My regular lessons are on Monday afternoons, but most of you know that already. Guess which ONE day of the week was supposed to have an early rain. Yep. Monday.
As we walked down to JL's arena, I could feel the tension coursing through my arms and legs. Sydney, on the other hand, looked like he could care less. The gusts of winds never fazed him. I started to relax and felt my core loosen up a bit. By the time we got to JL's I was feeling pretty good about riding him through the nasty weather.
The lesson started out with a discussion of my most recent video: what I liked, and what I saw needed improving. The thing I most wanted to work on was the landing moment of my rising trot. I could see in the video, as well as feel, that I land too firmly and get a bit left behind, which causes me to struggle a bit in the rising phase of my posting.
JL's solution was so simple that I felt an immediate improvement. (She's a really good trainer.) Just like we had discussed in the canter, I needed to concentrate on not over-opening my hip angle in the rising moment of the post. By over-opening my hip angle, my shoulders fall behind my pelvis, and I lose balance. As soon as I focused on keeping my hip angle a bit more closed, my balance improved immediately, and my seat got so much softer.
Which was all great news because Sydney chose that moment to duck hard to the inside. He did one of those duck and turn maneuvers that leave you hanging over empty air with the certainty that you are about to eat dirt in a serious way.
With that said, it's not all thanks to his kindness that I haven't eaten dirt. I do have a pretty good seat when it comes to shenanigans. All I am saying is that if he really wanted to shake me loose, all he would need to do is take just one more step forward, backward, or to the side to finish the job. But he hasn't.
So after he left me hanging in mid-air, he was UP. Excellent timing, Sydney. Once he spooked that first time, he started looking for other scary monsters. With the gusting wind and the scattering leaves and banging metal, he didn't have to try very hard to get a bit wild. He spooked himself into a right lead canter, BUT ... he got the correct lead. JL later attributed that little success to my careful and correct riding.
The rest of the lesson, short as it was, was about keeping my hip angle more closed in order to keep a quieter and softer seat. We worked on getting that inside bend to the right, as well as keeping him balanced without letting him fall into the circle; the reason we had so much trouble at the last clinic.
JL doesn't give a lot of compliments. She's just not the kind of trainer who needs to placate her students or stroke their egos. She doesn't criticize or pick on you either. She gives you feedback and lets you do with it what you want. During this particular lesson though, her compliments were numerous. I didn't really need them though, to know that I was riding much better than I was just a week ago. Her suggestion to resist opening my hip angle so wide filled in a big gap in my riding. It seemed to just tie a bunch of things together.
Even though Sydney was high and bouncing around, I felt perfectly balanced and in control. By the time I asked for a downward transition, I was grinning from ear to ear. And to make the lesson feel even more successful, Sydney offered a lovely downward transition that was soft and relaxed. We quit the lesson right there.
My takeaway from the lesson? Focus on my hip angle at both the trot and canter in order to keep my seat softer and quieter. This will improve my balance. Also, continue with the up, up, down exercise as that is really helping my leg position and helping me land more softly.
Lessons with a great trainer simply can't be beat!