Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Monday, February 3, 2014 09:25 AM
Before you continue reading this article I strongly recommend starting with other two. Please click on the following links to open them:
I have been observing this peculiar problem for sometime now. I noticed it with many riders and at first thought that it
was just rider's issue. However, I am changing my mind. I believe now that the horse plays a major role in this problem.
The problem I am talking about is inability of many riders to place their inside leg at the proper spot, right under the hip
joint, immediately behind the girth, or at the girth as usually said. What happens is the leg either slides forward or backwards. Sliding backwards is
more common. This makes inside leg act more like outside leg and displace horse's haunches to the outside on circles,
turns and in corners rather than help with the bend. The interesting fact is the mistake happens way more when inside leg is on convex side
of the horse. Every rider has one leg more stable and better placed than other, however, when the rider is trying to find a
good place for her/his inside leg on convex side of the horse's body it is more than just rider's asymmetry. It is also the
position of the horse's ribcage.
On convex side of the horse the ribcage is bulging unless the horse is bent properly. This bulging makes rider's inside leg
behave like it is "on top of a hill". This position is unstable and the leg during the motion starts "sliding down from the hill".
The leg ends up behind because of rider's active use of it. As rider squeezes, nudges or kicks the horse the leg
ends up way behind as it is much more stable place for it (bottom of the hill) and also easy position to keep applying the leg which the rider feels
necessary to do as the horse is not responding properly.
A rider must learn to feel where the horse's ribcage is. And in order to feel it the thighs must be laying flat and gently
pressed into saddle at all times. Plus the hips must be quiet so they only match the movement of the horse but not add
any force to it. Then the rider will feel under his/her thighs what the ribcage is doing and where it is positioned. On top of
that, the rider can press the inside thigh a little bit down to make inside knee a bit deeper and the whole inside leg a bit
more vertical and clearly under the rider's weight. This encourages the horse to slightly displace the ribcage to the outside
and step more under with his inside hind leg, hence, bending through the body.
If, on contrary, rider's inside leg is floppy in the thigh or even worse the thigh not even in contact with the saddle and only
lower leg or even worse only the heel is pressed into the horse this rider will never be able neither feel nor influence his/her
horse effectively with the inside leg.
The challenge here is to realize that the horse doesn't really want to displace his ribcage or lower his hip and step more
under himself with inside hind leg. It feels weird to him as this is his convex side and he never displaces his ribcage to the
other side when on his own. It is his posture, habitual way of moving and ingrained in his movement from birth. On top of that,
if the rider's inside leg ends up being a weaker leg the horse will know it and will try to push it up and out. It takes time and
dedication to learn to feel all that, to know how to oppose the horse's forces without losing your own proper posture and
position and then to start to influence a horse in the right way.
The signs to watch for:
- Floppy, too relaxed thighs -not enough muscles tone.
- Thighs are turned out with knees and toes pointing outward, knees are away from the saddle
- Outside thigh is pressing down too much as it may be stronger or tries to "help" with unbalanced position
- Seatbones are not centered: sliding down with one and sitting on top of the horse with another
- Seatbones are not level: the rider is collapsing and sliding off the horse or the horse is pushing the rider up on one side
- The upper body is waving, swaying, leaning, collapsing, twisting, etc. It should be very stable, "like a box" (Mary Wanless),
- Hands are too open, not level, one hand is closer to the body than other, wrists are bent and tense, contact is unstable and floppy, reins are uneven in length
- Letting the horse change your posture. Your posture and quiet strength and control of it is more important than horse's mistakes
In the next article I will talk about what riders need to do to teach their horses to bend properly on the convex side.