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May 14, 2017: Embracing Verticality

I recently attended an update clinic, held at Lucile Bump’s Brattleboro Vermont based Southmowing Farm, April 23-26. An overview as to what I learned, follows.

I decided to attend an update clinic at Lucile Bump’s Southmowing Farm because I foresaw that I might combine it with a month of east coast Centered Riding activities. I first did a half-month long internship at Sally and Karol Bauder’s Hillcroft Stables in Schenectady, NY. I then attended the Sally Swift Celebration in Brattleboro. The four-day update clinic in the same town followed. I went on to co-instruct (with Mary Trafford) a creativity workshop at Lin Sweeny’s Irish Acres farm in Cortland, NY. I next did a

horse agility clinic at Lin’s place. Then it was back to Schenectady where I spent another week at Karol and Sally’s stable.

I live in Alaska, a place in which Centered Riding is just beginning to take a toe hold. My thinking was that a month afield would further my Centered Riding instructor, rider, and clinic organizer education. I also hoped to assist other distance riders in taking their arena-based training and putting it to use on the trail.

The update clinic was central to my further internalizing the principles of Centered Riding. Centered Riding clinicians Lucile, Sally Haney, Gail Field, and Sally Bauder impressed upon me the concept of embracing verticality. Of all the basics, building blocks had been the most elusive to me. This may have been because I was not in alignment. Whatever the reason, I embarked on what I now know will be a life-long process.

My very best teacher at Southmowing was V, a very wise mare who taught me some important things in a very kind and gentle way. My first ride on her was memorable. The lesson began at a walk – she moved slowly. I thumped on her with my heels and she put her ears back and shook her head. I had previously seen this behavior in my Icelandic mare, so I knew that I was the problem. An analogy immediately came to mind. In all aspects of my life, I was having problems moving forward. Career wise, I had been struggling in my attempts to strike a balance between my writing and Centered Riding-related endeavors. I wasn’t feeling confident about my abilities to mediate between the two seemingly differing endeavors.

The outward manifestation of my problem made itself apparent to the clinicians during the few minutes of lesson. Sally Haney explained to me that I was sitting in chair seat. She had me drop my hand by my side, and this enabled me to see that my ankles were ahead of the vertical.

My instructors all worked with me on bringing about outward change during my first and subsequent lessons. All four basics were emphasized; however, the building block exercises were the most useful. I was asked to stand on my tip-toes and to lower thigh into the saddle while bringing to mind the image of stubby legs to mind. I was also asked to raise my right arm high and put weight into my left leg. This further established verticality and engaged my core, preventing further collapse. The icing on the cake was this -- I felt in connection with V, who moved off her back end and lengthened her stride when my stirrups were raised.

Three weeks later I returned home. I immediately saddled up my mare Raudi and went for a road ride. She shuffled along, but then I reached into my tool box and put what I’d been taught to practice. My weight was now off her forehand, and in being off her forehand, better enabled her to move out. Up road we went, doing trot-canter transitions, all the way home.

I spent yesterday with a friend. We first went for a trail ride, and then worked in my backyard arena. I first saw that Heather was sitting in chair seat, and next had her bring her awareness to her alignment, as had the instructors in the update clinic. Lastly, I climbed up on her very attentive Arab/Quarter horse and again put what previously for me had been the elusive principle, building blocks, to practice.

Lightbulbs began going off the second I dismounted. The unforeseen had occurred in attending the clinic at Lucille’s. This was that I’d resumed moving forward. I was now a more confident rider and instructor. Verticality was central to this. I ran into the house and began working on this article, one in which I made a writing/Centered Riding connection.

Next: 135. 5/15/17: Alys walking Tinni and Ranger

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