Today I got in our third ride of the week (bless the weather for clouding over and my husband for taking Brian with him!). At this stage of the game, I'm still getting Russell "legged up," or reconditioned, so it's easy to be a little lax in my riding, not using all my muscles the way I should. But I know better, and the "Instructor Spotlight" in the September issue of Dressage Today reminded me to be more conscious of the effort I must put forth. I heard once, "If you aren't working at least as hard as your horse is, you're not riding correctly." That statement gets blank stares or outbursts of disagreement from a lot of riders, but I think (I hope!) all dressage riders understand. I can't expect Russell to use his back and belly muscles correctly if I'm not using my core muscles correctly, and I can't expect him to try and maintain an uphill frame if I'm not "riding uphill," using frequent half-halts and supporting him with my leg. My hands have to be closed and my elbows need to be drawn down and in, not to mention keeping my legs still and in proper position. Maintaining the correct (read: effective) position on a moving horse takes great muscle tone, and mine is in need of as much work as Russell's! But when I really focus on riding correctly, I get a straighter, more forward, more responsive horse. Hurray for us!
Next up: a report on Sunday's Debbie McDonald clinic at DevonWood.