Feeling where your horse's haunches are
I am having a hard time in my lessons feeling where my horse's haunches are. My trainer will say, for example, There! His haunches are travelling outside his shoulders ...straighten him!
I CAN feel it when my horse is pretty crooked, but the mild variations of him being crooked by 5 degrees are hard. I`ll look in the mirrors as I come down the long side of the arena and that helps. I`ll stop and look at his shoulder and haunch angle relative to the arena wall and see how much his haunch is in or out. Its just really frustrating to hear my trainer say, can`t you feel that?
At least looking down at the shoulders if they are level can tell me somethng about where his front end is. But the back end!!
This may not be the answer you're looking for.
But.. when I was working with a horse that could move his haunches over without issue.. the first thing I did to make sure he did what I wanted instead of what he thought I wanted.. was to double check my aids.
If I have my outside leg too far back, then he'd either think about cantering or yielding his haunches to me. So in order to remedy that, I'd make sure my outside leg was where it needed to be.. supporting the haunches and wrapping the horse around my inside leg (enough), and then I'd check my inside leg. Is my inside leg in an effectively place that the horse is staying on the track and not falling in on its shoulder?
If the answer is no, I tweak it again.
Now if I'm travelling straight, like from A to C I can definitely feel when the horse isn't completely straight and so I make sure both of my seat bones and legs are on evenly to send the horse straight nice and forward.
But it takes awhile to learn to "feel" it. The first thing is.. check your aids.
It's always a good idea to go back to grass roots from time to time.
Try closing your eyes at walk, pick a leg and say 'now' every time it's about to hit the ground. Change which leg you're picking, and repeat the process at trot and canter. If your horse is safe enough, close your eyes in a basic leg yield and think of nothing but how your body feels, trying to picture where his shoulders and haunches are in em relation to how he is moving you.
Some people will never have feel, it's a fact of life. It can be learned to an extent, but the majority is 'genetics'. The rest of us just make do with what we've got and keep practicing!
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There is something to be said about feeling where your seat bones are pointing behind you. At one point I was also taking my feet out of the stirrups and placing my feet behind on the horse's barrel as far back as I could in attempt to "get it".
This looked pretty odd and wasn't that useful.
I asked my coach how she did it. She said she feels the energy behind her of the horse's hind. Argh.
Also, I've always been fairly good at picking up what foot was moving - maybe I can use that to try and track where they are in space. Usually its too little, too late to correct the impression. But good ideas, thanks!
I was going to suggest, as Kayty did, to close your eyes at times. OR, maybe not close them but use the "soft eyes" approach. that is, you kind of glaze over your pin point focus and start looking at the world with a kind of focus that includes your peripheral vision equally. So, you are taking in all the world around you equally, but you are focussed back in your body. So, you see enough of the world to not run into a wall, but you keep your focus internal; to you and your horse and the space you occupy at any one moment.
doing this will help you to FEEL how the horse moves through space. Like a skier, you can be moving forward straight, riding an edge, or you can be drifting sideways while going forward. Those can be felt easily . Try the soft eyes, or closed eyes, and see if you feel any drift.
I think if you're having issues on where the haunches are, then you don't have enough forward. This assumes you aren't accidentally cueing the horse to move it's haunches one direction or the other.
Anyway, I can't tell where the hip is if it's only off by just a slight amount. It's the other stuff that feels "off" that cues you in on there being a straightness issue. You can feel it in the reins sometimes (horse is heavier on one rein then the other), you can feel it in the relative power that is coming up through the horse's back (less power with same forward then the horse is not straight), and I can feel it in how my hips sit on the horse (it shoves my weight to one side so that it feels like I can't put my weight on that seat bone without consciously shoving it there).
Wiggly is training. Consistently off one direction is strength and suppleness issues. If it's not just wiggly (goes both sides consistently), then ask your instructor for exercises to help develop the carrying power, strength, of the leg. Like haunches-in, shoulder-fore, circles, etc. Then use those in your daily riding to help develop the horse's weak side until both legs are able to carry you equally. I did haunches left for 4 months straight because my horse's left hind was so weak. We never even touched haunches right that entire time because that leg was already strong from carrying all her weight for years.
p.s. You have a pretty condescending trainer to say "can't you feel that". If you could, then you would've fixed it or asked about it, right? If I ever have one talk to me like that I'd "accidentally" smack her with the whip next time around the arena. ;)
It's a wonderful thing if you have a good, workable trainer.
So does your instructor ask can you, or can't you? Can't you canter? Can't you bridle a horse?
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I do also think that an instructor asking if you can feel something is good teaching- but many people will simply give an untruthful "yes" just so that they can move on in their lesson. A good instructor, when told by a student that they do not understand something, should have more than just one analogy or way of explaining something as different people learn in different ways.
Ask your instructor to give a more detailed description other than just "I feel the energy", of course she does, she has been riding for much longer and knows what to be looking for, but that won't help you get any better! If she can't give a better explanation, use some of the tips already mentioned here.
It's a tough thing to pick out, but with time and practice you will get better at it. Good luck!
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My trainer asks if I can feel xxxx. She has never said, can't you feel. That would not be such a pleasant question!
Sometimes I am concentrating so hard I don't realize I am holding tension in my butt, probably from trying to make the (over) corrections. If I were to relax more to feel where my seat bones are - that would be helpful. Some of these habits are hard to undo. The issue is us wiggling. I am also noticing the shoulder taking a step slightly off to one side, and I do suspect there is some impulsion issue.
Sadly we are in a walk program for the next month as he heals from a soft tissue injury. We are working on half halts at the walk which is hard, for me, to feel the rebalancing. But that is another story. We are working on leg yield, shoulder fore also.
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