Perhaps there is another pesky seat issue you just can’t seem to get right? Maybe you have a young horse or one with sensitive back and you would like to improve your balance and technique?
Check out our seat bootcamp sessions offer below! Come by yourself or get together with a small group of friends from the yard and boost your riding this summer All levels and ages (11+) welcome. These sessions are fun, educational and often enlightening and are suitable to improve your seat for dressage, jumping and just-for-pleasure riding (hacking, schooling at home etc).
All Aspire NewsBook readers who would like to purchase the session(s) please mention “Aspire NewsBook Special Offer” when booking to claim £5 OFF the total fee per person.
If you are not familiar with how the sessions might look like, please read more about mechanical horse training on HERE or have a look at the couple of videos below:
I am not usually a fan of all sorts of seat savers and the likes as in my experience they feel like they create a thick layer of distance between the rider and the horse and thus decrease the feel. However, I was very surprised to try the shock absorbing saddle pad pictured below at Windsor Horse Show yesterday.
Although it appears rather thick and spongy both to look at and to touch, once sat on it creates no bulk at all and in fact, gives you a feel of sitting on a very, very comfortable saddle 🙂
If you ride many horses a day, have less than a perfect saddle or need some help to stay “plugged in” to the movement in that medium trot, I do recommend you have a look at this one. The one I tried is made by Acavallo: http://www.acavallo.com/
The Royal Windsor Horse Show started yesterday (14th May) and will go on until Sunday (18th May). It’s a lovely show with a fabulous atmosphere in a stunning set up so if you don’t have any plans for the coming weekend, head over to Berkshire 🙂 Few photos from yesterday below. I took some videos too which will be on the blog later today.
One of the most common questions among riders who try to improve their effectiveness is how to stop the annoying issue of lost stirrups in canter and sitting trot. There are many various explanations for this problem and in fact, each rider will have slight variations in how they can correct the issue but let’s look at some things to look into:
1. Bracing against the movement?
Watch for any form of bracing through your legs and hips against the motion of the horse as it will pretty much for sure stop you from being able to retain your stirrups. Visualise the motion of the horse’s back and his sides – the ribcage swings slightly from left to right in every gait albeit differently in walk, trot and canter. Be aware that to absorb this swing you need certain amount of pelvis mobility and the bigger the motion of your horse the less you will get away with bracing/stiffening up.
To practice mobility without tension, try feeling the swing as it happens by relaxing all the muscles around your knees and allowing the lower leg to follow the movement of the ribcage – let your legs “breathe” with your horse.
2. Dance with your ankles…
It is all well to feel mobile and relaxed through your hip joints and perhaps even in your knees but if you were one of the riders taught to push your heels deep down, you are very likely blocking the suspension mechanism in your ankles. If you do, you might get away with your sitting trot and canter on fairly flat moving horses but the moment the motion increases, the blocked ankle joints will eventually cause you to bounce. You might retain your stirrups but you are unlikely to remain in harmony with your horse.
The exercise I like a lot for getting rid of “jammed” heel is allowing your ankles to “dance” – in both sitting trot and canter your seat bones lift and rise on alternate sides in the rhythm of the motion of the horse’s back. As your inside seat bone drops half an inch, so does your knee and so can your ankle/heel. A moment later, however, that seat bone will be lifted half an inch, so will your knee and so will your ankle/heel. Allowing your joints to open and close in response to the lift and fall of the seat bones create a “dancing” effect which the rider feels much more than onlookers can see.
To be able to open and close through your joints you need them to be in the middle position…think about extending your elbows to the point of them locking and then trying to catch something thrown to you. Locked joints are in their end positions, they have no rebound, no suppleness, no suspension. This is why riding with your heels jammed down at each phase of the movement will never let you also maintain a supple, deep seat in sitting trot and canter.
3. Engage outer thigh muscles
It seems that “using ones core muscles” became a bit of a fashion nowadays and although I do agree we need a healthy upper body stability and reasonable strong core, it’s not the be or not to be as far as the sitting trot and canter and retaining stirrups goes.
The key here possibly is not just the core strength but the ability to connect the stabilising effect of the use of upper legs (thighs) with the mobile, supple pelvis and stable upper body.
