Monday, December 7, 2009

Story Time!

I can't post pictures until tonight..but I thought I would type a bit about the show right now..

I showed two times, once on Saturday morning and once on Sunday afternoon. I chose the brown and black plaid skirt with brown derby for Saturday and the Christmas plaid skirt for Sunday..with a top hat draped with a bit of tulle. Everyone who talked to me about showing aside made such nice comments on my outfits and my (hand-made) stall decor!

Saturday, we were scheduled to be the 6Th class, but due to the bad weather, some of the usual exhibitors did not come to this show..and 3 classes were cancelled prior to mine. I barely had time to get up and warmed up before I was on my way into the ring! Oliver was quite revved up and I was nervous...but we hung in there with each other. Missed a canter lead..stop and restart. A bit jiggy at the walk and as usual, he wanted to move out at the trot and I held him back. It was very cold, very windy and yet Oliver was quite the gentleman! Anke, his former owner came all the way out there...even though she was not feeling well, just to see us show. I think she was pleased. We took 3rd place out of 4 riders.

Sunday was a 'BIG' day for me though. My Father came out to see me show along with my oldest brother. Another friend named Cherryl also got there just before the class and as I said earlier, I was going to wear the Christmas attire.

That morning, I arrived early and cleaned Oliver's stall, fed him and got organized. In the arena just in the next barn, a larger Arabian show got into full swing a hour before ours did...and that morning they had THREE sidesaddle classes! The first one was for junior riders..1 entry. A stunning 1/2 Arab (other half Saddlebred!) and this boy got the best of both worlds! Nice size, a nice trot and a refined head. I watched this girl closely, especially at the trot. She sat the trot and no matter how big he got (going just under level at his best), her body just seemed to move ever so slightly from front to back with each stride. She never bobbled to the side or even up out of the saddle. I later found out that this was only her 5Th time to ride aside and her very first show. She looked amazingly well balanced at the trot and I felt so envious.

The next sidesaddle class was 3 ladies riding Western. I enjoyed it, but with the different saddles and such a small trot, I found little to compare to what I was having issues with. The last class I watched was another 1 horse entry. I lady riding a nice grey Arab aside. Again, I watched intently at her trot. she also sat the trot and bounced a bit more than the previous riders, but she still looked so much more secure than I. As she did her final victory lap, I noticed that she too was using a Western type sidesaddle - even though her attire was English. If I had it to do over again, I should have hunted down the first girl and her trainer, looked at her saddle and asked a lot of questions.

I went about my business gathering information to write the article about the show and talking to people about ads and events ..until it was time for me to get ready for my class. I saddled Oliver and lunged him for about 15 minutes. Kelli, my trainer arrived. We took him back to the stalls and while I was dressing both my Brother, Father and husband arrived. They took quite a bit of pleasure in watching me mount Oliver (not so lady like!) Once I was situated, I walked Oliver out to the practice arena. We started to walk. I knew I was extra nervous because of my special guests..but as we eased into the trot, I again felt so insecure. I tried, like the young girl on the 1/2 Arab, to just lean back and grip the horns with my legs and sit the trot, but constantly found myself being bounced up back / side to side and to my horror.. once my right leg came dangerously close to coming off the leaping head! I felt like I was coming unraveled. Poor Oliver was getting a bit testy as well..but stuck with me. I tried a few more times after getting his girth tightened to tourniquet strength, I am sure!, raising my stirrup leather another notch and actually leaning down and having Kelli pray with me! Her prayer was sweet and kind...inside my head I was screaming "OHHH - Please God - don't let me kill myself right here in front of my brain surgeon Father...who does not even like horses!"

I sucked it up, positioned my behind and legs the best that I could and as always, was the last to enter the ring....
Bounce - bounce - bounce... keep a death grip on the horns..
bounce bounce bounce... come down centered in the saddle..
bounce bounce bounce...stay out of this poor horses mouth and just let him do his job! bounce bounce bounce.. and before the "ALK" part of walk was out of the announcers mouth..we were walking!

