After several interesting discussions I finally understood why I cannot learn to ride with flip flops, barefoot or in tennis shoes. I need to use boots. Riding boots. This has taken me quite some time to accept, just the idea of putting the boots on and taking them off in the hot Caribbean made me resist the whole idea… Luckily my teacher is very patient…
The benefits of learning to ride using boots is that my feet and legs will remain in the same position and the signals I will communicate to Darling will be much more precise. This does not mean that I cannot later on do my beach ride with the flip flops, but in my learning process to become a good rider I need the boots as a tool to develop my classical dressage seat to perfection.
So what kind of tack and saddles to use? I have tried and have a variety of saddles like a Circle Y Reining, Big Horn Trail, Orthoflex Endurance Saddle and a Soft Saddle. Right now I am using an used 50 dollar Wintec dressage saddle. To learn dressage I need a dressage saddle and the Wintec was a good start. The size of the saddle fits the horse but is a bit small for me so I am going to look for a new one soon with a deeper seat. I think it’s quite important to decide your riding style, find a good teacher and a good tack fitter, who can help you to fit the tack correctly to both you and your horse.
Developing my riding musculature
During the riding exercises we do not use stirrups and I don’t hold the reins. I remember reading about the riders at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna and each rider spent 1 year in the saddle without touching the reins before their instructors added more tack like reins and stirrups. My instructor, Gabriel, is very good at adding new steps in the lessons every time, this makes the lessons very interesting and challenging. I had never thought riding in walk could be so interesting.
Darling wears her used dressage saddle, a halter and a lead rope. Lisa walks Darling in big circles, with Gabriel in the middle, while I learn step-by-step what it really means to have a good seat. One of the more interesting lessons this morning was to learn what my body positions should be starting the horse from standing to walk, how to use my core energy from walk to halt. I am learning to direct my horse to three speeds of walk. We also worked in rhythm. I can hear Gabriel while writing this blog, saying “one two one two one two” and “up down up down up down”. Then as the muscles ache, Gabriel will continue and say 1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 4…. And only continue to 5 when 4 was good and we do 10 ups and downs. Another very interesting addition during this morning’s lesson was to recognize when the left hind foot was in the air, so not the touch down, but when the left hindfoot was actually in the air. Later on when we are going to work on lead changes, I need the ability as a rider to feel which leg is in the air before I will ask the horse for a lead change. New balance exercises that trains my riding musculature were also added. At this point I imagine that it will take me another 2-3 months to have strong enough muscles to do the new balance exercises well enough. The muscles I am training are called
- adductor longus
- adductor magnus
- adductor brevis
alot of new vocabulary here….. A set of coordination exercises was also added and I got my arms all “tangled up” in the beginning. Simple? Yes, this sounds all very simple, but I realize from all my lessons in western, dressage, and jumping, I never got to start my seat development so thoroughly and from the very beginning. Before I had pretty good balance, I could sit on a horse but was not really riding I was more of a passenger. I can say finally I am learning how to ride and find deep pleasure, also because Jack and Darling are such good partners in teaching me. They wait at the gate, wait to get the saddle on and enjoy walking the few loops a day and get a reward or two.
Thanks for reading and I look forward to hear from you!