Coaching Camp and Exams. Part II
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Sunday, August 3, 2008 12:09 PM
On Wednesday we had a workshop with physiotherapist Sandra Sokoloski. She is a sport therapist and has been working with riders for a long time. Together with Trish Mrakawa and Jenny Vincent, computer analyst, they developed a program called "Beyond the Gaze". Sandra gave very interesting and entertaining power-point presentation on what components are important for developing an athlete. For example, proper breathing, core strength, mental preparation, skill development, and etc. Because riding involves balance and it's constant readjustment human body imbalances and habits can create real problem in the correct development of a rider as an athlete.
Sandra and Trish identified several common compensations riders use to deal with their lack of proper balance:
  • "Over-equitator" - rider with very stiff overarched back, shoulders artificially pulled backwards, upper chest usually collapsed.
  • "Butt clencher" - rider who grabs the saddle with her gluteal maximus muscles (big buttocks muscles). This rotates the whole leg outward and encourages grabbing with the calfs. Characteristic feature of such rider is toes turned way out.
  • "Arm bracer" - rider with very strong and stiff latissimus dorsi muscles. During the jump, arms are not released forward but stay bent in the elbow close to the body. Rider leans too much forward instead of allowing her arms to follow horse's mouth.
  • "Twister" - rider who twists when the seat is not in the saddle (rising trot, two-point position, during jump), imbalances in thigh muscles strength and endurance. Especially inner thigh muscles, adductors, that are responsible for stabilizing us in the center of a saddle. Most riders that I work with including myself have a weak left inner thigh muscle. Characteristic features: stirrups feel uneven, left feels longer than the right one, right circles feels easy, left circles feel unbalanced (fear of falling over to the outside).
After lunch we had a practical application of the theory. We have watched riders and with Sandra's help identified "butt clenchers", this one was popular, "twisters", "arm bracers" and "over-equitators". One of the points that Sandra was stressing out for jumper riders is butt moving backwards in two-point position. Most of the riders simply stand up in the stirrups and lean forward. That compromises their balance. If upper body moves forward in two-point something has to move backwards, buttocks! This creates balance in distribution of mass and center of gravity stays above the feet giving rider feel of security and stability. Another comment that Sandra repeated many times is using your outside hip to turn the horse on the circle. Sandra said: "Move your outside hip forward more than inside in every step." I, personally, would say it differently but the idea is correct - to use your hip to direct your horse into the turn. My word of caution about hips in turns is being aware that one hip naturally forward than the other and directing it even more forward may create balance issues and horse's haunches swinging out.
To ride with Sandra I was given Blondy, Trish's 4-year-old beautiful sorrel mare. I didn't know she was 4 when I rode her. She was so calm, steady, obedient I didn't realize she is that young. My first issue was sitting a little bit too much on my seatbones. I wonder if that was because of the jumping saddle with very narrow twist. I need nice and wide support for my crouch area. If I don't get that I feel like I'm falling forward, my crouch is pinched and I must fix it anyway I can. Not all jumping saddles are like that. The one I used on B2 was very comfortable. My second issue is my left inner thigh. Interestingly enough, I know about it. However, Sandra stressing it again made me more aware of the problem and renewed my focus. The difference in strength is such that riding through the left turns I must consciously "let go" with my right thigh to stay centered in the saddle. This naturally puts my right seatbone down in the saddle and I can use my hip to direct a horse on the left circle. I have checked it with all horses that I ride, they all responded in the correct way.
I have truly enjoyed the workshop. Analyzing riders sharpens your eye and understanding of correct biomechanics of riding. I will talk about Thursday in my next blog. I didn't realize how much I have learned participating in the workshop.
Happy riding...
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My blog is about teaching, riding and training. I share what is important to me in my work with horses and riders. The writing helps me to think things over and have a better understanding of training ideas and priciples.
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