Critique our walk/trot
I don't often have the chance to be videoed while riding, but yesterday I rode in a little "Drill Team" group at an open house for the therapeutic riding program where I volunteer, and got it on film. The routine is really simple because we only had an hour to practice together, and weren't sure how these horses would do in front of a big crowd. Still, even though we're not doing anything fancy, it's definitely great being able to see yourself on video- I wish I could do this more!
I would love to hear what people see in
The one thing that really stands out to me is how busy I am up there in the saddle. My old instructor always drilled into my head that I needed to follow the horse with my hands and seat, but I'm really pumping away- it looks like far too much work.
What else to you see that I could be working on?
I think you are doing quite well. The mare does not offer you a lot of umph in the trot, and so you may end up feeling like you are doing more of the work than she is. But, I think your posting looks just fine. your seat at the walk was also good.
I think what will help you and her is to connect her more to the bit ,your hand, your elbow and your core. It's kind of like stringing a bow; unstrung the cord is limp, strung to the bow, it has potential energy in it through it's tautness.
your hands are rolled over and puppy pawish at time, and your elbow out from your side. Correct these things first. Then take up a bit more contact with the bit /rein and ask your horse to step into that with more energy. Her belly hangs down which to me indicates that she has not core engagement of her own. And when you circled at one point there, her attention drifted outward and she went counterbent. If you have her more "strung", this is less liekly to happen and easier to correct.
you are, however, not unbalanced and making yourself a very easy to carry load for this mare.
I would like to see more bend in the elbow and the shoulders coming back a little more, sitting up a bit taller. Straighten the upper back (by bringing the shoulder back) and relax the lower back to allow your hips to move with the horse instead of "pumping" with your whole body. If you bring your leg back straight form the hip so your leg is "beneath" you then you will open up the hip and let your lower back relax more to follow the horse's movement better. This will also set you up for a more forward toe because you toe out a little.
When you're holding your reins, imagine you have 2 ice cream cones in your hand but all the ice cream has melted, if you tip your hands then the ice cream will spill all over so you have to hold them straight up to keep your pony clean!
Overall, you are quiet in the saddle but there could be a little more impulsion. I know this is hard to achieve when you are doing a group lesson like this. Well done! =]
Thanks to both of you for taking the time to look. The piano hands problem is so frustrating, and I noticed that too. If you only knew how many times during a typical ride that I give myself a mental reminder to fix this. I guess I just have to keep being diligent. Also interesting that you both picked up on arms/elbows, that's another chronic problem.
I agree with you that her trot was a little flat, and that's been a growing problem. When I first started riding her she was super forward, to the point of being rushy. I worry that I've cranked her down too much and need to let her have more opportunity to get that forward mindset back. I'll be thinking about this. It's a problem at the canter too, I think.
Finally, this was my favorite comment:
I meant riding in a sympathetic manner.
Regarding the Piano hands and elbow/shoulders; they are one and the same thing. In fact , the reason that one is always told to keep their thumbs on top is that in this position , the forearm rotates outward and encourages the elbow to stay close the side. having the shoulder rolled back also helps to keep the elbow close to the side. one can keep their thumbe on top and still have no bend in elbow and /or chicken wings, and slumps upper back, but it's easier to start the alignment process by keeping the thumbs on top.
Actually, now that I think about it, I prefer to start the alingment proces at my armpit. I think of having a million dollar bill under my arm , at the back of my armpit. I must not lose it! so, I keep my shoulders rolled back, and keep the "lats" muscles there engaged lightly to keep that bill there. Elbows will almost naturally fall straight downward, 'cause they need to stay close to my ribcage.
the icing on the cake is thumbs on top.
Once ou have your upper body in this position, you are a lot more powerful, and you can use this powerful and stable position to help push your horse to be more forward into the bit.
Thanks again for good advice!
There's following the horse, and then there's blatant pumping.
Your elbows need to be glued to your sides and your hand resting on the saddle pad, you're not pushing a shopping cart. In the rising trot try to rise smaller and not hump the air every trot stride. This is pushing her out of balance, onto the forehand and causing that slow flat trot. The less you can move, the more the horse is able to come up out and in front of your leg.
I disagree that your elbows need to be bent more. They need to be at whatever angle allows your upper arms to be glued to your body and your hand to be glued to your saddle pad or her withers. The elbow will then open and close to absorb or "follow" the horse's movement. That's the only following that we want. As far as the position of the hand, don't focus on thumbs up as clearly that doesn't work. Think about flexing the flexor carpi ulnaris muscle (google it) which pulls your pinky finger closer to your elbow. You'll notice that doing this with the thumbs pointed in it is almost painful, but with thumbs up is easy. From there think "pinkies UP" to keep rotating the hands outward.
I know there are people on here that disagree with that philosophy for arms and hands. However, soon, soon I will get a video up of a horse with a bad walk, who has been ridden with a stable hand since he has had contact (for only a few months) and the improvement in his walk and self carriage is immense. The horse has gone from w/t/c in a wild fashion to schooling at first level and playing with some second level in a very short time with a stable contact and increased gait quality.
Anyways. Your basic position is very good and I have only a few nitpicky issues with it (hand/arm position, as covered) but it is the functional equitation here that is causing your issues. In pictures or frames, you look good, but on video everything is very loud and big. Remember horses can feel a fly on their back and flick it off!! Try to be more and more quiet on her back and as much as I hate the word, be still or statuesque. Think of this until your habit is broken or until you are too passive. Riding habits fluctuate in a pendulum like fashion. You need to become too still before you can safely revert back to the "center" on the stillness scale. At this point I think you will find the horse more willing to go forward. And let her carry you!! Be dead weight sometimes! She will enjoy having a job and not being interfered with. Also work on the response to the leg. Be completely still and only apply leg. If there's no response then follow the normal progression of aids until you have a response. At some point she will realize that you are no longer doing all the work for her and that she needs to "buck up"!
Good luck! I think your position is very good, now you need to enter the realm of functional equitation. Remember that the horse knows better than you how to walk, trot and canter. You have to let her do the gaits and just be a passenger.
Anabel, I am not familiar with the approach you are describing, but will definitely look into your suggestions on upper body position and see if it will help. I'm always game for trying new things! And I'll definitely keep an eye out for your video...
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