Ever since I can remember, my upper body position (especially over fences) has been horrible. Every coach I worked with from high school through college told me to keep my shoulders back, stop rounding my back or some variation thereof. It was really frustrating for me because I tried. I tried so hard to do this, and it usually just didn’t work. When I started riding with my current trainer, we didn’t talk about it. We talked a lot about many other things, like using my hands independently, strengthening my legs and keeping my eye up… but we didn’t really talk a lot about upper body position.
I think in part that it was easy for her to see how flustered I would get over the subject. Looking back, I also think my trainer realized that other things needed to come first. Recently in lessons we’ve started talking about upper body position, although Trainer is sneaky and doesn’t call it that. In fact, she never tells me to “keep my shoulders back” … or anything to do with my shoulders. Instead she uses other phrases like “stretch up” (which she probably says at least 15 times a lesson), or “hold yourself.”
Moiya has been awesome for these exercises for me, because I can trust her to keep doing her job regardless, but I can feel a difference when my upper body loses some balance. For a long time I’ve focused on riding to the jump and over the jump… but not what I do immediately after the jump. Moiya is teaching me to react more quickly, recover, and keep cantering on the second, third and fourth stride after we land.
In our last lesson we jumped a “gymnastic” (a gymnastic exercise is a series of ground poles and jumps with no more than two strides between that are commonly used in jump training for both horses and riders. They can be set up a million different ways: different number of jumps, ground lines, verticals, oxers, and bounces to different degrees of difficulty). I use the term loosely here because our gymnastic was a crossrail and then four or five strides to a vertical. Not exactly a gymnastic, but I have a huge phobia of these exercises, so that’s the Tracy-friendly version of a gymnastic. Anyways, we started out small, and the second jump got progressively bigger. I was extra nervous the first time Trainer made the second jump into an oxer because I’d never jumped Moiya over one before. Obviously she’s done them a million times, but I know she can jump hard sometimes, so I was worried I might get popped out of the tack.
I shouldn’t have worried. Even with all the jumps set at 2’3″-2’6″, Moiya was a rockstar. We sailed over the oxer no problem, and I improved over every jump. It was a great feeling to find my rhythm and let my doubts and fears melt away as I jumped around. I got off feeling like I’m really getting somewhere. Have I mentioned yet how much I adore this mare?!