About mid-summer, my dressage horse (GP-Romeo aka Beastie) came up lame from turn-out which was depressing at many levels. First, every time he goes lame there’s the big bill from vet work. Second, he was finally going great and that came to an abrupt end. And last, I was making progress on bio mechanics during trot and cantor lengthenings out in the open field, but field riding would be over by the time he healed. I gave serious thought to hanging up the sport as the highs are great, but this low didn’t seem worth it. Fortunately after sulking around a bit, I found another way to focus.
I thought about trying to finish the Garvan lowboy, but instead decided to put effort into weight loss and fitness. Looking back it was the right thing to do. With the help of the professional shopper and HMR diet, I’m down about 50lbs from my glutenous peak 2 years back, and now Beastie is back and healthy too. It’s been interesting to experience the change in riding from then to now. The biggest difference is the ability to move quickly in the saddle. For example, the big guy doesn’t enjoy being turned from the reigns, especially in tight cantor or trot circles, and he certainly doesn’t bend correctly unless the rider’s hips are turned in the direction they want to go. In the past, I would turn my head and maybe start to get shoulders around, but my hips wouldn’t move much. Now I can feel my seat actually making the turn, and his barrel bending around the inside leg. It’s really the first time I’ve clearly felt that. Not sure why thinning down would make a difference there, but it’s night and day from where I was previously with Beastie especially in the cantor. Maybe I just couldn’t twist and move correctly with the horse prior…not sure.
The other area that’s different is my front to back balance and upper body control in the rising trot. This probably makes more sense as there’s less mass to adjust when I get out of sync, but what’s surprising is how different Romeo behaves with even a small difference in balance. I can only imagine how important this gets as the movements get more difficult…it’s not surprising the top riders are light and fit.
What isn’t any better is the sitting trot, but perhaps makes sense as for me it’s more related to being relaxed in the legs and hips with engaged core and back, but I couldn’t help hoping it would be easier.
The other surprising observation was how fast riding skills deteriorate during a 3 month hiatus. Fortunately Andy is a good trainer and after about 2 weeks things are feeling better than they were when Beastie went lame. Now the bad emotional state is replaced with renewed excitement about what the winter will hold for his training. I would so like to do a good job at 2nd level and perhaps make a run at 1st level regionals in 2016, but we have our work cut out for us with those goals.
The other thing that I daydream about occasionally is riding a pas de deux with Juris Doctor and her big black horse Bob. In fact, last weekend we had an outdoor lesson together at Friendship Farms (where the photo was taken), and it was the first time these two worked together as a duo. From the feedback we got, they looked good as a pair. Beastie and Bob…that has a nice ring to it.