Naked Truth of Riding Symposium IV
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Friday, November 7, 2008 09:03 AM
Rider's Asymmetry
Mary Wanless didn't work a lot on rider's asymmetry. However, during the symposium there were comments, examples and a few corrections for riders that I summarize here as ideas for tackling rider's asymmetry.
  • When rider does not sit evenly on the left and right sides of the saddle Mary wanted the rider to imagine that her "seatbones climb the flesh of the seat" to correct their position. This is different from just pushing the whole body to one side. The muscles do not change their location on the saddle, only seatbones inside are moving to the side.
  • For one rider who had trouble keeping one thigh on the saddle Mary showed an exercise that allows to feel the good connection. Make a fist on the opposite side from the weak thigh. Push the fist into the pommel of your saddle. For example, you have a weak left thigh. Push your right fist into the right side of the pommel. You will feel how your left thigh instantly presses into the saddle in it's entire length.
  • You can help a rider to discover muscles of the hip by pushing the rider's foot toward horse's side and asking the rider to resist it. This is especially works well with the weak thigh.
  • Another interesting comment Mary made during her presentation - The side rider wants to rotate naturally is usually rider's troubled side. From my personal experience - I rotate easily to the left and my left side is usually difficult to manage.
  • Mary shared with us the results of one of the tests they do with riders and she said that when told to emphasize down phase of the trot on one seatbone and then on the other 90% of riders where more down on the left than on the right. She sees that as two different diagonals running across a rider's back. One is from left shoulder to the right seatbone, and another from right shoulder to left seatbone. The last one is longer and that is why it is easier for a rider to extend herself down on the left seatbone. Equalizing these two diagonals in our head may help to control the symmetry of sitting trot.
Exercises with the Audience
Mary was very interactive with the audience. Besides theory, explanations and questions she asked us to perform several exercises. I found them extremely helpful in understanding the concepts.
  • Grow Tall - Sit on the front of a hard chair, feet flat on the ground. Put your hands on your lower back. Now try to "grow tall". Feel how your lower back has arched. There is emptiness in the stomach and general stiffness.
  • Bearing Down - Clear your throat and at the same time put your hands on your upper abdomen, then lower abdomen, on your back under the rib cage. Feel how your body pushes against you every time you clear your throat. The part of your body between ribcage and pelvis becomes solid and strong.
  • Pushing your hands forward - This is another exercise to feel " bearing down". You need either a partner or a wall. Stand with your knees slightly bent, legs apart and one leg more forward than another. Now make your hands into fists, bend your elbows and push your fists into the wall. If you have a partner he/she should stand the way you do and you connect your fists and push into each other. Feel how your whole abdomen region is solidified. If you do not use your core very often you will find it hard to breathe.
  • Sliding with your seatbones - Sit on the front of a hard chair, feet flat on the ground. Push with your feet back against the ground, feel how your seatbone slid backwards on top of your muscles. Now pull yourself forward with your legs and feel how your seatbones slid forward.
    Note: While doing it I decided to engage slightly my muscles under seatbones when I pushed myself backwards. My chair reared. The similar effect will happen on a horse during canter. Sending pelvis backwards on the first beat of canter but staying well connected to the saddle sets the horse on the hind legs.
  • Walking with hollow and round back - This is very cool exercise. Lean forward and put your hands on your thighs. Now hollow your back, lift your head up and start walking forward. Feel how your steps are short and stiff. Now round your back, put your head down and try to walk. Feel the difference, steps are bigger, easier to make, more flexibility in the joints. Same thing happens with horses. The horse will step under himself as long as he can lift his back and his neck is not contracted. If he is hollow you can drive his legs under him until you are blue in the face and he will not be able to do it. I have seen that in a clinic once.
Happy riding...
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