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Maybe, just maybe change is good. Maybe. You see no one had told me it was Opposite Day. Okay, maybe not in the true sense of the word but believe me everything was — well, opposite.

For instance they swapped horses on me. Can you believe it? I’m not complaining though. I’m just praying that I’ll be able to avert New Horse Syndrome. Please, please, please.

Savannah was already being ridden so, I’d ride the schoolmaster instead.
Opposite!

The schoolmaster is stiff right, hollow left.
Opposite!

I was wearing my new winter riding stuff and —
Well, you get the idea.

The meat and potatoes
I’d have a chance to work on some lateral movements with a horse that did them easily. There was a catch though. Of course, there’s always a catch. Sigh. I’d have to ask for each movement correctly otherwise, I wouldn’t get it. As a matter of fact, I may not be able to get Charlie to move — at all! Gasp!

I was successful in getting him to walk, even to do haunches in and shoulder in while walking. It was an incredibly slow pace but I did it. Yah!

Then it was time to ask for the right lead canter from a walk. Ack, I can’t look.
“You may not get it though. Not many people do the first time.”
And off we went. Cantering around the ring.
Ahem, Opposite!

Soon enough, I was faced with an inability to ask and get for the canter. I was on the left lead, which meant that his stiff side was on the right. I could feel him ever so slightly, pressing against my right leg and instead of standing him up in the outside rein, I stiffened. Stiff right against stiff right does not produce a canter. Sigh.

Then I started to get nervous. Not because I was afraid in a fear way but because I was afraid I’d look stupid. Yep, stupid. I felt stupid because I couldn’t get canter, therefore I looked stupid. Do you like my logic? Sigh. A stranger was watching this part of my lesson and for some reason I felt the need to — well, not look stupid.

Of course, I didn’t need to worry about it because within a few strides I was cantering. Whew!

Then it was time for sitting trot. Oh, no. Sit a few strides then post a few strides.
Sitting…sitting…sitting…huh, comfy…sitting
“Lee, do you find him comfortable to sit?”
“Heck, yeah!”
“Not many people do.”
Really?…sitting…sitting…
“You go girl!”

I think I sat the trot at least twice around the arena! That’s two laps not two strides!
Opposite!

Dessert
Next up was the flying change! I was to pick up the right lead canter, cross the diagonal and around X ask for the lead change. Intentionally! I’ve never done this intentionally and guess what? Success! More than once.

More!
I want more!
More, more, more!

Psst! Have I ever told you that I can’t sit the trot? Bounce the trot, yes. Actually sit it? No way. Not happening. Awful, huh? All these years of riding and all I’m capable of is bouncing.

bounce…bounce…bounce…like Tigger!

I love Tigger and his bouncy enthusiasm. However, his over enthusiastic bouncing has led to a few mishaps. Remember how Eeyore fell into the river? Well, with that in mind I need to learn how to turn down the bounce while trying to do a sitting trot. Either that or I’m going to end up bouncing into a mishap of my very own making.

It tends to go a little like this…
I start in posting trot with my horse in a nice frame. Then I’m asked to sit a few strides and switch back to posting if I start to bounce. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be pretty.

“Okay, here goes.” I inhale deeply, then exhale.

posting…posting…sitting…kinda sitting…

“SIT! Sit into her!” That doesn’t help.

bounce…bounce…ARRGH!…posting…posting…

Several attempts later and my internal dialog now contains the words  “can’t sit.” My frustration level has ratcheted to the boiling point and that means tears are on the horizon. Hey, I’m a perfectionist remember? Oh, and I’m definitely developing a sitting trot complex here. Forget all about my fear of cantering or my arch nemesis the 20 meter circle. There’s a new kid on the block and it’s named The Ever Elusive Sitting Trot!

Speaking of the canter, it didn’t go well either. It probably had something to do with that saying “You can’t have a good canter without a good trot.” Yeah.  Anyway, the root of this particular evil was my inside leg. It kept gripping and gripping, while she leaned and leaned some more. I know. I know. I should’ve relaxed my inside leg and applied a real half-halt to get her to stand up in that outside rein. The value of hindsight, huh?

And so the torture began
Walking on a loose rein, I dropped my stirrups and turned my heels out. No, I mean way out. More! Better. Now using only my seat, I asked for the halt. Okay, correct that. I attempted to ask for a halt. Many times. Oh, and in a frame no less. Heels out! Success level? So-so. Facial expressions? Many.