"Canter your horses please - Canter" problem with this and today we picked up the correct lead.

Walk... change directions and trot.

I waited as long as I could without being penalized ..but again we started to trot. The first 3 were good..and then my backside started to explore the width and depth of my saddle again and I had to pull him down before it got out of hand and I got into trouble. We did not make it around the arena one full round before they called for the walk and canter. On the last canter, Kelli reminded me to smile..and for the first time in that class I did. I even relaxed and looked into the audience to see my Father. He was grinning ear to ear...something I don't think I will ever forget!

We trotted into the line up...and took our ribbon. We earned last place.. I say earned - because it was really hard work and a huge challenge.

Since I have only ridden in one sidesaddle...and even though I started on a different horse, I really did not ride a full trot on the other basically I have only experienced one horse..but I sure would like to know what I am doing wrong..or what I need to change..or at least how I can get myself more secure at the trot. It is not something I can expect someone to diagnosis for me over the Internet. I have heard rumors that there may be a sidesaddle clinic in San Antonio during a show that I am scheduled to cover..and if so, I will surely enlist in it. I love what I am doing...but just really want to do a better job..if for nothing else, I want to do it for a horse who has been so patient and kind to me. ALL the credit goes to Oliver.


sunvalleysally said...

Julie you are having a difficult time at the trot because a saddlebred of the quality of Oliver has HUGE hock action--there's just a LOT of motion there. The Arabian rider who was so quiet at the trot is most likely rolling onto her right thigh in synchrony with the horse's motion. And keeping her right shoulder back and down. And relaxing her jaw. You can smile with a clenched jaw,btw, the word you would be saying would not be "cheese" but something far less ladylike.

Your dad was no doubt grinning because he got to see his beautiful daughter riding like a lady and a lovely one at that! My dad was a dual-degree engineer and a large aerospace company exec who hated horses and never gave up hope that one day his daughter would forswear horses and take up something less expensive such as, oh, private club golfing, open ocean yachting or maybe even sportscar racing on the international circuit. HATED horses more passionately than anyone I've ever known to hate horses. But could not stop a big nonstop grin when I showed sidesaddle.

Who's teaching the Texas clinic? Hope it's Marti Friddle!!!

BTW the mix-n-match English/Western stuff you see at the Arabian shows - don't be tempted. Please. So many sidesaddle crimes at the Arabian shows. You take the higher moral ground. PLEASE!

Julie said...

Ha ha - our Dad's would LOVE each other!!!

I am not tempted to get a Western Saddle..unless one day I intend to show no worries there!

I think though that I might try to put a (removable) suede cover on the leaping head of my saddle. Honestly - I just have to figure out a way to manage all this motion!

Unknown said...

Congrats Julie! Job well done can't wait to see photos.

Julie have you had your sidesaddle's seat size checked for you? Moving back and forth and side to side sounds like a seat issue.
I've seen this used on an english saddle, it may just work on your aside saddle

Julie said...

Thanks for that Sydney. I have never seen anything like that..and what a great idea!

I am currently using an english suede seat cover..and I know it helps to a degree..but it is the bouncing - the horse really bumps me up and out of the saddle...and landing out of place is what un-nerves me so! I never ever used to sit a I think I just need to keep on pressing forward!

Michelle said...

I bet you still looked fabulous! I can't wait to see the pictures! I've been checking back on here all day for an update!

I was going to say the same thing that SVS said about your Oliver having a great big trot and a lot of hock action. That's hard to sit even astride.
My mare has a pretty big trot that's tough to sit astride but I can do it not bad SS. Her canter is where I struggle and find myself "rowing" back and forth with my arms and upper body to compensate and try to sit quietly. I've discovered that it helps if I keep some of my weight on my right thigh vs. having all my weight on my bum. I also credit my being able to sit the trot/canter to the fact that my SS's seat and pommels are doeskin. They are wonderfully grippy!
What a differnce in comparison to the SS I rode in this summer with a smooth seat. I felt really insecure in it and was sliding all over at the canter and WOW was my back sore the next day. It was a battle to stay where I needed to.

