If she goes best in the kimberwicke, then by all means use it... but I'm going to say that:
1) she appears to be ducking behind the bit; she might not accept contact as readily because of the chain
2) once you start to get more control over the body, rather than relying heavily on a bit, I bet you will find that you won't need the extra "umph"
I thought you had on an interesting feathered hat in the first picture...hahah! Anyway, I feel the need to comment on this thread as your horse is the SPITTING IMAGE of my friend's QH mare, Catey. Like, identical. Same build, same movement, same expression...so funny!
I haven't read JDI's post yet, but I'm sure that she's already given you some great advice, probably much the same as what I'm going to say! :)
I really like your position in the first picture - but thumbs up! :) You have a nice natural arch in your back, but you'll have to focus on keeping your back relaxed, as I think there's the potential there of overarching! In the warm up at the show, focus on letting your back muscles flex, but be elastic so you maintain that nice hollow area you have right now.
You may have a really good reason for riding in a Kimberwicke - and if so, ignore this section - but I'd love to see you do at least a little schooling in a D-ring or similar type of snaffle, even if you switch to the Kimberwicke in show situations. Training the horse into the mildest bit possible will increase the amount of sensitivity you have and thus the finesse with which you can perform. I'm not a huge fan of Kimberwickes as they combine a harsher bit with immobility - a preferable option, but of course much tricker to use, is a pelham - where you can use the snaffle-esque part of the bit and only employ leverage when necessary. With a kimberwicke there's only one setting.
Second picture, same - thumbs up! :) You're nice and level in your torso and shoulders - the stripey shirt would give you away if you weren't!
In the third picture, although it's kind of an awkward angle - I see a bit of Locked Elbow Syndrome. We're all taught to follow our horse's heads at the walk and canter, but a lot of the time the trot is skipped over. Last year, one of my trainers had me work on this - first she had me post the trot, and pointed out that I would lock my elbow in an effort to keep my hand perfectly still, and in return I would get resistance from my horse. So she had me sit the trot without changing my arms - even more resistance! The locked elbows actually cause enough tension - however minute - to make me tight enough that I bounced against the trot rather than flowed with it. Trainer had me stop, drop the reins, give my arms a good shake, and then pick up the reins with clenching anything. She had me trot, and told me to keep my hands over the withers but let my arms just hang from my shoulders. Because I was no longer set against her mouth, my mare moved forward much better and started seeking the contact. The moral of this overly-long anecdote? There is a very small amount of motion in the horse's head and neck at the trot, and we have to learn to follow it. It's trickier than the walk and canter, but once you feel it, you've got it.
Now, because of the angle, I could be wrong - you may have very elastic elbows! But just based off the picture, that's what I see. Your horse's head is in a good place, but her hind end isn't. It's right out behind her - so she's lulled you into a false sense of engagement while allowing her hind end to go on it's merry way. Work on those loosey-goosey elbows, give your horse her head, and get her tush underneath her. She has such a lovely neck naturally that she'll find it very easy to round over through her back and come into self-carriage once you engage her, and you'll find you don't have to pull on her mouth to get her there.
Next picture - same as above, with the whole engagement thing. I think this mare will be absolutely lovely once you're riding her back to front. Your position is essentially good, but you're overriding the front end and it shows a little in your equitation. I'd like to see you sit deeper in the saddle - get those seat-bones centered underneath you - pull your shoulders back, and let your legs fall a few inches further back. This will put you in an optimum position to push your horse forward, cue her from your legs, and get the coveted 'whole package.'
Fifth picture - shoulders back! Eyes up! Thumbs up! And if you're going to have more contact on one rein, make it your outside - you want to bend your horse with your inside leg, get her onto the outside rein, yada yada - if you use the inside rein to turn and flex, she'll just become wonky in her body and throw her weight onto her inside shoulder.
