Monday, August 2, 2010


I have been "back in the saddle" for about 6 weeks now since the required break due to my surgery. I have been trying to ease back into it and not overdo it. My balance right now is awful and although it's improving, I feel like I am where I was last year. My legs get tired quickly. My back and stomach area are in a perpetual state of stiffness. I have started back on my elliptical. Sigh.

The good news is my confidence improves with each ride. I can now do a wobbly jog and posting trot without too much discomfort. A couple of weeks ago, I told LA that I was ready to try loping during our lesson. I managed to cue Gem pretty consistently during my lesson, but my legs and steering were non-existent. My butt was so far off the saddle that, if you were behind me, you could probably see the back of Gem's head in between my legs! LA explained that during the winter months, I was learning how to cue Gem to lope. Now it was time to concentrate on my balance and steering. She noted that I am still very rigid around my neck and shoulder area; my body is still probably trying the protect itself. This rigidity has an effect on how I hold my arms; I start to lift them up, causing my butt to lift up. In addition, my core strength (what there was of it) went on vacation while I was recovering from surgery and has not returned. Sigh.

My friend STA and I went riding yesterday and today. I always enjoy my sessions with STA. She reinforces what LA teaches me. It's like having extra lessons when I ride with her.

The last two days with STA focused pretty much on potatoes. LA also likes potatoes and they are regularly part of our lesson. Well, I like potatoes - I like them fried, mashed, scalloped and baked (great, now I'm hungry....). Yes, potatoes are delicious and they are also a teaching aid when it comes to riding.

As I lope I tend to lean back, keeping my arms extended out front and my shoulders stiff. I needed to relax. Yesterday, STA had me do some shoulder rolls as I jogged Gem around the paddock. Once I was loosened up, she asked me take a piece of Gem's mane in one of my hands along with my rein. This was to help keep my hands from moving upwards when riding. Then, she told me to hunch over and imagine that my body was - you guessed it - a sack of potatoes. I felt my seat bones better connect with the saddle, my back and my arms started to relax. I continued doing a jog until I became familiar with the feel of this awkward posture. Then it was time to lope.

Gem picked up on my cue fairly quickly (yay!) and off I went. STA told me to feel the rhythm of Gem's movements. She then told me to be a sack of potatoes and repeat out loud potato, potato, potato, potato in time with his motion. This part of the exercise is to help you move to the rhythm of the horse and roll your hips and just dust the top of the saddle with your butt. LA coaches the others in my class in this technique also. Jean's balance has benefited from potatoes. Unfortunately, even with a butt the size of mine, dusting the top of my saddle seems impossible.....for now. :-)

Today was basically a repeat of yesterday. My whole body hurts, but in a good way. I will continue to work on my balance by being a sack of potatoes. I already have some experience in the potato area - I used to be a couch potato. :-)

What was I thinking....?


  1. Sometimes relaxing tight muscles can be work in itself - sounds like progress to me - better a saddle potato than a couch potato!

  2. Good analogy with the sack of potatoes. When you can learn to relax things will come a lot easier for you. Another thing you might try is taking a deep breathe and relax into your saddle as you do. It helps to breath.

  3. Relaxation is key and it sounds so much easier than it is. It helps me to remember to exhale, particularly in particular moments when I'd have a tendency to hold my breath, like in a transition, right before a jump, etc. If you think "exhale" it forces you to keep breathing and for me that naturally relaxes my upper body. Glad to hear you're back in the saddle!

  4. Good morning!

    Kate - You are right! I had no idea relaxing could be so hard. :-) I am stiff today!

    GHM - I will try taking a deep breath to assist in becoming a sack of potatoes. My career for the past 30 years includes sitting at a computer for most of the day and I sometimes have a hard time making my body "sit" a different way when I am on Gem.

    Marissa - I do have to remind myself to breathe! When I concentrate on breathing, I have more endurance (duh). But, I know there are times that I hold my breath. Makes sense that this would cause me to be stiff in the saddle.

  5. Huh, I've never heard of anyone suggesting to ride like a sack of potatoes for relaxation. I'm filing that one away for later since it sounds like it's working for you.

    When I was younger I used to ride with my eyes closed a lot. Sometimes if you turn off one sense the others pick up the slack. I'd try to feel one thing from my horse and then another. Like just feel when the right front leg went forward or seeing if I could feel him breathe. When I'd concentrate on feeling something very specific it was easier to follow the horse and not tense up. It's not too safe but you do crazy things when you're a kid.

  6. Hi Shannon - I know. It sounds weird, but sitting like a sack of potatoes actually stretches out my back and shoulder muscles, helps keep my butt in the saddle and lets my arms relax. The next step is to pull your belly button in towards your spine. Eventually, I will stop leaning back and hollowing out my theory, anyway! :-)