A Reader's Question
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Monday, September 7, 2015 06:53 PM
I have a quick question regarding pelvic stability vs thigh mobility. I have heard that to keep a deep riding seat you have to keep your pelvis in neutral (which gives me the impression of a 'stiff, held', immobile pelvis) while letting your hips follow the horse's motion. But when I see professional dressage riders, their pelvises seem to not be 'held' in neutral -- they seem to be bouncing up and down, side to side, absorbing the horse's motion -- their thighs (the seams of their breeches) seem relatively 'still'.
So which one is it? Should the pelvis or thighs do more of the absorption of the movement?
What stability means is ability to control the position of the joint. This does not mean stiffness. It means the joint is oscillating very close around a certain position without drifting too far away from it. In August issue of Dressage Today Isabelle von Neumann-Cosel said the following:
You cannot just hold a good position because you will become stiff. Instead, you have to regain it again and again.
Pelvis has a joint with vertebral column through sacrum and joints with thighs through hips. The pelvis stability means stability of sacrum/vertebra. By using core muscles a rider can keep her pelvis in neutral position allowing upper body to be comfortably vertical above it. The better rider's core the less lower back will tighten and send the horse's motion up the spine to the head (nodding heads in sitting trot is not a good thing in riders). A dressage rider must sit into horse's motion which means matching horse's movement without adding more or disturbing it. Without core that stabilizes the connection between pelvis and upper body it is impossible.
Hip/knee joints on the other hand must stay supple. They absorb most of horse's movement. The better they match the horse's back movement the more thighs will appear quiet and pelvic will appear in neutral. Tight hip joints means bouncing around against the saddle rather than being a part of horse's back. That does not mean thigh muscles are loose. Joints can be supple inside toned positioned thigh muscles that keep legs flat and adhesive around the horse's barrel. The joint can only be supple if it is strong and has comfortable range of motion at the same time. If during the movement a joint comes to the far end of it's range at any point it will stiffen up. That happens to riders with tight hip flexors or adductors. Lack of core stability will tighten hip joints because too much movement in the rider's torso makes a human body look for other places to stabilize, even the wrong ones like hip/knee joints or lower back.
One of the most amazing riders to watch is Heather Blitz. She is a wonderful example of supple stability without any unnecessary stiffness or interference with the horse's movement. She sits extended trot as effortlessly as collected one. And her upper body and head are very quiet, there is no visible wave coming through her spine. The middle of her torso moves very little still does not give an impression of stiffness. She is very vertical in extended trot, many riders lean slightly back and allow their hips slide a bit in front of them. This is a way to kind of cheat and appear supple and sticking to the saddle. But it allows a horse to run ahead of the rider and transitions to collected trot or other movements will not be fluid and effortless. Also, notice that Heather's stirrups are rather short in comparison to conventional length in upper levels. This allows her leg joints to absorb horse's movement with maximum efficiency. Some even international riders have such long stirrups they have to reach for them pointing their toes down. This puts stress on hip joints and creates stiffness in knees and ankles. Riding without stirrups will be less stressful then trying to keep the long ones from falling off the toes.
Happy riding...
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