Sixth picture - same thing, really - thumbs up and driiiive your horse forward. In the seventh picture I like her balance, but again - the hind end is trailing along behind. If you find she gets more forward after a canter, incorporate it into your warm-up - while you're trotting around on a slack rein, throw in some transitions, get up in two-point and let her open up her stride, whatever. That way she'll be stepping underneath herself from the get-go. I like your upper body and arm position - to be nitpicky, I would have you slide your legs back so your calf aids aren't obstructed by the girth. It looks like you may be a little grippy in the knee; relax, sink your weight into your heel, and let your leg lengthen. In the eighth picture, same thing - only more so! Your gripping has propelled you a little out of the saddle her, and I suspect you began to lean forward to compensate and regain your rhythm. Lunge lessons would probably help you find your center of gravity and perfect your leg position. Your horse is also overbent to the inside - counterbending to the outside helps get those nice round canter circles, as it rebalances the horse. Although intuitively we all want to bend to the inside to get the weight on the outside shoulder, that unfortunately doesn't work. Counterbend when the balance or bend are compromised.
I can't see too much in the ninth picture - just the leg, again, and what looks like a bit of a resultant bounce. Also too much rein - as I've said, your horse needs forward now, rein aids later! :)
I see an offending inside rein in the tenth picture. I don't know if you've done any lateral work, but I'd suggest schooling a little shoulder-in, leg yield, and haunches in so that after a canter, when your horse wants to fall on the forehand and rush around on her inside shoulder you can regain your nice, bendy trot via your legs. Again, using the inside rein to fix the issue actually makes it worse - but if you can trot down centerline and push her into a leg-yield, she'll have to think about what she's doing with her shoulders. Same with shoulder-in - when you can move your horse's body all different ways at will via your seat and leg, you're well on your way to being able to achieve balance in any situation, without the inside rein!
In the twelfth picture your mare is hollowing through the back and resisting - be it because of the bit or a loss of balance, I don't know. I do see your leg coming up again, and with it, your body going forward, which unintentionally pushes her faster. If she's off-balance already, the resulting canter won't be too pretty! Sit tall, lengthen your legs - imagine you're dragging your heels in the dirt! - and half-halt, release, half-halt, release...if she needs it, down transition, whip out a handy leg yield or two, then pick up the canter again. In the last two shots, your horse is really overbent to the inside. We must always remember that for every moment of pressure, there must be an equal moment of release - so if you squeeze for a stride, you then give for a stride. Repeat as necessary, but never hold the 'squeeze' for more than a stride.
Anyway, I really like your horse and you're looking quite good - just keep schooling the fundamentals, and everything will really come together nicely. Good luck at your show! :)
Some excellent advice, dantexeventer! We do disagree about the arched back though - a hollow human back blocks the horse's movement; you want a straight back and a deep seat to be able to move with the horse. "Perching" with the pelvis rotated like the OP has is a bad habit, and one that's tough to break - ask me how I know...
I agree that a flat back is more fluid and beneficial when riding - I think perhaps I have arched-back envy, as my problem is entirely the opposite! ;) I do like to see a little flexibility in the back if the end goal is jumping - although this is so often overdone in the hunter/jumper rings that it's sort of hard to justify it.
To the OP, I will concede defeat here; JDI's advice about your back makes more sense than mine. ;) I think I'll have to dig out a picture of my friend's mare to post here now.
Haha! Thanks guys! I think I understand what you guys are saying. Now that I think about it, I should of put more information in the original post! The first picture, I was posing. I know, shouldn't do it. I wanted to see what I looked like when I pulled it all together. My back does relax when I ride as you guys can see, you never had to comment about it again after that picture. My instructor is always telling me not to over bend her and that must be what you all are talking about especially when I don't offer any support from the outside rein. I will try and remember that as I ride. I think I may also be trying not to pull on her bit too much and that's why I leave the reins a bit slack? I honestly don't know; its probably old habit!
I've really noticed that my saddle--which is VERY old--has become so soft on the flaps that there's a huge bulge under the flap where my girth and billets come together and its like right where my calf should be and when I really get to riding my leg slips forward. Could that be causing the problem with my lower leg? My legs are always my best feature and I've noticed that my legs have been slacking. I'm not trying to make excuses, believe me, I love hard work because I've had to work so hard to make my position decent. There's probably not much I can do about that besides just ignoring it and putting my leg on that huge bulge?
Wow...your horse is toooooo cute for her own good.
I have no comments as JDI touched on a lot of the things I could see and then took it all a step further in explanation of how to correct them and buid a better seat which will influence your horse and enable you to achieve what your looking for.
I agree with everyone here ... your horse is adorable!!! Gorgeous colour, build and looks like she can give a lovely ride!
You've been given such good advice about what to do to improve your already solid riding but might aswell give my two-sence
Firstly, you look you have all the basics down; you have a solid position which I am wholly jealous about! But there are a few tiny things you could improve on
+ while I see a little arch in your back, I don't see a massive problem with it .. I think you are tipped slightly forward in a lot of the pictures, upsetting the balance and meaning you do not have the shoulder/hips and heel alignment. If you bring your shoulders back WITHOUT tensing your back or shoulders, you should have an even more solid seat and be more effective with your rein and weight aids.
+ I also think that your reins are a tad too long, it would do you good to shorten them a little, and though it is considered good to have your reins high and together when riding english, I think it would help you to engage your hhorses back end and get her working a little more properly if you open and lower your hands a little - NOT so they are resting on your legs like some people do, but so the bit is lower in her mouth and she is more accpeting to soften and working properly using her back!!
+ your lower leg looks stable but just remember to sit on your pelvis so your lower legs naturally fall into a long, correct position!
But overall, your position is enviable and I think you and your mare make a great pair! I don't think theres anything worong with using a kimblewick if your mare doesnt respect softer bits as mine is exactly the same, and I have problems collecting or even slowing in a snaffle!
Good luck with everything you do, you look like you could achieve a lot :) and your mare looks like she has a jump in her! I want her lol
Haha! Thanks guys! I think I understand what you guys are saying. Now that I think about it, I should of put more information in the original post! The first picture, I was posing. I know, shouldn't do it. I wanted to see what I looked like when I pulled it all together. 1)My back does relax when I ride as you guys can see, you never had to comment about it again after that picture. 2)My instructor is always telling me not to over bend her and that must be what you all are talking about especially when I don't offer any support from the outside rein. I will try and remember that as I ride. I think I may also be trying not to pull on her bit too much and that's why I leave the reins a bit slack? I honestly don't know; its probably old habit!
I've really noticed that my saddle--which is VERY old--has become so soft on the flaps that there's a huge bulge under the flap where my girth and billets come together and its like right where my calf should be and when I really get to riding my leg slips forward. 3)Could that be causing the problem with my lower leg? My legs are always my best feature and I've noticed that my legs have been slacking. I'm not trying to make excuses, believe me, I love hard work because I've had to work so hard to make my position decent. There's probably not much I can do about that besides just ignoring it and putting my leg on that huge bulge?
1) I'll try and explain myself a little better here; I addressed it earlier, but my posts were so darned long that I'm sure it got lost hehe. Okay.. so the first photo shows your pelvis rocked forwards like it is in all your other photos, but you have brought your shoulder back in line with your hip and heel, creating the arch. If you were to keep your pelvis as is in the other pictures and bring your shoulder back, you would get that arch. Instead, you are straightening your back to follow the line that your pelvis has created - do you get what I'm saying? In order for your back to be straight and for you to become un-perched, you must fist look at your pelvis; that must be rotated forwards (think of sucking your tummy in and bringing your butt under you by rotating your pelvis) so that you're sitting on your butt, not perched on your crotch. Once you have that taken care of, your lovely straight back in the other photos will follow, bringing your shoulder in line with your hip. BUT! If you try and bring your shoulder back in line with your hip without correcting your pelvis FIRST, you will create the arched back you see in photo 1.
Aha, this image (from Biomechanics of the spiral seat) is perfect!!
2) Yes yes yes! The "overbending" you're talking about is likely stemming from her bending her head to the inside only. You want the whole horse to bend, which always involves outside aids. Learn to love the outside aids.
3) Yes. The saddle absolutely can influence how you ride, and the wrong saddle can make your legs sloppy.
That makes sense! :) Thank you for all the help! I love critique! I guess I will just have to ignore that bulge and just put my leg on it. I could use that as a guide then for my leg; if I don't feel my leg on that bump, then its out of place! :)