Bending the convex side.
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Monday, February 10, 2014 02:50 PM
Before you continue reading this article I strongly recommend the following ones:
We are going to assume that the rider can place his/her thighs more or less flat and snug on the saddle, keep seatbones level and centered for most of the time or at least catch and correct himself/herself. The upper body stays fairly vertical, centered and stable in all dimensions and the rider can feel when the horse tries to displace him/her. The arms are placed stable near the sides and most of the time the line from the bit to the elbows is straight, hands stable.
The description above requires years of dedicated work. Do not assume you can have a few rides working on it and you are good to go. Even the best riders in the world work on position on daily basis.
When horse is turning with his convex side on the inside he cuts into the turn with his shoulder, pushes his ribcage to the inside and may even look to the outside or if a rider is preventing this with inside rein the horse throws his haunches outside and negotiates the turn/circle like a perpetual turn on the forehand. In particular, a turn on his inside shoulder. Very often the horse displaces the ribcage not just to the inside but also upward. This pushes the rider up and out which makes it easier for the horse to continue the turn on his terms. To feel this happening and to be able to prevent or change it the rider must have the following things in place:
  • The hips slightly swiveled to the outside so inside hip comes a bit forward in regard to the outside hip. It will also place your seatbones in the same position, inside is ahead of outside. Pay attention not to pop one of them out of the saddle. The seatbones are level at all times! This position of the seatbones will make you feel sitting heavier or rather steadier on the inside one while they remain level
  • Have a feel of sitting a bit more toward inside. You want your outside seatbone be close to the horse's spine. And in no circumstances let outside seatbone fall off to the outside. Otherwise, your horse will push you out.
  • Inside thigh presses down and the front of the thigh feels stretched over the knee like in kneeling. The leg is more vertical and the heel slightly drops more down. Stretching inside leg down must not make your upper body collapse to the inside to "help". Pay attention that pressing the thigh down does not pop your inside seatbone up or push your upper body out.
  • Inside leg works more from it's position and tone in the muscles and less from kicking. Letting your leg to turn outward to be able to kick better is a big mistake. If your horse does not respond to the light touch/squeeze of your inside leg or spur he must experience "consequences" such as a tap with the whip, or a few taps depending on your horse temperament.
  • Outside leg is a continuation of the outside hip, gently wraps around the horse's belly and stays slightly back. It feels stretched but gently not as much as inside one. There is more horse under outside leg than under inside one!
  • Imagine your upper body "steps into inside seatbone", and " stuffs itself on inside" (Mary Wanless) between the ribcage and the hip, and imaginary "guy wire" from outside shoulder to the inside hip gets tighter. The faster you go the more you do it. Pay attention not to let your outside seatbone pop up.
  • Do NOT twist your shoulders inside. You have already done that when you placed the inside hip forward and tightened the guy wire from outside shoulder to inside hip. This is all that is required, no more!
  • Your shoulder blades down and away from each other. Backs of your armpits are closed (Mary Wanless). Upper arms are stable, elbows are heavy. Wrists are in line with the rein and the lower arms forming a straight line from the bit to the elbow. Wrists feel relaxed, fingers softly closed around the reins, thumbs on top. Wear gloves for more grip with less tightness like golfers do!
  • Reins are the same length. During the proper bending inside hand is very slightly open or away from the withers. Outside hand is closer to the withers or neck. Never the opposite!
  • Without losing the contact move inside fingers very slowly like playing with a few small round stones in your hand to encourage your horse to soften on inside rein and give you inside flexion.
  • Outside rein stays elastic but the elasticity is like elasticity of strong rubber not elasticity of a thin rubber band.
  • Do NOT let your horse change anything in your posture to make above statements not true.
Exercises that help develop horses suppleness on convex side:
  • Spirals in and out Outward portion is more important. The horse learns to step into outside of it's body and lets it stretch to allow the ribcage to be displaced outward letting inside hind to step under more. Execute in all gaits.
  • Counterbend in opposite direction If your horse convex on the left (more common) you ride to the right with counter-flexion or bend. This can be very helpful and much easier to accomplish than trying for correct flexion or bend to the left.
  • Very small circles Mostly in walk, at least in the beginning. Pay strict attention to your posture and horse's evasions
  • Shoulder-in on a circle Mostly in walk in the beginning. Trot only if it feels effortless in walk
  • Travers/Renvers These are always helpful in developing suppleness and strength. Not easy to ride though. A horse with convex side to the inside will be constantly falling into inside shoulder and losing bend turning the exercise into a leg-yield. Walking in travers down hill is a great way to learn to control the shoulder.
Happy riding...
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