Friday, 2 April 2010

My First Side Saddle Lesson!

Hattie is alot better and it turned out that a few horses around the area have had the same coughing cold virus thing, I wonder if it was spread at our last horse show since quite a few horses and people (including my husband came down with it!). She isn't snotty like she was and still has a bit of a cough but I have been soaking her hay which helps and she definitely hasn't lost her appetite or been at all lethargic!

We had our first side saddle riding lesson yesterday and it was AMAZING!

Yes, we had lots of bad habits that we acquired from learning to ride side saddle from a book but my instructor, Liz, said at the end of the lesson that we didn't do too badly despite having learned from a book!

We worked on fixing and tweaking my position which in turn, made Hattie respond better to my aids.

Basically, the things I need to work on over the next month before our next lesson are:
-RIGHT SHOULDER BACK (even more so than I thought I was doing!)
-Look to the right (when on the right rein and even a little bit so on the left rein to help me from twisting to the left).
-Right toe down (I had been keeping my foot level).
-Hands on either side of my knee (I have a bad habit while riding astride and aside of letting my hands drop down).
-Left heel down and left leg forward (so right heel to left shin).
-Keep the top of my right leg (near the knee) down (I have a tendency to tense and let it creep up).
-Right hip bone back (right shoulder back, looking to the right and keeping the top of my right leg down will help keep this in place).

To get me to sit square, which in turn helps the right hip bones stay back, my instructor had me sit astride and when I felt I was sitting squarely, then to swing my right leg over to side aside BUT NOT move my bum when doing this! Harder than it sounds! She said when I'm schooling, than whenever I feel my right hip start to go forward, to stop and just reset myself by doing this no matter how many times it takes. Towards the then of the lesson, I was feeling when my hip was going forward, something I never noticed before!

Here I am trying to keep my right shoulder back, top of my right leg down, my right doe down, my left leg forward and my left heel down with varying degrees of success (LOL, I felt like a beginner all over again!). Liz explained that by keeping the top of my right down and pointing my right toe downwards helps to lighten the right seat bone for downward transitions which did as I barely had to touch the reins!
Now I just need to keep practicing this and make it smooth looking.

And we got to canter..on BOTH reins!!!!

A bit part of my problem with astride riding is compensating for my back which is naturally crooked (this has caused me problems all my life). This is a bit part of why I struggle with the left rein canter when riding Hattie astride. With side saddle riding, because I'm always having to think "right shoulder back" and can feel my hip bones better on the saddle and whether they are square of not, seems to have made upward canter transitions easier for me as Hattie did not one, but TWO canters on the dreaded left rein the first time I asked for them! It will be interesting to see if this helps my astride riding too.

I had some videos filmed of our lesson so I wouldn't forget what I learned for the next one. These are ones of our cantering on both reins, please forgive the video quality and the commentary as that is what you get when you let two 13 year olds and a 9 year old film you!
-Cantering on the right rein the 1st time.
-Cantering on the right rein, 2nd go.
-Cantering on the left rein, 1st go.
-Cantering on the left rein, 2nd go.

Saddle wise, Liz said that I could do with a slightly smaller seated side saddle as our current one is just a tad long for Hattie's back (although not too bad and does not hurt her). My saddle measures 21 1/2" from the front of my pommel to cantle (or 17 1/2" from the cutback to cantle) but although I'm tall (5'9"), most of my height is in my lower leg. My thigh actually only measures 20" from the back of my knee to the back of my bum whereas most people my height measure 21" or more in thigh length for a side saddle. With Hattie being 15.3hh and me having a "short person" thigh, she said that I may find a smaller saddle with a non waisted seat (unlike the old fashioned waisted seat on my saddle) more comfortable.

My instructor also said that I wouldn't be able to jump in it due to Hattie's conformation and the girth placement that I have to have with it to prevent it from shooting forward so it's flatwork and dressage only (fine with me!).