Friday, November 6, 2009

Little of this Little of that

Wednesday I managed to get out to the barn after getting out of work early and ride my horse. The weather has definately taken a deeper turn into fall and is now fast approaching winter. It was only in the 30's even in the dim sun light that was fading fast. I had high hopes of having a good ride out in the outdoor. But due to a minor crisis with a boarder that involved her dog and about 30 porcupine quills, my game plan was shot. Possum also knew that I was distracted and modeled his mood after mine. Basically the ride just turned into a leisure energy burning ride. We did manage to jump a few lines but he was heavy on my hands and slow to come back and collect himself. I then turned my focus to working on sicrles at both the trot and then the canter. I focused on keeping him soft and round and listening to my half halts. It is when I'm doing circle work that I really try and oay attention to my body. I was having a really hard time keeping equal weight in oth stirrups. I felt my weight tilting to the outside slightly. No matter how I tried and shifter my weight it just wasn't working. Plus with this uneven distribution of weight I could feel him tilting to the inside to overcompensate. I then decided to drop the stirrups completely. As we cantered aroung again I felt him become more even and balanced.

It's amazing what we learn from horses. When we think a lot of the problem lie with them, it turns out to be something that we're doing or not doing and didn't even know it. As we cantered around the 20m circle I really kept an inventory on what exactly my body was doing every stride. My upper body was good for the most part. My head was up and shoulders square. My elbows had a soft give to them every stride with thumbs up and hands about 5 in apart. I then focused on keeping my butt muscles soft and not flexed with more give to my hips. My legs were tight with toe slightly out and contact with both calf and thigh. It was a lot to think about, but it's something that I need to think more about.


I have to admit that I was browsing through RFD TV the other day but came across a great clinic by Lucinda Green, an olympic event rider for the British team. She had a lot of great things to say about body position and feeling the horse. Learning to listen to when they ask you questions. I also learned that your legs can also be TOO tight. That there is a time and place for tight legs and also a time to slightly relax them. Now I realize that eventing is not exactly equatition but it's great advice and good riding is universal and applicable I believe. I really liked her teaching style and everything she said made sense.

One of the other things I took away was her talking about the riders position and weight while jumping. She talked about the horse being like a teeter tooter and how when you jump ahead of the horse or are leaning too far forward it puts added weight on the horse therefore making it harder to lift their shoulders to jump. When a horse jumps they lift their shoulders and front end and are then propelled by their hind end. This got me thinking to the the now known "classic" hunter position of riders basically laying on the horses necks with a too long stirrup. See pics below:

This added weight can put the horse off balace and make it even harder to have a nice jump over a fence. Now, in hunters jumping the fences shouldn't be a huge strain for them since it is not about height but about manners and way of going, but still it makes the horses job that much harder. A lot of riders say that with a riding a hunter it's harder to keep proper equitation because the horse has such a big and rounded jump. I don't believe this is true. I think that too many riders in the hunt and even in the eq ring are trying too hard. I know I am also guilty of this. I find myself jumping for myself instead of just sitting "chilly" and letting the horses motion fold my hips and following with my hand. Many times I will force myself to ride fences as of late and just keep a steady rhythm and pace and let the jump come to me instead of calculating take offs etc. When you let go of many of the technical things it suprised me of how it just happends naturally.

Stay tuned, I am re-reading a good book that I wanted to do a post on , it's called Renegade Champion, the unlikely rise of Fizrada, written by Richard R. Rust. It's a wonderful book written about his mother Jane Pohl who rode on the show circuit with her runt of a TB gelding in the hunters and jumpers classes of the 40's and 50's and breaking gender barriers along the way. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

SillyPony said...

Come to think of it, I think Junior and I have less shoulder dropping at the canter when I ride with no stirrups.... I've never really thought about it, though! I know that while I was getting my seat back after 5 years off I was constantly throwing HIS balance off. Now that I'm back into it he seems to carry himself better, too. I think that's part of teamwork. There really is no such thing as "individual" equestrian sports, whatever the medals say.