We’re in a phase where we make big, meaty leaps forward in each lesson right now. I love this phase! It’s so much more fun than the falling-off-a-cliff phase.
One area I’ve been focusing on a lot lately is my elbows. They are problematic. They want to either move too much or not enough. They want to take all the attention away from my wrists, to be the only moving joint in my entire arm. OR they want to be the kink in the hose and force all the other joints in my arm to compensate.
Wednesday’s lesson brought a nice breakthrough in the canter. We’ve had a lot of nice breakthroughs in the canter recently, because Tristan is fit enough and cooperative enough for us to properly school it for chunks of time. So – the transitions are getting better, the access to the hind legs is getting better, and he’s getting more responsible for staying in the gait. That means I am focusing on my position.
A few weeks ago all the breakthroughs were about my hips, thighs, knees, and ankles – the way I needed to rotate my thighs slightly, the way I needed to loosen up my ankles, the way I needed to establish a new through-line form my hips to my heels. After a dozen years of riding in my saddle, I felt for perhaps the first time what some people feel when they say that the saddle is fighting against them. I have been so lucky! I am in no way thinking of a new saddle, but it was a useful feedback moment to realize that both my natural inclination and my saddle build was encouraging my knees slightly too far forward, too much into the (basically nonexistent) knee flaps.
Anyway – elbows. Wednesday’s lesson.
In a canter set, BM told me to loosen and follow with my elbows, but something was still going wrong – particularly with my left elbow. Tristan was overly mouthy, a touch head-flippy, and just clearly communicating that he was being blocked. It felt to me like my elbow was making huge motion, and it briefly looked that way from the ground too, and then BM had a light bulb. My shoulder was moving in such a way as to make my elbow look like it was following, when in reality it was reacting only to an overactive shoulder. I pictured it like a great piston that was forcing motion through my arm in stiff chunks.
With that in mind, and the idea that I needed to introduce a better-articulated joint into the center of that piston, I picked up the canter again and BOOM. Instant, immediate feedback. Tristan’s mouthiness practically disappeared, the canter got smoother, and all of a sudden things locked in for my following motion in a way they never quite had before.
In conclusion, riding is hard, bodies are weird, and I really, really love dressage.