Critique away horse and rider
hi, I'm relatively new to this forrum. This is brandy my new thoroughbred mare. She is 7yrs and she was bought from cooma horse sales this year. Don't know much about what she has done, but from the way she acts on the ground and when beinbg ridden out, I'd say she hasn't done much. A lovely quiet mare but is nervy with a lot of things. However she usually just stops to look or will jump forward. I have always just trail ridden, but now want to start with a bit of dressage. I'm sure there is lot's to critique hope you have enough room LOL.
1) In a few of thos epictures I see Piano hands. Put you thumbs up a little bit more ^^
2) Heels down. They aren't as bad as a lot of people but there's always room for improvement.
3) Put your hands down a little bit. They should be closer to the whithers. And also, spread them out. They don't need to be right next to each other ^^
Ok biggest stand out to me about your riding is your hands and upper body. Not so much 'piano' hands, but that you are tending to carry your hands in towards your belly button, which in turn creates hunched shoulders, makes you lean forward, grip with your knees therefore putting the horse on the forehand.
To combat this, as I said in the last critique thread I commented on, it starts with lifting your chest. Imagine you have a pretty bow in the middle of your bra. Now focus on lifting that bow and inch higher. Lifting your chest, rather than jamming your shoulders back and down, will allow the shoulders to fall back into place without tension.
When you can comfortably ride with your chest lifted and shoulders relaxed, you need to concentrate on where your hands are. At the moment, you are putting yourself off balance and setting up for disaster if your horse starts playing up. Riding with your hands at your belly button with locked elbows is one of the easiest ways to be pulled off a horse if it suddenly kicks up its heels.
Push your hands out in front of you so that they're over her wither, thumbs as the highest part of your hand, and imagine that your elbows have weight tied to them that are always putting downward pressure on the elbow joints. Ideally you want your hands to be carrying very little weight, and your elbows to be the heaviest part of your arms. In this position, you will then have a much faster reaction time, and more space to move your hands should anything go wrong. If your mare decided to take off on you, and your hands were at your belly, where else can you move them? Where as if your hands are being carried with heavy elbows, over her wither, you can move them up, sideways etc.
You want to be riding from your legs towards her head, not pulling her head back to your legs ;)
I have a suspicion that your stirrups are too long as well (although I may be wrong, as it's very hard to see your legs in the photos). Take your feet out of the stirrups and let your legs hang down. The bottom of the stirrups should knock against your ankle 'nobble'/joint. Any longer than this and you will be unable to correctly apply your leg aids, and weight aids will be useless.
In the first photo I am guessing you're the rising phase of rising trot. I am also guessing that as you sat in the next stride, you thumped down quite solidly on her back and your lower legs swung backwards?
The BEST exercise to help you find your centre of balance, if to stand up in your stirrups. It's a killer, yes, but it works! Start at halt and have someone hold your mare for you. Stand up in your stirrups without hanging onto the front of your saddle. If feels easy, you're not standing up straight enough! You should be able to stand, with your weight in your heels, your back straight and shoulders aligned with your hips. Unless you can do this, you are not in correct balance, and will put putting the horse on the forehand and making them crooked.
Once you can do this exercise at halt, do it at walk. Walk and walk and walk until you can stand upright without falling down into the saddle or having to grab.
When you master it at work, try it at trot.
When you can do this easily, your centre of balance will be a million times better, and you'll find that your rising trot improves out of sight.
Thumping down on the horse's back is only going to give them a sore back, encourage them to hollow out, travel on the forehand etc.
I won't comment on your mare's way of going at this stage, as there is little point in giving you a list of exercises and things to work on, until your position has improved. You can ride transitions 'till the cows come home in the hope that she'll come off the forehand, but in reality it is impossible for her to work effectively when you're not yet in balance and allowing her to move forward freely. It will come, don't panic!
Thanks heaps. Balance I know is my biggest problem. I am aware of my bouncing on her back and try extremly hard not to thump on her back as I am no light weight. I used to be guilty of riding with straight elbows, I guess I have gone too far the other way now. Will definatly work on that excersise as i would like to make my ride more pleasurable for my horse as well. I am planning on getting lessons to correct my fault but not for another couple of weeks
Kayty: I didn't know that excersize could help you find your center of gravity. How cool is that!!! I was always taught to ride bareback constantly to help find my center of gravity. I have really good balance, but I'm going to test that out with the excersize you mentioned haha.
Maz78: I agree with everything Kayty said. Also, along with doing the excersize she mentioned, try riding bareback quite often. That really, really helps a lot as well. I learned real quick to just relax my lower back and let my hips flow with the movement. Sometimes, I feel I could fall asleep trotting bareback and let me tell ya...my horse does not have a smooth trot haha...but her jog is pretty nice. Good Luck! Let us know how you progress.
Bareback is good on the right horse, but on a mare like the OP's I don't think it would be suitable. The mare does not know how to use her back, to soften etc. and the OP has a lot of tension. I think riding bareback at this stage would only exaggerate the problems they are experiencing now, as bareback can often lead to MORE tension not less, particularly if the horse isn't super quiet.
Haha you would be surprised at how difficult that exercise is! Particularly if you try doing it at trot and canter, but it most certainly helps you balance, you won't thump down in the saddle in rising trot again if you can master standing in perfect balance in your stirrups. The thumping down in the sitting phase is due to lack of balance during the rise, much like being left behind over a jump. So if a rider can get a feel for their centre of gravity over the horse while standing, it makes rising trot as easy as 1 2 3 ;)
Kayty has pretty much picked out everything I saw but I think that saddle is a bit small for you and could be affected your centre of balance even more. You should be able to fit one hand behind you and the cantle. I've ridden in too small saddles and I know it can definitely affect your riding and the horse.
kayty I love that exersize, I used it to help me keep my heels down as well, my calves were burning afterwards, needless to say it helps a ton with staying in the saddle, among other things. many people will say "heels down" but many also don't do it correctly, but it means to put all your weight in your heels, not the balls of your feet, it will help your position and make life easier for rising trot and cantering
brighteyes, yes you want heels down, but if you push all your weight down into your heels you'll end up in a hunter/jumper position with lower legs pushed forward. From a dressage perspective, the heels should carry the weight, but not be forced right down.
have been trying the excercise and it's way more didfficult than it sounds LOL. But I'm getting there, the legs are killing thou!. I was riding in my all purpose saddle for the photo's cause it was only my 3rd ride on her and in the past have been more confortable in it but now am comfortable with her and back in my dressag saddle which I have found better on her anyway. I feel my trot is much better with concentrating on putting my chest out rather than shoulders back, and also are working on keeping my hands forward. Will post some more photo's hopefully this week when i can get someome to take some, to see if my position has improved at all. I am going to get lessons but the instructor I am using isn't free for 2 1/2 weeks. So I would like to improve b4 then. Thanks heaps
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