June 7, 2015

Position, posture, and riding

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Ever have so many posts in the backlog that you just never get around to catching up? It’s been like that. Many good things (and a few annoying things) going on!

Good things first. I’ve made a lot of progress in riding, just in time for horse camp this week. Yay horse camp! There will be blogging from camp if I have internet access.

Earlier this year, I started feeling frustrated with my riding. Kasane some times responded to my aids, and other ties didn’t. Some times she would roll into a canter when I was asking her to leg yield at the trot. Kasane is a very compact horse. If I lean forward just a little, she goes faster. Looking down at her shoulders to check her canter lead is enough to cause her to change leads.

We went to two jumping clinics in one weekend. One clinic on Saturday my friend Sylvana taught and the Sunday clinic was sponsored by the local Horsemaster’s group. Both were excellent and helped me overcome my anxiety about going over jumps. Kasane gets excited about jumping and rushes. She loves jumping. Part of the many things I learned from those clinics is that her rushing is in large part because of my position.

I grew up riding hunt seat, which means I lean too far forward and have my hands too low when I ride. Many years of ballet also mean that a natural turnout when I’m riding. My toes some times look like they could be wings. (When you ride¬†any style, your legs are supposed to be against the horse. Turning your toes out shifts where your legs make content and minimizes the area.

I took a month worth of riding to focus on sitting back, so I could retrain myself to not lean forward. The trick is to teach myself where it feels right when leaning back. Lots and lots of walking to get that before I moved on to trotting. If I was leaning too far forward by even just a little, she would roll into a canter (usually on the wrong lead).

When I am riding in the correct position, with my legs flat against her and my upper body not leaning forward, our communication is improved. My aids are lighter. She lifts her front end, her impulsion improves, her headset is freer. She uses herself better because I’m not in her way.

It’s been enlightening and exciting. Yesterday the barn owner helped me re-learn a dressage test for camp. She still had to remind me to lean back but it’s less frequent than it used to be. She said that my riding had made huge strides in the past month.

Some times focusing on the basics has repercussions all the way up the chain.

I was so tickled with Kasane. My riding instructor gave me home work to help with not leaning forward and to improve my leg position: lots of riding without stirrups.

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