This imagery and an experiment/exercise described below might be useful for riders who:
– are often told to use “more” outside rein
– struggle with riding corners and cut them often
– have tendency to shorten or laterally overbend the horse through the neck when riding turns and/or circles
– lean forwards and/or lose neutral pelvis position before the turns
– lean to the side and/or collapse in the waist in corners and/or on circles
Imagine…that from the wither all the way to the poll your horse’s forehand is alike a really long bonnet of a car. You sit in your “driver’s seat” and have a little bit of a car (the very important little bit – the engine) right behind you, in the same way you have your horse’s hindquarters behind you. Got the image?
Now, let’s turn that beast…
Imagine…as you approach the corner on your horse, just at the quarter marker, that you need to turn the forehand really well from outside-in. You need to “wait” in your “driver’s seat” for the forehand to do its necessary rotation while you keep everything behind you active, short and rhythmic. You can’t just turn one wheel (use one rein), you need to turn both sides well (with your seat and both reins/both shoulders).
At quarter marker, you indicate (i.e. ask for inside flexion at the poll) and continue straight for the next couple of steps. As you start turning you stay in your driver’s seat, you let the forehand do its job, you focus on turning the wheels (shoulders and neck of the horse) not the very bumper (horse’s head).
You stay quiet right bang in the centre of the saddle, right at the centre of the horse, in neutral pelvis position. The equine spinal column only moves in millimetres so you keep your own spine nice and quiet on top of the horse’s spine. You know that the bigger movements you feel come from the horse’s hips so you keep your own hip joints relaxed and supple (or as supple as you can). Like this, you make sure the horse’s spinal muscles don’t have to “catch you” as you wobble from one side of its spine to another but instead, they are focused on effective, forward propulsion.
Many a time the instruction for “more” outside rein, “more” straight, less leaning etc are addressing the symptoms rather than cause. The cause is often down to the rider trying to sit on the bonnet to make the turn better…or trying to turn one wheel (pulling on the inside rein) or indicate more/faster (i.e. play with the reins, see-saw, squeeze-release many times etc distracting the horse) in order to turn better (straighter, with impulsion, rhythm etc).
Grab a yard broom and astride it like a witch 😉 Make sure the head of the broom and most of its length is in front of you. Now, eye up a square and walk around it taking your turns well. Notice how early you need to prepare your turn so your broom’s head doesn’t hit the wall of the square…notice how you need to direct your hips, upper body/shoulders and head for the turns to be fluid and accurate.
Next time you ride, keep your horse’s shoulders and neck right in front of your belly button and take your turns giving the forehand all the time it needs to turn well. Stay in your driver’s seat, feel the hindlegs of the horse through your seat bones and enjoy the feeling of your horse being “in front of you/in front of your leg”).
Happy experimenting! Let me know if you found it helpful.
All the best,