The goal is really just to get us to the point where we can do cross country or jump courses just for fun and perform some dressage moves. He's never going to be a refined dressage horse.
Iíll preface with I donít do the all-around general English riding. I ride hunters, then I ride dressage. To different horses, two different saddles. So the half in between base position isnít my forte, but basics are basics.
I'm riding a treeless because it's what his owner wants him in. She says this treeless has fitted better than any professionally fitted treed saddles she's bought for him and I'm not in a position to buy him more tack at the moment.
Thatís unfortunate. Iíve never ridden in one but ever impression Iíve had of them is not great.
Position has been a big struggle for me on this horse/ using this saddle. I can feel the trot is really awkward compared to when I ride in a school, I just didn't know what to do about it. I'll keep working on my core to strengthen myself and try these exercises!
Donít let yourself get caught in a mental loop of ďI canít do this because my saddle doesnít let meĒ. I think shortening the stirrup one would help with the rising trot too(going off memory).
Okay, the stirrups are long to try and keep my leg down in flatwork. I'll take your advise and move them up a couple of holes next time I practise two-point and/or jumps. The thing is, we've not been told any of this in lessons and my RI just tells me not to worry about this kind of thing yet. So this advise is super good, thank you.
Long stirrup does not a long leg make. The length of the leg is determined by the muscle length, not physical length. This sucks for people with short legs(*cough*Like me*cough*) because when we shorten our legs involuntarily it is really obvious. People gifted with those lovely long Dressage legs get away with having short muscles because their leg appears to be long so no one questions it. It is better to have a shorter stirrup that you are secure in, than a long stirrup that you have to reach and strain for that destabilizes the rest of your seat.
You can drop your stirrups(walk or trot), move your leg around, get it relaxed and on the horse, then take back your stirrups and feel the difference. It gets really obvious after youíve been trotting without stirrups, are a little bit tired, and take your stirrups back. They are usually 1-2 holes too short then. BUT, the trick is maintaining that length. So lots of back and forth dropping and picking up stirrups.
BUT, if you decide to trot w/o, you need to watch that you are not gripping with the knees to stay on. That defeats the purpose and shortens the muscles back up. If your horse is reliable and you have a smaller area(or feel you can steer well enough), cross your stirrups, put the reins in one hand and down in the neck(other can go on the pommel or elsewhere when you are more comfortable), and trot a 20m circle while swinging your legs. This does multiple things: helps you find your center through your seat, reduces your reliance on the knees and legs to grip and hold on, and teaches you to move and unlock the hips. This is great to do on the lunge line, but not everyone has that luxury, so you can give yourself a lunge line lesson.
(Iím speaking in context of a dressage leg, jumping legs differ a bit, but that exercise will not hurt.)
Move your stirrups up and down during your ride(within reason). Work on your flat with the longer leg, then shorten the stirrups when you want to do pole work or jumps.When you are working up in the two point, your toes can turn out a bit to anchor the lower leg. Itís a two point, two points of contact, two calves.
Itís unfortunate that your instructor hasnít broached any of these topics, but not uncommon. Lots of instructors either donít understand it themselves, or donít think it needs to be part of the foundation. But that being said, Iíve only seen a couple short clips of you ride. Maybe what I am telling you is way over your head and not appropriate. Maybe not. Canít say.
Right, so release just over the pole and try to collect again after it? Again, we've not been taught anything about crest release - do you slide your hands up the neck, as in, touching the neck? Or just make the forward movement?
The crest release is where you reach your hands forward along the crest of the neck and rest them there(not weighting them though) for the duration of the jump. I would advise to grab mane as well, to solidify the release and protect your horseís mouth from any missteps. There will be slack in the rein for those moments. Once you get better, you can move away from the crest release, but for now it is the best way for you to learn.
In a perfect world, you give your release as your horse pushes up over the fence, then take it back when they land. At a learning level, you can exaggerate that. Give the release 1-2 strides before the pole, over the pole, and 1-2 after the pole. This reinforces the idea of stillness. Often the release causes riders to throw their bodies around and that is what will cause missteps and rails. Your horse should be steady enough in the canter that you do not need to be holding them for every stride. You can test this on the flat by releasing the inside rein for a stride or two and see their reaction. If they stay the same, great. If they change then you need to work on the quality of the canter.
I think I'll work on my seat a lot more before I try him on a jump again. Especially keeping relaxed and giving him his head in canter so I get the movement. I need to learn all my body parts can move independently and are not just a set.
It is never a bad idea to focus on flat work
So is it futile to try and keep my toes forward or should I still be practising it? I've got no option to get a new saddle so I can only try and adapt to this one better.
I wonít say itís futile. I donít have enough information, couldnít unless we were in person(and to a certain degree what you feel). If this is the case, you may have to work harder. Do keep trying to rotate the leg in(from the hip, not just the toes). Just as often it is the hips being tight and not used to being in that position.