At my last lesson, Barbara gave me the directive to ride without stirrups to get stronger. I have been working so hard on PJ that I’ve neglected myself (I really needed to buy a trained horse but that is another story). Barbara did not think I would hurt PJ’s training by concentrating only on me, so I’ve decided to devote one day a week to work without stirrups and today was the inaugural day.
Of course, I would pick the coldest day of the year, but PJ wasn’t too full of himself and I warmed up quickly. I didn’t have a lot of time due to work demands, so today was a good day to do this. I worked for 35 minutes: 50% posting trot; 40% sitting trot; 10% walk. I pretty much just lunged myself by going around the rail in both directions and mixed up the posting and sitting trot with a couple of brief walk breaks in between.
I discovered a few things. 1) PJ went better – more forward, although he curled his neck a lot. I don’t know if it was because I had my legs really on him or I wasn’t pulling on his mouth (I mainly kept a loose rein), or my seat was more encouraging. I’m going to have to play with this one. 2) I really need to work without stirrups. My balance was just okay. I didn’t feel comfortable asking for canter because I was afraid I would fall off. I figured I could build up to it. 3) I’m pretty strong but I think it’s more in my big muscles than in the little ones that help with balance. I didn’t have too much trouble posting. 4) my position without stirrups felt more forward than with stirrups but when I looked in the mirror I was pretty straight. This is going to take some getting used to. Whenever you change something, the new thing seems wrong and the old thing seems right. I’m glad to have the mirrors.
So, going forward I will ride without stirrups once per week. Occasionally I’m going to throw in some bareback riding because that really showed my lack of balance at the trot (see previous post). My goal will be to walk-trot-canter without stirrups with PJ going correctly. Right now we’re at the walk-trot with PJ doing whatever he wants stage. I have lengthened my stirrups to see if that helps with my leg position and keeping it on the horse versus it banging his side all of the time. I have a lesson tomorrow, so we’ll see.
Oh, and it was reinforced to me what a saint of a pony I have for putting up with me today!