Oct 3 / kimberlygodwinclark@gmail.com My Legs are a Pretzel

Friday, October 3, 2008

I galloped racehorses for over 20 years everyday and I miss it. If I had more time I’d go and get on a few every morning. As it is I can’t even keep up with my regular schedule. Eventing is demanding in a different way than most disciplines. I have a great race rider leg, or at least I think I do, I very rarely ever came off a racehorse, no matter how bad things were going. Considering the numbers I rode, that’s got to be a good indicator.

Now here I am 45 years old and learning to jump. At the same time, I’m doing dressage – every day. Here’s the problem: Elizabeth wants my leg one place and Jimmy wants my leg another. They are both right, so what do I do? For those of you who are younger, I have bad news, you are going to stiffen up, really bad. This makes the whole thing even tougher.
This is what I’ve decided to do. I’m going to do both leg positions every day. Yesterday, I rode the Bear in the usual program. This is my Jimmy exercise horse. I posted w/out stirrups and spent 20 minutes in two point without any rein contact. My legs hurt. The Bird has topline and anxiety issues so I’ve been hacking him around the farm a ton. He is developing a better topline and at the same time he is relaxing. I call them our “power walks”, this was at Elizabeth’s suggestion, but Jimmy basically told me to do the same thing. We do some trotting, but only so much as he remains relaxed. These days I stretch my legs longer and longer. No knee, lower leg on, relax and open your hips. I’ve got muscles screaming I didn’t know I had – in the walk! We usually do about 45 minutes to an hour.

By the time I get to Graycie, I’m warmed up and my legs have passed through the “pretzel” stage. They’re as good as they’re going to be that day. My goal right now is to have my position as correct as possible and use as little aids as possible to get the desired result. We are working on getting her on the outside rein with minimal inside rein use. Yesterday, I realized, as she growled almost the entire ride, she resents getting off the inside rein. Remember, she’s a former racehorse and I broke her and galloped her the entire career. She expects certain things of me. As a racehorse she was tough and although she does not lay on the reins, she expects that inside rein to be there. Let me add, when Graycie growls, its a warning that something unpleasant is coming and she had three nasty little tantrums yesterday in the windy chilly weather. We got through it. I’m making progress and I know when she gets through this phase, were going to progress to the next plateau.

Let me take a moment to explain what it’s like riding this mare. She is so smart, so sensitive. We’ve been working on her canter depart for some time now and she does not consistently pick up the lead I want. Notice I said I want, not the lead I ask for. I am supposed to ask for the lead I want with my inside leg when her inside hind is coming under her at the trot. I can feel that, but my timing isn’t always perfect. I realized a few days ago she picks up the lead I ask for, so to speak. If I squeeze while the inside hind is coming under, she picks up the correct lead. If I squeeze when the outside hind is coming under, she picks up the outside lead. “It’s all up to you human.” This is all good, because this mare requires me to be correct at all times. As my timing improves, think what I’ll be able to ask for and get. Incredible.