Eventually, I was allowed to pick up my stirrups and the contact and try the exercise in posting trot and canter. Heels out! I noticed that this position brought my knees into contact with the saddle and narrowed the space I was allowing the horse to move within. No fetal, gripping inside leg either.

You try gripping with your heels turned out.

I dare you.

As any rider will tell you the quest for an independent seat is the ultimate goal. The ability to ride in harmony could take many hours and quite possibly years to achieve (think Spanish Riding School). Both of which I have in limited amounts! I’m a once a week lesson student that just stopped hourly practice rides. That means one hour of mounted riding time a week. And years? I’m 42! I’m running out of years! I need to fast track my independent seat.

Hmmm, what skills do I need to get this job done?

Wanted: Independent Seat

Skills Required: Relaxation (both physical and mental), balance, ability to follow the horse’s motion
Communication Skills: Clear use of aids (legs, reins and seat)
Benefits: Harmony with the horse
Experience: No prior experience needed. All may apply.
Salary: Based on experience. Blood, sweat and tears, sore muscles and finally after many hours and possibly years an independent seat.

I also understand that riders that take lungeing lessons progress very quickly. So, I agreed to be a lunge line guinea pig. We weren’t sure how the school master would react but he was a…well, school master. I on the other hand? Yeah. Well, I guess I need these lessons.

I knotted the reins and placed them on the horse’s neck. That way they were out of my way but within reach if I needed them. Then I attached a grab strap to the front of the saddle. I just might need that during sitting trot to prevent myself from being catapulted across the indoor. Okay, I’ve official surrendered all control to my instructor. She’s responsible for controlling my horse’s speed and the size of our circle. I’ve been told to do nothing with my legs. Absolutely nothing.

We started at a walk without reins. I held my invisible reins and concentrated on following the horse’s movement.

Side to side, hip to hand. Not bad.
Let’s pick up a posting trot. Yeah, let’s! Piece of cake.
Now a sitting trot. BIG. TROT.  I’m okay. Relax.
Wait? Was that a canter stride?
What was that? A buck?!
Stop messing around. TROT!
Hmmm, shift back a little. Better.
Now walk. Okay, walk. Ack! Pitching forward.
Grow tall and sit into it. Okay, slower trot, slower, taller, walk.
Darn. Brakes are sticky.

Now without your stirrups. Deep breath, let’s go!
BIG. TROT. Where’s that strap?
Breathe. Relax. Side to side.
Look no hands!

Things were far from perfect. Especially those downward transitions. I’m learning to rely less on the reins and more on my body. I trust myself and my balance even more.

Independent seat here I come!

Our pre-lesson banter centered around Core Rhythms. You know the infomercial on TV? A total core workout in the guise of Latin dance moves. What fun! All of us wanted it and the cry for a dance/pilates/yoga studio was raised. We even had a spot above the horse stalls picked out. I’m sure they’d enjoy that! Right, uh-huh.


I should’ve known what was coming.

Words that make all Dressage Diva Wannabes cringe. No, not 20 meter circles. At least not this time. It was sitting trot! On a Danish Warmblood dressage school master no less!

BIG.

BOUNCY.

TROT.

SIT?!

Okay. Sitting. Hmmm, not bad. Side-to-side, up and down.

BOING! Shoot! Quick! Stand up in stirrups. Now sit.

Side-to-side, up and down.

Don’t grip with your thigh!  Huh? How’d she see that?

Lean back a little more!  Hey! Saw that too.

No knees!  How’d she know?

Think about doing the Rumba!  Rumba? Uh, okay.

Ba-ba-ba-boom, ba-ba-ba-boom!

Whoa! My hips! I’m moving and sitting the trot!

Ba-ba-ba-boom, ba-ba-ba-boom!

I’m definitely not fluid but there’s hope. I did a good job and I have great balance. All I have to do is channel my inner dancer while chanting “ba-ba-ba-boom!” Oh, and remember to trust my balance. Hmmm, engage my core and sit up. Oh, and ground my feet. Darn feet. See? Piece of cake. That is until I tense or twitch a muscle and boing right off that saddle. Let’s not think about that though. Positive energy only! 🙂

Contact Me

leecullen@comcast.net

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