to watch videos of me riding.

It. Is. Painful. Not even kidding. Every time I watch one, I just die a little on the inside and there's this nasty voice that says "how will you ever get to first level? You don't look competent at training level and you've been riding this horse for 2.5 years now."

I try to ease the pressure a little by screen capping the good moments to remind myself that sometimes I look like I can sort of ride, but that's a double-edged sword too.

I mean, look! Me riding:

Like, yay go SB! Hands up! Shoulders back! Leg long! You're so amazing. 

But then you also see this:

And yeah. WTF am I doing. Body tipped forward. Reins way too long. Seat bones digging in to horse. Hands useless.

And then if I want to get really picky, I'd show you the best screenshot off a jumping video that redheadlins kindly took for me last week. 
Base of support? WHO NEEDS ONE
Right? Like. Not only does my dressage position not look fantastic, I have apparently completely forgotten how to release and my lower leg is... eh, let's be generous and call it "iffy". 

This is really hard for me to accept. I'm a very balanced rider in general. I spent several years at a good jumping barn, and I'm used to having a relatively solid position, whatever else is going on. But now? Dressage uses literally the opposite muscles of everything that's good about jumping, so I'm completely re-learning what to do, while simultaneously trashing what I used to be good at. 

There isn't even a comfort zone of like "at least I can do X", because right now, I apparently can't. 

Oh, at let's not even talk about my position at the canter. There's no posting, so I ought be more stable and better, right?

 FALSE. I pump my upper body like... I don't know. Something that pumps a lot and is really uncomfortable to watch. (A couple things come to mind, but occasionally my mom reads this blog. Hi mom!) Everyone's all "oh just sit still", but in my brain, I AM SITTING STILL. I can't feel it. I can't fix it. It's really bad.

All that to say. I'm not good at this. As an obsessive over-achiever, I'm PAINFULLY aware that I'm not good at this. I'm trying to look for bright spots. Here's one: this video is not great, but Courage is starting to look a little steadier in the contact, right?

I can also do this a little bit:

Here's Courage at a show this June in which we achieved perfectly respectable scores at training level:
picture by Alyssa
And here we are lately:
blurry screen cap--more flattering moment version
Soooo. I guess things are getting better. The video really is letting me watch things as they are and learn how to feel what shouldn't be. In case you were wondering, yes, my possessed right hand in back in full force, and no, that doesn't make my right lead canter transitions better. 

First level never looked so far away. 


  1. I don't think that video is cringey at all! Your leg also looks nice, and Courage is super consistent. There's no flailing. You are getting there. :)

  2. Be nice to yourself! Critiquing is one thing but beating up is another. You are not a professional, out there on 8 -10 horses a day, 6.5 days a week. It is okay to be "bad" that is how you improve. I think you've done fantastic! Really a true horse woman to take a step back evaluate self, horse, and goals, and to so spend a year doing dressage even tho its probably not what you wanted.

    Be nice to SB, I think she rocks! (I'm talking to you SB ;P :) )

    1. What she said, seriously girl you look good. Stuff to improve? Yes, but we all do. I repeat, do not beat yourself up.

  3. Don't be too hard on yourself. Moving from mostly jumping to a true dressage seat is REALLY hard and will be a gradual process. Ask me how I know! It has taken me ages to get into new habits and different ways of using my body. Keep up with the lessons and clinics and you might try Beth Baumert's When 2 Spines Align for a wonderful explanation of horse and rider biomechanics.

  4. You simply cannot dissect it frame by frame, that's not fair to yourself! You're absolutely improving. Do you have access to lesson or ride horses other than yours too? I find sometimes my greener horse brings out more of my position flaws because I'm fixing him and me throughout the ride. It's nice to get on a more schooled horse or just a different horse from time to time to remind myself that I'm capable of sitting back or being quiet in the canter for example.

  5. man you are so hard on yourself! idk tho - i'm kinda zen about always having fairly substantial flaws, and just try to prioritize what needs work first and not worry so much about the rest in the interim. Courage appears to be going better and better, like he really understands the job. that's kinda the biggest deal, imo, and the rest is certainly coming along ;)

  6. Your position is wayyy better than mine. Mine has become abysmal lately, it's sad not having a trainer :( But you guys are definitely improving! Courage is looking awesome.

  7. Dude, you are an excellent rider. No one is textbook perfect with their position. It's just that many professional riders are very careful on which photos and videos are released to the world. They don't post the still frames that capture awkward moments, or is just the wrong moment in time. They only post the perfect photos. But trust me, ANYONE can look awkward. And you don't even look awkward in my opinion. So yup, I think you are a little hard on yourself. But then again.... you wouldn't be a DQ if you weren't. lol

  8. Video always makes us suck it up and admit what we are doing wrong. But in doing that, we can accept it and more importantly fix it. I have always worried about my hands not being quiet, my lower leg not being under me, I don't have the shoulder/hip/heel line going on like it should and OMG I must suck as a rider. And then the pictures show me that "Girl, ya got's nuthin' to worry about." It's all there where it's supposed to be, you're fine. Now you just need to fix some other stuff.....

    We are our own worst critics and nightmares. *sigh*

    You're beyond amazing. Look how far you two have come in those 2.5 years.

  9. You look damn good to me! I was going to say something about a penis, but it looks like Lindsey covered that for me in the video. You both have come light years. Maybe if you put the videos to epic music, you will feel better ;)

  10. Video is great because you can really see what needs working on. But also focus on what has IMPROVED... because I see a HECK of a lot of improvement there, for both of you! Plus, it's the next best thing to mirrors.

  11. As someone who has no idea what to look for in a dressage position- I think you guys look freaking fantastic! Courage looks happy with his job and you look balanced to me. I have sat a few times in a dressage saddle, even took a few dressage lessons, and that trainer was like "don't bother- go back to hunters." You're very right when you say that dressage uses different muscles and a different seat!

  12. Frame-by-frame is like the meanest thing you could do to yourself! You guys look amazing! I can't wait to see how this show season goes :)

  13. You're getting there just fine! Green + green at dressage = a lot of flailing feelings. I promise it looks better than it feels, and that you'll continue to feel like you have no clue what you're doing for years to come. ;)

    I'd pay closest attention to your hip angle. Keep your belt buckle pointing up and relax your hip flexors. That's your positional base, and until you cement it you can't put all the other pieces together. So, don't worry too much about your legs/arms for now. Hips tilted right and relaxed, and shoulders pushed back and down to lock down into your hips. Later you can work on your legs, cause they gotta work separately anyway.

  14. So, as you know Tucker and I competed at First Level this year with what I'd call successful results. Go look at my videos. My upper body is not nearly as upright as yours. My hands are constantly doing errant and unhelpful things. My horse bobs around in the contact frequently. Pumping at the canter is my new form of artistic expression. First level isn't that far away for you. You could probably go do it tomorrow and make a respectable showing. Not that I'm belittling how you're feeling -- I have these feelings all the time and they suck. But since I'm outside of it, take my more objective viewpoint into consideration before you go nuclear on yourself. (Now on to read today's post.)

  15. I do werid things with my back/upper body when I canter, too. It makes videos painful for me to watch. It's some kind of pumping/ wave thing. I try to stop it, but I don't really know what it is I am doing or when I doing it. I try to sit really tall and stick my chest out, which makes me stiff. I don't know if it helps the ugly back thing or not.


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