Try taking your legs away from the saddle (about an inch) whilst at the same time feeling them very gently taking a “knocked kneed” position (thigh bones rotating inwards ever so slightly). Keep them away like this for count of 2-3 deep breaths in and out. Release and repeat 2-3 times. Next, only start taking your legs away but quit before your inner thighs leave the saddle. Can you feel the outer thigh muscles switch on as you plan to take your legs away and rotate them inwards a few millilitres? Good, you found your stabilisers. Lightly engage these muscles in sitting trot and canter so you are in absolute control of your thigh position and you should notice a huge difference in stirrup retention.
4. Allow your legs to “drop” but one at a time…
On a standing horse, take your feet out of the stirrups and lift your knee up a couple of inches as if you were preparing to tighten your girth, then let one leg drop down as as if it completely lost use of all muscles. Repeat 10-20 times on each leg. Make movements small but let the legs truly drop with their own weight taking them down. Loose and limp.
If you have a suitable horse, jog him on and try this exercise in very slow trot. Lift your legs ever so slightly on each side in the rhythm of the trot: left-right, left-right and let the gravity take them back down. You should feel as if you were cycling on your horse 😉
Now again if your horse is suitable, canter and try to repeatedly lift and drop your inside leg in the 3 beat rhythm of the canter: 1-2-drop, 1-2-drop etc try not to “drop your legs yourself” but let the gravity take them down – if you start pushing your legs down you will be putting your joints in the stiff end positions.
Now re-take your stirrups and jog on. Feel your legs being dropped by gravityon alternate sides, the joints dancing in the rhythm of the movement. The ball of your feet feeling the stirrups irons and heels feeling heavier than the toes. Once you feel comfortable in the jog, try the same in working trot only switching on as much muscular strength as you need to maintain stability.
All these and many other exercises can be done as part of our training courses so if you struggle with your seat skills, check out how we can help 🙂 – Aspire Equestrian Coaching
It’s a pleasure to help you and I hope you will find my thoughts useful. Congratulations on entering the challenge too 🙂 My reason for doing the bloggers challenge in this format is so we can all learn from each other. Analysing issues of different riders on different horses is very beneficial for instructors too so I include myself in learners department also.
Let’s have a look and try to help Helen and her lovely mare. I love Bella’s elevation in passagey trot, definitely a talent there! She looks in a great condition, very relaxed and content.
Helen entered Aspire’s monthly virtual coaching challenge on improving your riding and said: “I would be very grateful if you would take a look at some of this sitting trot, especially in the lateral movements. I know I tend to lose the independent, unilateral movement of my seat bones and block her as soon as I ask for sideways movement – too much else to think about and trying too hard! Bella and I have found a big trot together which feels wonderful! I feel if I lose some weight from my ‘top half’ I will be able to sit it better but keeping the big trot and performing lateral movements is definitely a challenge for me! Thank you very much for any help you can give poor Bella to get me up to scratch and worthy of her, and I really do mean that!” She added a video of the issue she would like to improve which you can find on her blog: http://bellaandrico.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/aspire-equestrian-virtual-training.html
PROBLEM ANALYSIS using still frames from the video
I see a few things that stop you from feeling balanced on Bella’s back in lateral work so we will look at those first and then move on to how to work on them. I suggest they are addressed first before moving onto more consistent ability to join Bella’s back motion in trot.
If you had to describe a movement your body feels in sitting trot to a non-rider, how would you do it? If you wanted to tell them how not to bounce in sitting trot, how to stay centred and help the horse via your seat in sitting trot, how would you do it? How does your pelvis move in the saddle and what part of your body absorbs the concussion?
If there is an issue with your sitting trot, if you have difficulty sitting to the movement of your horse, I recommend having a go at the above questions. If you are not sure, take a moment to think before you read further 🙂 I’ll pop another photo below to delay your reading 🙂
Sitting trot. How do you fare in it? One of the issues we are filming for Aspire Equestrian Video Library is a process of improving a rider with good lateral stability (left to right) but comparatively weak front to back stability resulting in, what in layman terms we could call a “wavy upper body”.
The rider in our Case Study below mainly jumps and rides with short stirrups in a forward cut saddle. In the video below, as an experiment for the footage, I lengthened her stirrups 3 holes from her usual leather length. I also applied slow motion effect so those of you who are just learning to analyse own videos can spot the problem – it’s not always easy to “see” what’s happening so it’s important to train your eye (especially if you are an instructor-to-be).
For this rider, the issue with stabilising own upper body in the right position in motion (that is, one which effectively helps the horse with his balance) comes with several unwanted by products, some examples include: