Hey everyone! I haven't been on here in quite a while. Been busy riding and keeping up with school and preparing for an upcoming spring show that I will be competing in! Yay! My first english show! If you guys can critique my position and what you think of Cassie! She's 9 year old APHA.
Thank you for your critique! We aren't required to wear helmets when we're riding in the enclosed arena, but I understand people have different opinions on when to wear helmets. :) I know my heels are horrible here! They're usually my best feature ;) But I am breaking in these new field boots so they're still a bit uncomfortable. I've noticed that my lower leg is slipping forward a lot now and I don't like it.
First off, your horse is super cute! You two look like an excellent team - you are also a lovely rider with some errors, so I'm going to nit-pick to try and get you really thinking about exactly what can be corrected to vastly improve your riding. You have an excellent base, and with some fine-tuning, you'll be "wow."
I'm not going to comment on all the photos, just some.
1) Straight back!! See how your back is arched and hollowed out? You want a straight back with your shoulder, hip and heel in line. If your back is hollow, your are not riding with an effective seat; without an effective seat, you are an uneffective rider. Pick those hands up, and get contact with the bit, fingers closed, thumbs on top. This arched back (which stems from an incorrect pelvis) shows through all of your photos. In the following photos, your back is straight, but your pelvis is rotated. If you brought your shoulder back in line with your hip without rotating your pelvis, your back would look like it does in this photo.
2) First thing I notice is that your left shoulder is dropped compared to your right - you want your shoulders at equal height. Practice in front of a mirror at home, and learn what "correct" is. Hands up off the wither, fingers closed, thumbs on top.
4) Your reins appear too long, so you're compensating by bringing your elbow back and dropping your hands; shorten the reins a good 6 inches, pick your inside shoulder up, and bring your hands up off the wither. You're leaning forwards too much - keep in mind that you want your shoulder in line with your hip in line with your heel to be the most effective rider. You want to be able to develop a true "flat" seat, a true "light" seat, and a true "two point" - perching (like it appears you are in this photo) is ineffective. While your horse has her head down (I have to say it again, she's super cute - I'm enamored) she isn't tracking up, and isn't working through her back. Learn what "headset" versus "working through the body" means, and learn to love it. She'll go from looking "cute" to "WOW!" in no time.
6) I like this picture a lot. You appear to be well-balanced through your 'sit' bones. The one thing I don't like is the twist through your upper body. Square up those shoulders, bring your inside shoulder up and back. Again with the arms, bring them up off the wither, shorten reins, close your fingers, thumb on top.
8) This really illustrates why a perched seat is ineffective; unless you're in a light seat or two-point, you shouldn't see daylight between your butt and the saddle. Sit deep, and rotate your pelvis with the motion. The next frame would show your butt coming down into the saddle - you don't want that moment of non-contact. Heels back under your hip, and shoulder back in line with the hip - all hand-in-hand with an effective seat. Hands up, closed, thumbs on top. (PS - you can see this all in photo 9 too)
10) Here you can clearly see a loose outside rein, and an engaged inside rein that is about to pull across the wither. To be effective in this circumstance, you must offer support through the outside rein, and draw your inside rein straight back, no crossover. You can see the horse's response is to tip her nose in and chew at the bit rather than give you the shoulder. If you had been supporting with your outside aids, this photo would show her relaxing through the jaw rather than fighting, bending through the rib and giving the shoulder like you were asking. Toes forward. I like your upper body, except for your arms.
12) Base of support, base of support, base of support. You can see that your lower leg has slid back without providing any support, and you're compensating through your pelvis and upper body; you can also see the horse's response - to tighten up and raise her head. Contact, girl! You're riding english, and unless you're working on testing the horse's ability to keep itself in a frame without support, this lack of contact is hindering her rather than helping.
15) Same as 10, you can see her nose tipping in, but little response to your rein aid other than that. Adding outside aids will correct this.
Thank you soooo much, JustDressageIt! That was really good advice and I will definitely try and remember that I as I ride. I am really working on lengthening out her trot. Can you help me on that? Basically she trots fast and doesn't really step under farther. Granted, yes she is improving a lot since we first started but I'd really like to help her get there.
This is her first time going english! :)
Thank you everyone else for your compliments! She is a LOVELY mare! She has a bit of an attitude that some people don't like but I've learned how to handle that and we understand each other so its really fun when things are going great and learning to understand her helps me understand how to teach her. :)
Okay... *deeeeeep breath* Are you ready for this?
Your mare is currently very much working on the forehand. She cannot do any movements correctly when she's like this. She must learn to work through herself and achieve roundness, driving from the hind end, and impulsion first. Disclaimer: Don't worry about where her head is - since she doesn't know how to use her back correctly, she's going to need her head and neck to balance until she builds up the muscle and memory through her hindquarter and back. The head will literally fall into place with muscle and correct work.
Now... lengthening and extending stem from collection; the horse must must must be able to move on its hind end (rather than pull from the front) to achieve this movement. Collection and roundness go hand-in-hand. You cannot get true extension or lengthening without the horse working properly from behind. You cannot get the horse moving correctly from behind without you having a solid base (seat) and the horse accepting contact on the bit. See how this is all intertwined? Focus on you for the next little while, and get yourself set up with really solid legs and seat. Focus on getting her to accept the bit (read: accept and seek contact) before you expect her to be able to truly work through herself. Next, you want to look at the parts of the engine - is her hind end engaged? Can she supple through her ribcage and back? Do you have control of all four 'corners' of the horse?
Now, when you talk about lengthening stride and extending, you have to remember that the horse does not change tempo; she does not speed up, she simply must rock back on her hindquarters (collection!) and lengthen her stride out. If you were to ride this on pavement, you would not hear a change in the "clip-clop" tempo as you did this change, the only difference would be stride length.
Here are some exercises to work on:
1) Bend and counterbend. The most basic of exercises. Here you want to make sure you're getting bend through the entire body, not just tilting her head one way or the other. I work on bend and counterbend through my entire warmup and ride, it is SO important to be able to control the body; remember, the head and neck are nothing but a hood ornament, they don't control the body. So... while you're warming up at a walk and trot (to begin with) do some bends to the inside and out - remember, this all stems from your leg and seat, the hands are just a guide. Keep contact with the outside aids to support no matter what. Serpentines are your friend. Figure 8s with smaller circles throughout are good. 20-m circles with true bend and counterbend are excellent. Remember - seat and leg, then hand.
2) Straightness. Stand behind your horse (in a safe way) and in front of her. Notice that her shoulders are smaller across than her hind end. What does that translate to when you're riding on the rail in the arena when we talk about straightness? It means that her outside shoulder and outside hip cannot be in line for her to be straight. It means that you have to think about keeping her shoulders in the middle of her body for her to be able to work truly straight. This means that you will have to pick the outside shoulder up and bring it in a little - straightness is absolutely key to dressage and flatwork. If the horse isn't straight, you're going to have a hard time doing anything else correctly.
Here's a photo to illustrate my point:
See how the hindquarters are broader than the shoulder? You have to take this into consideration when riding. Mirrors along the longside are a handy tool for learning how to feel "correct."
Roundness. The big R. There are many threads on this forum pertaining to roundness, so I won't beat a dead horse and try to cover it here. I really do suggest going through and reading up on it, and how to get your horse to work through her back properly, as that is the cornerstone to collection and, ultimately, extension and lengthening stride.
*whew* I think I'll stop there for now. That's a lot to take in. Please feel free to ask questions, I'll be more than happy to answer :)
Oh! I do have one question for you - may I ask why you chose the Kimberwicke for your mare? The reason I ask is because in your photos showing her head down, she's breaking at the 3rd vertebrae, and isn't really "on the bit" in the sense of roundness. She is tucking her head, but not accepting contact, thus she is not on the bit. The bit, with its curb chain, might be part of the problem.
I have her in the kimberwick--which is not jointed--because she listens to it the most compared to plain snaffles. I tried putting her in a french-link loose ring snaffle and she ran right through it. I told my instructor about it and she suggested a gag bit. I worked about 3 weeks with her in that and that really helped her to loosen up and not be afraid to lean slightly into the bit and extend forward. She was very nervous with the kimberwick at first and you could easily tell she was hiding "behind it". I was then instructed to go back into the kimberwick in order to keep her "results" more consistent. She's finally more calm with the kimberwick and she's not afraid to put that slight "lean" into it.
Does that make any sense? If you have any bit suggestions, I'd be interested. I think the simpler bits are not enough for her but that just may be the opinion of someone not as experienced.