Wednesday, February 19, 2014

My Personal Trainer made Headlines!

Several years ago, I suffered a whip-lash injury to my lower back. While it was healing, I began to understand why riders gave up riding. I REALLY don't want to be one of those people, so I started looking for a personal trainer to help me stay strong in the right places, so I wouldn't wear my body out riding horses every day.  

I tried several different trainers, and they wanted to either make me into a body builder or an anorexic gymnast. Carolyn was the first one who actually listened when I said "if this doesn't make me ride better, I won't stick with it." And best of all, she's the first one who actually let me put her on a horse. 

In addition to my workouts, Carolyn has developed an Equestrian Boot Camp that we run here at SFD on Saturdays. Between her own riding (yep, that first ride was not a one-time event!!) and my feedback, she has created a system that incorporates cardio, core work and balance work. Believe me when I say this -- I can tell which of my students are in her class and which ones aren't.

So when the reporter from Suburban Life asked if I'd be willing to be interviewed for an article about Carolyn's fitness work, of course I agreed. Below is Carolyn's article. It's a bit hard to read, if you want me to send you a more legible digital version, e-mail me at

Monday, February 3, 2014

Vocab lessons

 Recently, I have had an influx of new students. Whenever a new rider comes into my program, vocabulary plays a big part in the first several lessons.  Creating a standardized set of terms to communicate about training is crucial. Which got me thinking about of how much dressage-ease differs from standard English.  For example:

Relaxed = Attentive

Light = Steady

Submissive = When the horse lets you control of each of their body parts easily.

Suppleness = Adjustableness.  In other words, can the rider control the wiggle?

Connection = When the reins have a steady taughtness to them that allows the horse to use their topline correctly to re-circulate the power from the hind legs over a swinging back.

In front of the leg = The horse’s energy is under the rider’s control, regardless of the speed or the tempo.  The test of “in front of the leg” is when the rider puts the leg on the horse should make a polite change in the feel in the hand.

Behind the leg = The rider is not in charge of the energy. Sometimes it presents as the horse going too slow, sometimes it presents as the horse getting quick and running from the leg.

Bend = Creating and controlling an even curve along the entire horse’s spine, and placing that curve in front of the inside hind leg. Some parts bend more easily than others, so sometimes creating bend means straightening the neck. When the curve is placed in front of the inside hind leg, the power of the hind leg helps push the withers uphill. The amount of bend is determined by the line of travel – ie, a 10 meter circle needs more bend than a 20 m circle. The most extreme example of bend is walk and canter pirouettes. In those movements, the inside hind leg always steps straight, never crossing the outside hind.

Collected = Lots of power held back a bit by the balance and angle of the rider’s seat.  Since the horse really wants to GO, the rider sits with their core tight and pelvis angled in such a way so the horse’s desire to GO becomes uphill balance.

Uphill = When the energy created by the horse lowers the croup and causes the withers to lift. Sometimes it can be felt by a change in the balance of the saddle. Sometimes it can be felt by an increase in shoulder mobility. Sometimes it can be felt by an ease of the movements. Sometimes the mirror is your best indicator.

Plus there are a few golden rules of dressage in our barn:

When in doubt, do the opposite.   When the horse feels stiff and all you want to do is hold the bend, move them in and out of the bend. When they feel quick and you want to hold them back, put leg on and push the energy forward, then allow the horse to come back.

It takes more leg than you think.  Particularly when the horse is learning collection. Or learning leg yield. Or pretty much anything, for that matter.

This is a sport.  There are times you’ll be tired, times your abdominal and thigh muscles will be sore. Times when the best thing to do is spend some time off of the horse cross-training your balance and core muscles.

This is supposed to be fun.  No matter what, enjoy the ride.