Breathable Thighs
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Wednesday, February 28, 2018 09:01 PM
This winter two events catapulted my seat explorations to a new level. One of them is Mary Wanless new book "Anatomy of Rider's Connection"; the other is working on sequential flying lead changes and figuring out how to ride a very straight, balanced canter - translation sitting very centered, level and balanced to help my horse. One of the things I have discovered that my thighs like to push down into the saddle and left one does it more than the right. In addition it is very easy for me to lean into the side of pushed down thigh and lift opposite side from the saddle. Not only I can feel it in myself and see the results. But I also now see it in my students and can help them.
Why is it wrong to push down your thighs? Isn't that the right way to distribute the weight over bigger surface, to make the legs longer and to tell the horse where to go? Last one is true, but it is an aid and it doesn't last long. The mechanics of pushing down is by hamstrings muscles. If you ever had hamstrings crumps during riding check how much you are pressing your thighs down. Muscles become tight by working overtime without ability to "breathe" with the horse's back. Hamstrings are often tighter/stronger than hip flexors (antagonist muscles to each other). Knees are most likely become stiff. Pushing down thighs create a gripping effect which negatively affects horse's back movement
  • While pushing down thighs will be uneven in their angles and knees will not be level. This is actually fairly easy to feel if you imagine horizontal rod connecting your knees (Mary Wanless), plus weight in the stirrups will be uneven too.
  • The heavy thigh will contribute to instability of the lower leg. The lower leg will be harder to apply precisely - either too slow or inability to apply upper calf, only heels.
  • The thighs must create an upside down V which is stable by itself regardless of horse's movement or balance. This is only possible when thighs can move with the horse's back, thighs feel they can "breathe".
  • Stability of seatbones and they feel of being plugged in is greatly depended on "breathable" thighs
A great exercise to check if you have heavy thighs is to "bicycle" with your knees at walk first without stirrups then with stirrups without losing/pushing them. You may discover it is very hard or cumbersome to lift your thighs off the saddle without losing your upper body position (tipping backward/forward) or without accidentally stopping your horse (seatbones couldn't move with the horse without thigh "help") or some other glitch (tightening areas in your body). With practice you should be able to "bicycle" without apparent visual effect, kind of just a feel of "bicycling".
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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