13.03.17: Cool, Calm, and Connected

Kirsten returned for the first time in three months, and it was great to see her again! I caught her up to speed on what had been happening (and not happening) and the lack of riding time. She was encouraging, as usual, and we talked about what we could accomplish in our lesson on Sunday. I watched her work with one of the other girls doing Alexander style body work, and felt that I could really gain some benefit from it, so I we decided we'd start out our lesson with body work to begin with. I was not unhappy about this since it was also going to be pretty chilly outside at 8:00 in the morning, too!
We started off the lesson with Nancy so that she could get back down to the barn to finish tacking up Julius and it was amazing to see the changes. Nancy started off walking through the house with heavy feet, making a lot of noise with each step. As Kirsten began to remind her of her awareness of her body, her steps softened, and there was more flexion in her legs through her hips and down to her knees and ankles. She gained movement throughout her upper body, which made her look softer and her movements easier. I found it fascinating much we hold ourselves when we don't need to do that much work to function on a basic level.
She began with me and Nancy stayed to observe Kirsten working with me and give me feedback as we started to work. Kirsten had me walk around the room to begin with before she started working with me. We talked about how I felt, and I identified that I felt like I was pulling forward with my right thigh and hip, and she noted that from her observation it was more of a hitch, using my pelvis to lift up so that my leg could move forward. It was a very peg legged way of moving, and not very fluid. She began to bring awareness back into my body, which allowed the muscles to release and become tension free. Kirsten identified that the issue with my right hip/thigh stemmed from my left ankle which was protecting my left knee. I decided then that the song from childhood about all the bones being connected in order was just plain wrong! The thigh bone is not connected to the hip bone apparently!
I began to walk around, feeling the new sensations, and the first thing that struck me was the fact that I was very aware of my hands. I felt like a small child discovering hands for the first time. It was an odd connection, especially since it seemed to have no connection to the act of walking, however, I guess that is not true. Everything is interconnected anyway.
She continued to work with me, drawing awareness to my right hip to release the tension in my left ankle. She encouraged me to forget about my knee, and worry about staying balanced on my hips and ankles. As I began to connect the right hip and left ankle my gait smoothed out. I also noted that I had a habit of curling my left food inward as a struggle for balance since that foot is smaller, and so she worked to strengthen the connection diagonally so that I could use my foot in the correct biomechanic manner and keep it flat and straight. The steps came halting some good, some not so good, but as I continued to walk the strength developed and a feeling of normalcy returned where it had felt akward and strange, even though it was a much more correct form of movement. We wrapped up and she encouraged me to head outside and get Storm so we could help make the connection, and told me not to worry about the saddle, to just throw a bareback pad on him and we would do some connecting.
I carefully put on all my layers and headed out the door, trying to maintain the comfortable easy feeling of moving in balance without tension. Walking in my big winter riding boots wasn't easy, but I was able to maintain some of the feeling of comfort. I headed down to the pasture to get Storm, and laughed as he peed before I got to him. When I approached, he actually moved away from me, much to my disappointment  But then he stopped to poop, and then came to me, so I was glad he chose to take care of that in the pasture and not in the barn or arena! I took him into the barn and quickly brushed off his back enough to put the bareback pad on and put his bridle on before we headed out the back door.
I got to the arena, and Kirsten advised that we spend time walking together so I could continue to integrate the changes that she helped make. We started walking laps (thanks to Ed for the really smooth fresh harrowed arena!!) and I continued to concentrate on feeling the connectedness between my right hip and left ankle, as well as feeling connected between both hips and ankles and not focusing on my knees. As I walked, Storm walked with me, and Kirsten immediately noticed a shift in his balance as I focused on my own. He began to put more effort into being balanced and shifting his weight back to his hindquarters as I focused on only my own balance, and didn't ask him to actually do anything.
We made several laps and then Kirsten suggested that I get up on him and sit and not really do anything other than connect with my own body and connect with Storm. I asked him to step up to the mounting block and then jumped up on his back. He picked his head up and seemed a bit skeptical as I swung my leg over and settled onto his back. Kirsten commented that it seemed that he had disconnected a little bit, and to simply stand and wait next to the mounting block until he came back and reconnected with me. I simply sat and waited until his head dropped and his ears returned to me. We stood for a long time, and Kirsten suggested I could get on and off or simply stand there, whatever seemed to be right at the time. We stood for a long time before he tried to creep over to the fence where Jim was taking photos. I stopped him and then backed him up to get him out of Nancy's way as she and Julius came around on the rail. Kirsten commented that he was very nicely connected to me again. I decided that I'd like to walk around a little bit and so we very gently thought about walking off. I had to add a tiny amount of encouragement, but he moved off quietly without much of a visual cue at all. We walked for a bit, and then he became distracted and slightly worried about something. Kirsten was watching and advised me to stop him completely. If he isn't connected, then there should be no forward movement. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.00. Moving is the reward for staying connected, and as soon as he becomes disconnected then it has to stop, and wait until he reconnects again. We moved around, and were able to make a few full laps without him becoming disconnected, and he stayed fairly soft, and fairly balanced. When he became crooked, I simply had to shift my pelvis over until he shifted underneath me and found the correct balance again. Feeling the individual muscles of his back rippling beneath the bareback pad was a real treat.
We worked a little bit in both directions before it was time to wrap up our lesson. I noticed in digging through some old pictures that it was the same time annually that Nancy and I usually take photos, so Jim brought the camera up to take shots for us so we could see how the horse's posture was changing. That will be for another post...
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