Do you have anyone that you could borrow a SS apron & full seat breeches from? Perhaps some extra "grip" is all you need? Might be worth a try anyways.

Otherwise I'm not sure, what about working on doing some sitting trot astride first to get used to it more? I've also heard that riding without the stirrup can be helpful as a lot of people unknowingly brace against it.

I'd try posting on the ISSO Yahoo Group and asking how they recommend sitting the trot, they seem to be a super helpful bunch.

Can't wait to see your pictures!!!

sidesaddle rider said...

Hey Julie! I'm back!
I have the solution to your trotting problem. You probably won't be all that thrilled with it, but here goes. Practice Practice Practice in your ASTRIDE saddle.
As you can probably tell from his pictures, Marcel had a monster of a trot. I too was wondering if I would ever be able to trot him aside.
All that follows came from trial and error and this is what worked for me.
First take the pressure off of yourself and UNDERSTAND this isn't easy.
Sunvalleysally hit the nail on the head. It's all in the hocks. I think I told you before I never did learn how to post Marcel's trot aside. He threw me too far up and out of the saddle when I tried to rock. I thought I was just an uncoordinated idiot. That is until a rode aside on a comfy little Morgan. Without all that hock you would have thought I had been riding aside all my life.
You need to constantly school yourself and Oliver astride. He needs a minimum of three trotting gears - jog, easy trot and show trot. You need to be able to SIT ALL THREE gears astride before being able to do it with ease aside. The only way to do that is to put hours in the saddle.
Watch some upper level dressage videos on You Tube to get the idea of how to collapse at the top of suspension and straighten at the bottom.
One problem many of us Saddle Seat riders have is it was drilled into us to be statuesque on a horse. Our upper bodies haven't been trained to move to the degree a dressage rider's has. It goes against everything we were taught, but you need to loosen up on top. The worst thing you can do aside is tighten up. You need to absorb the shocks. The tighter you hang onto that horn the more solid you become all over and have set yourself up to be a missile ready for launch.
Keep in mind you will be a step behind while riding aside for a very long time. Once you progress from a jog to a trot astride, you will be comfortable aside only at the jog. Show trot astride - easy trot aside. Until you have had years in your sidesaddle you won't be as comfortable as you are in your cutback. It's just the way it is.
As you work up the trotting levels astride pay very close attention to sitting IN the saddle not ON the saddle. Feel through the saddle to Oliver's back. When you really get into that mindset you will find you naturally start sitting in your sidesaddle and not on it.
There is one thing I disagree on with many other aside riders. (Sorry sunvalleysally) I don't agree with keeping your right shoulder back. You can keep the right shoulder back AND twist to the left at the waist at the same time. Instead of keeping your shoulder back think of keeping your right hip back. With your right hip back your waist, ribs and shoulder will all remain back with it. Also if you are popped out of the saddle you will land straight and be able to get back into stride without having to resort to grabbing the horn.
While riding aside teach yourself to use as little purchase as you can get away with. Always push yourself to use less and less. While walking you shouldn't need any purchase. If you bobble a little, don't overcorrect. Don't grab the horn. Only point your right toe down. You'll be surprised at how much grip you can get from just a toe point. Start teaching yourself to save the leaping head for emergencies, not as a constant source of security. You should never use the leaping head with your right toe pointed up, it will cause you to twist in the saddle.
Now the most important thing is this - LOOK AT HOW FAR YOU HAVE COME! It was only a little over a year ago when you contacted me via Saddlebred Rescue to ask if I really rode aside. Look where you are now. You're SHOWING SIDESADDLE! I'm terribly envious of you. You are forging forward with your Oliver the way I desperately wish I still could with my Clownface.
You need to give yourself credit for what you have already accomplished. Keep it up girl. I think you are doing great!