By Wiola Grabowska
‘Creative’ use of upper body is one of the most common issues I see in riders during turns and circles. Collapsing through the waist or hips is the option many riders go for so today’s blog post is a chat about this poorly biomechanics.
If you observe the rider above you can see that on the photo on the left she has lost the horse’s shoulders to the outside of the circle and the horse is crossing her inside hind leg in order to cope with the turn. The mare is mildly jack-knifed and “falling out” with no boundaries that she could otherwise be given via rider’s outside aids. Both the horse and rider have lost their balance to some extent: they are gently motorbiking too.
The rider’s spine is more of a ‘C’ shape creating a hollow on her inside side, her shoulders lost symmetry and her ribcage is now misaligned with her hips. This posture is very common in riders riding many crooked, stiff horses that are difficult to correct.
The photo on the right shows the same horse and rider later in the lesson. They are now aligned spine to spine, shoulders to shoulders. If the horse was to lose balance, the rider is much more likely to make effective adjustments to help the mare. She has control of the outside and inside of the horse.
If you too have a similar problem, here are something anyone can try:
- sit on a gym ball (or a stool) in front of a large mirror so you can see your whole body. Mark your mirror (with a cream or something easy to remove) with 3 dots: one directly in front of your belly button, one a couple of inches to the left of that dot and one a couple of inches to the right of that dot.
- spread your arms so they form extension of your shoulders – check if they are level
- take a deep breath out and drop the weight of your upper body comfortably down into your seat (i.e. don’t lift your shoulders or try to stretch upwards). Sit in neutral spine position.
- Slowly rotate your arms, your sternum and your belly button towards the dot on the left, hold it for the count of 10, come back to the middle, slowly rotate to the dot to your right (now please take a moment and leave a comment which way was easier for you if you did try this exercise 😉 )
- you’ll now have a bit of a picture of your own “crookedness” – if you find it equally easy on both sides, lucky you! However, most riders will be a bit like horses in this respect, they will find easier to turn one way than the other.
- repeat this exercise until you collect certain feel for holding rotation both ways. Collapse in your waist a few times too to feel the difference.
Back in the saddle:
- ride arena corners trying to replicate the same feel through your torso as you had in front of the mirror
- you can also: visualise both sides of your upper body from armpit to the hip bone holding the same length as you turn
- observe how “fast” your horse turns their shoulders and “wait” for them – many riders try to turn the head and rotates/collapses with it as the shoulders of the horse are not really turning
Correcting your upper body mechanics can transform your use and understanding of outside rein as turning well teaches you to ride “from outside – in” rather than pull on inside rein to turn.
If you found this helpful do give us a shout 🙂
Photo help from my super assistant Christine Dunnington