Today, before my lesson, I had the privilege of watching my trainer Kari ride Martini. “Tune up” rides is what she calls it. Martini is a school horse so he is used to working at the levels of the students who ride him. When my trainer got on him, all she could say was “he doesn’t want to move.” After a few minutes Martini realized that his owner was on him and it was time to work. They walked, trotted and cantered perfect circles, and I saw Martini get into that nice amazing dressage frame where he was rounding his body. It was such a joy to see both my trainer Kari and Martini enjoying themselves. It was now my time to ride.
The moment I got on Martini I noticed that his walk was forward. I didn’t have to squeeze him nearly as much to keep him going. But what was truly impressive was how he rounded his body. The little “tune up” ride before my ride had reinforced all that Martini knows, all the buttons. Suddenly all the pieces had come together and it wasn’t such a struggle.
We move on to the trot. Since Martini was nicely rounded in the walk, that frame continued with the trot. It was the first time he was completely round at the trot for me. When the horse is in that frame, the feeling is very different than when they are not. It felt as though we were floating, that with each step he took, he was only touching the ground with the tips of his toes, he was gliding. I was surprised I was able to feel the difference, but I did, and I’m so glad I got a chance to experience that.
After our trot work, it was time to work on me. So my trainer being the wise woman she is, took away my stirrups. No big deal, I’ve ridden with no stirrups before, this is a piece of cake. But I was wrong. She didn’t want me to just walk around with not stirrups…she wanted me to practice posting with no stirrups.😮
So how do you post with no stirrups you ask? Well, it’s all about controlling your lower leg. I’ve got great control of my thighs, but my lower legs, although strong, aren’t nearly as strong as they should be. She has me first try to post while we are standing still. Ok, not bad, I did 2 of them. Then she has me try it at a walk…ok, now this is hard. I managed to get 5 in before I said my legs were tired. She was pleased with the 5. Then, as if my legs hadn’t endured enough punishment yet – let’s try the half seat without stirrups.😮
Now my half seat is beautiful. It’s so well balanced I don’t have to hold on for dear life to the horses mane, my hands are just on their mane because there’s no other place to put them. Now, doing it without stirrups means you have to raise yourself up out of the saddle with just the strength of your legs and core. I did 3 of those.
At this point my chubby legs are slightly burning and feel a bit weak, but the best is yet to come. My trainer asks me to sit trot – a sit trot is where the horse is trotting but the rider doesn’t post they just sit. It’s harder than it sounds because you don’t want to bounce on the horses back. My sit trot is really good – with stirrups. Without stirrups, it wasn’t bad but it could use a lot of improvement. I think at this point my torturous leg session is over when my trainer says to me – now, canter without stirrups.😱 I wish someone had taken a picture of my face when I looked at her in complete shock. She couldn’t possibly be serious – could she? She was serious, she knew I would be able to sit the few steps of the canter just fine – but I said nah, another time we can try that – after all I still had to get the strength in my legs to get off of Martini when our ride was done.
After we worked on leg yielding in both directions, I asked her, no I actually begged her to give me my stirrups back. I know that today’s lesson was physically challenging for me, but the benefit of doing all those things without stirrups is only going to improve my leg strength, and stamina.❤️🐴