Staying on top of your horse. Turns.
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Wednesday, September 19, 2012 10:12 AM
I would like to elaborate on idea that sounds very obvious and simple at first glance -
Rider must always stay in the middle of her horse's back and centered above it in a vertical position.
If you smiled just right now I am not surprised :) This is just common sense, otherwise, the rider can fall. However, you will be surprised in how many situations riders are not just leaning and "sliding" off their horse's backs by chance or lack of balance. They are doing it on purpose thinking they are"helping" their horse to execute the movement.
Rider is leaning into the turn - this is the most common mistake. Either because humans learn to ride bicycle first or just from sheer eagerness to help the horse riders want to anticipate the turn by leaning slightly in. This usually goes together with pulling on inside rein. And the more difficult it is to turn the horse the more the rider will lean in. What does happen to a horse/rider balance and harmony? Such rider does not sit directly on top of her horse anymore. She "falls" in and allows her horse to "slide" outside. In this situation, inside rein becomes physical support for the rider, she holds it for her own safety and balance. The horse holds to it too only to lean outside harder. To fix this problem riders must stop thinking from perspective of a goal -"I need to turn". Riders must start thinking from perspective of never become separated from their horse. Staying in balance with your horse no matter how difficult it is to turn your horse is the only way to eventually achieve turns as tight as canter pirouettes, or Western spins.
Rider is leaning outside of the turn - This usually happens when horse turns too fast leaning in with the inside shoulder. Rider feels the shoulder is falling from under her and pulls back on inside rein to stop the shoulder. The pull of course doesn't work because horse is stronger and pushes harder, the rider starts to "help" herself by leaning in opposite direction of the pull. Rider's asymmetry can create similar posture, leaning outside helps such rider tackle the forces of the turn. Collapsed side usually leans in when on inside of the turn and leans out when on outside of the turn.
The first thing to realize is you are not in a position to turn your horse by physical force, for example, pulling on inside rein. You must ask your horse to turn and channel it by being very balanced on top of it to create an easy and graceful turn. Here are a few things to check:
  • The tighter the turn the more you need to be aware of keeping inside of your body very upright, do not drop your inside shoulder, feel your inside hip right under you
  • Realize that outside of your body travels longer distance then inside. You actually need to steady and slow yourself down a bit on inside which feels exactly opposite from leaning in (leaning speeds up your body)
  • The inside seatbone will feel heavier not because you are leaning on it but because it is a "pivoting point of your turn", it must be steadier, move less, hence feel heavier, bear down on it more (Mary Wanless)
  • Your inside leg starts with your inside seatbone, our outside leg starts with your outside seatbone.
  • Imagine "a strap" starting on inside of your upper right thigh, coming up through your six pack onto the left side of your body, traveling through your pectoralis (chest muscle), across your upper arm into your lat, down into your lower back onto the right side of your body, through your buttock and down into your most lateral quad muscle ("Anatomy Trains" by Thomas W. Myers). You have two of those straps, they cross your body and pin you down to the saddle. These muscles on both sides of your body must have equal strength and length to be able to withstand forces of moving horse through the turn and keep you on top of it in a centered and vertical position. This is only one example of how your body connects and organizes itself.
Next time we will discuss the lateral work such as leg-yields, shoulder-ins and travers from the same perspective.
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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