Staying on top of your horse. Lateral work.
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Wednesday, September 26, 2012 09:12 PM
This is the second part of "Staying on Top of Your Horse" series. If you haven't read the first part please click
Leg-yields and Shoulder-ins. Rider is leaning toward the flexion/bend. - This is an extremely common mistake. Partly it is fueled by instructors and books
saying riders need to load their inside seatbone for the bend (especially in shoulder-in) and also riders themselves end up leaning to the inside of the bend or flexion
because they are working hard with their inside leg and as a consequence the inside leg overpowers their body position and pull them over to the inside. If you watch
how riders sometimes have to kick lazy horses with one leg, their whole body participates in the movement, they swing themselves to create momentum to help the leg.
This is of course an extreme. However, light versions of this "whole body" participation is very common. Riders are so focused on achieving the bend or reaction
to their inside leg they totally forget they have to balance the other side of their body. They feel their inside seatbone heavy and think they are sitting correctly. In reality these riders
are leaning to the inside, their outside seatbone has popped out of the saddle and their weight distribution is uneven. The horse feels more weight on his inside
side and either reluctant to leg-yield (which makes rider kick harder which creates more imbalance as said above), or the horse drifts to the inside in shoulder-in instead of staying
on the line.
Travers/Renvers. Rider is leaning away from bend. - This problem happens for two reasons. One is initiated by the horse's unwillingness to bend in travers and
preference to lean into inside shoulder. Rider feels the shoulder slipping away from her and heaviness on inside rein and works "hard" to fix this. At this moment rider's body may
lean away from the inside rein giving rider a sense of more leverage and ability to counteract her horse's heaviness. In reality, the rider has lost its position on top of her horse
and started hanging on the inside rein instead of working it. The horse will not improve and bend in this situation but fall out even more. Rider's job is to tuck the horse's
inside shoulder under her seat and while staying absolutely vertical and level work the inside rein as indirect rein until horse softens the jaw and flexes the poll and neck. Again,
the rider is asking her horse to soften and give. The rider does not physically place her horse's head in a flexed position by pulling or worse leaning.
The second reason is rider's asymmetry and natural crookedness. Many people have their ribcage misplaced to one side, this creates a tendency to lean to the side toward the
misplacement. In travers such rider will be very effective on one rein and feel awkward and week on another.
- Your outside shoulder and hip must stay in vertical alignment and "lead" the horse into leg-yield or shoulder-in. Project the outside of your body toward the direction you
- In shoulder-in much of your horse's front: head, neck and inside shoulder are to the inside of your head and field of vision. When looking straight ahead you do not see your horse
in front of you. If you look down and see much of your horse's neck more or less in the middle of your vision you are leaning to the inside.
- Inside leg is not physically displacing the horse. It requests the action - light touches, not hard squeezes, kicks or boots. Whip is a very helpful and fair tool. You can achieve
good reaction with just one tap, the whip never holds or squeezes, the action is always very short in duration.
- In travers the action of the hips is very important. Ability to swivel and hold the hips in a certain position allows the rider effectively keep horse's hips as needed. Lose, weak,
unstable, stiff or uneven hips will prevent rider from riding well controlled travers/renvers/half-pass.
- In travers rider's body has a twist through the whole torso. The shoulders and hips are level, centered and stacked up. However, they are rotated against each other. Inside hip is more ahead
of inside shoulder. Holding such posture during trot or canter requires quite a bit of muscle tone and ability to hold isometric contraction without stiffening up or collapsing.
- Half-pass is travers on a diagonal line, point your horse's head straight on a diagonal line and bend his body away from it. The bend starts at the poll.