If you ever heard that you are leaning into your turns, collapsing in your waist or a hip, leaning forward in transitions to name just a few symptoms of balance issues, you might find this quick tip helpful.
This is not a quick fix mind you 😉 Just a quick tip on how to start working on yourself as a rider when in the saddle and when there is no one on the ground to provide you with an immediate feedback.
Nothing replaces posture re-education off-horse if your individual posture is poor and nothing replaces regular body awareness focused practice (like Pilates, Yoga or even regular video feedback from lessons) but here are some ideas to help you.
You are probably familiar with the concept of “being ahead of the movement”. This might be especially so if you jump over any height as that when being ahead of the movement is most obvious. Same goes for “getting left behind” – again, anyone who have ever jumped even a little bit will know how this feels.
For every single movement you ride on the flat, you can be ahead, behind or exactly with the movement. Both in terms of front to back/back to front motion and side to side (lateral) motion…It is just perhaps not as obvious as when you hang on for dear life after the horse took off unexpectedly over a wide oxer leaving you to catch up.
You could call it being always aligned with horse’s centre of gravity (which changes all the time from stride to stride) and applies as much to a walk to canter transition, riding a corner of the arena in walk or doing a trot leg-yield across the long diagonal.
Most riders with crookedness issues are aware of them but struggle to correct themselves “in the moment”. I have noticed during my work with riders with those issues that if you focus the training on developing more feel for where the horse (or their centre of gravity) “is” at any one time and how it changes from stride to stride, the rider remains much straighter, more symmetrical and distributes their body weight more effectively.
What does this mean in practical terms?
If you tend to lean into the corners when your horse “falls through the inside shoulder” or “falls out through the outside shoulder”, you are in front of the movement (side-to-side). You are bracing yourself to help the horse turn better or to make him turn better (depending on your training methods). Either way, you are fighting a losing battle as your position is already making it impossible/or much harder, for the horse to correct themselves.
Try to feel 7-8 steps before the corner where your horse’s centre of gravity is. In most cases, you will find yourself having to “slow down” the turn, not rush with your upper body/shoulders in order to make the turn but “stay back” and wait for the turn to come to you.
Once you are step by step truly with the horse, your corrections will be more effective, you will find yourself being less changed by your horse’s crookedness and the feeling might be of “having more time” to make the corrections.
If you tend to lean forward in upwards transitions, think of it in the same terms as disturbing the jumping horse by going in front of their movement. Practice remaining in the saddle with your seat bones feeling the movements of the hind legs and patiently “wait” with your own centre of gravity until the horse moves up.
To sum up – instead of worrying that you are leaning in or leaning on or collapsing, start switching your senses to detect your horse’s balance and centre of gravity. It’s a much more pleasant and engaging way of creating straightneess in both horse and rider than constantly nagging oneself to sit “straight”.
Hope this can help some of you 🙂