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post #1 of 19 Old 04-02-2017, 06:09 PM Thread Starter
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Honest, Hard Critique

So I'd really appreciate as much critique as you guys are willing to give from all your different backgrounds and abilities! I ride English in a treeless saddle, which has taken me a lot of getting used to. I've been riding consistently for nearly 2 years and I took this horse on about 7 months ago. He hadn't been worked consistently for about 5 years, since his owner was unable to ride him any more. Since then he's had various riders on and off, and hadn't had a rider for about a year I think, before I took him on. He was very stiff, very unbalanced and didn't have much muscle so we've been working on the ground a lot as well as riding. I've been reading Marijke de Jong's straightness training to get him balanced and bending well and it's helped a lot. Basically though, I'm completely new to horse training so I'd appreciate tips and exercises to help with getting him to achieve his potential as well as achieving my own.

I hope these videos aren't too bad, I do apologise that it looks a bit distant but I can only film myself using my GoPro and I zoomed in as far as GoPro studio would allow me. I have no friends either so I'm on my own with this one, haha. I've slowed the video down to about 60% so you can see the movement a bit easier.

This one is a quick rising-trot. I find trot very difficult on Sam because he's a very bouncy trot and because I'm still not 100% on the treeless saddle yet. I feel like I'm leaning forward a tad too much and not entirely rhythmic with him?

This is a canter over pole/30 cm jump video. I'm completely new to jumping and Sam hasn't done polework or jumping in many years so he's a bit rusty in this area.

And this is a canter on the other rein with a two-point at the start (which I'm still practising).

I do think I need to work on keeping my leg a bit more still, which I don't think you can really see because of how far away the video is. I also need to work on keeping my hands a bit more still and I think that will improve just with my getting used to the treeless. There are other things that I think I need to improve on but I'd like to hear your opinions, too :)
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post #2 of 19 Old 04-02-2017, 10:13 PM
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your self assessment is good.

but, it's hard to just stay, "keep my lower leg still" and make it happen. Same for hands. those things are more a result of having a solid seat .

I think with the treeless saddle, you need to spend more time sitting down into the saddle, and by doing that, you will have more weigh go down all the way into the leg, and it will become more still, as a result.
hands become more still when the elbw become more flexible, and when the seat becomes more solid.

all in all, I think you're doing a great job. the horse does not step under himself very far. it could just be the way he is built. is her part draft?
when he approaches a jump, he seems a bit anxious, and he sort of 'bunny hops' a bit with his hind legs, which makes me think it's possible he is a bit uncomfortable somewhere back there that makes jumping not a lot of fun for him.

but, all in all, I think you're doing rather well.

I think maybe I'd work more with that horse doing more tranisitions, serpentines, backing up, doing lateral work and things like that which will engage his mind and his back . that might help more than just going over a jump.
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post #3 of 19 Old 04-03-2017, 05:12 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you for your feedback!

Quote:
Originally Posted by tinyliny View Post
your self assessment is good.
I think with the treeless saddle, you need to spend more time sitting down into the saddle, and by doing that, you will have more weigh go down all the way into the leg, and it will become more still, as a result.
hands become more still when the elbw become more flexible, and when the seat becomes more solid.
That's great, thank you! I find sitting in the treeless much harder than the treed saddles (in my lessons) but I know I shouldn't avoid doing it. It's great to know that those things can improve just by developing a better seat. I end by doing a few laps of sitting trot but I can't take much of it at the moment because it get so painful so quickly.

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Originally Posted by tinyliny View Post
the horse does not step under himself very far. it could just be the way he is built. is her part draft?
I don't honestly know what he's a cross of, just that he has Connemara in him. He is very wide to sit on, hence my difficulty in sitting trot. He didn't step under himself very well at all when I first started working with him so it might be that he needs more exercises to help that? I've been doing a lot of groundwork over the winter with haunches in, shoulder in and I do a few minutes before I ride. According to his owner, the other people who rode him after her weren't interested in working with him (they didn't even groom him), they just wanted to canter fast.

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Originally Posted by tinyliny View Post
when he approaches a jump, he seems a bit anxious, and he sort of 'bunny hops' a bit with his hind legs, which makes me think it's possible he is a bit uncomfortable somewhere back there that makes jumping not a lot of fun for him.
I think you're right that he's a bit anxious, he has always struck me as being an anxious horse with everything new we've done together. Like I said, I think his riding past was a bit sketchy and other people (away from his owner) haven't necessarily treated him with respect and kind. But having said that I can really feel the energy in him when he knows we have the jump up so I assumed he liked jumping. He used to do cross country occasionally though, so maybe his response is just conditioned? This is only the third time he's jumped a small jump in over 5 years so could the bunny hops be a lack of appropriate muscle? I'll bear in mind that he might have a problem and have a chat with his owner.

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Originally Posted by tinyliny View Post
I think maybe I'd work more with that horse doing more tranisitions, serpentines, backing up, doing lateral work and things like that which will engage his mind and his back . that might help more than just going over a jump.
I'm already doing a lot of transitions/backing up/lateral work so I'm glad to hear that's the right thing to be doing! I don't do a lot of serpentines because the field is square and it's hard to fit them in (mentally plan for them) but I will keep trying to get it right! Thanks!
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post #4 of 19 Old 04-03-2017, 07:16 AM
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I think you're doing really well. I'd keep working as you are and would expect to see improvements in the horse.

What kind of treeless do you have? I've ridden in a couple different styles and I also find them more difficult to ride in. I didn't have trouble with the stability of the saddle on the horse, but found that the slight amount of "bounce" in the padding versus having a hard tree made my core a little less strong - a bit more like riding bareback. This meant a little more "muscle" used to stabilize myself in the saddle. My horses like treeless saddles and move really well in them.
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post #5 of 19 Old 04-03-2017, 08:01 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gottatrot View Post
I think you're doing really well. I'd keep working as you are and would expect to see improvements in the horse.

What kind of treeless do you have? I've ridden in a couple different styles and I also find them more difficult to ride in. I didn't have trouble with the stability of the saddle on the horse, but found that the slight amount of "bounce" in the padding versus having a hard tree made my core a little less strong - a bit more like riding bareback. This meant a little more "muscle" used to stabilize myself in the saddle. My horses like treeless saddles and move really well in them.

Thank you! It's nice to hear that we're already doing some of the appropriate exercises since I've just got the internet to refer to on his training.

It's a Trekker treeless but it's an older version. I have been having trouble lately with the saddle slipping sideways and backwards but he'd lost a lot of girth with our frequent exercises so I've had to punch a few more holes in the girth straps. It sits still again now so both of us have improved from that. You're right though, it feels just like bareback (but with a bit more grip under my legs) and my core definitely doesn't feel as strong! I lean forwards because of it, since I'm straining my core so much.

I also don't know if it's the saddle or the shape of Sam but I have a lot more trouble keeping my toes pointed forward.
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post #6 of 19 Old 04-03-2017, 06:30 PM
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Why are you riding in a treeless? What is your end goal, jumping or dressage?

The biggest things I am seeing is that you are not secure in your position. Position is king. Next is you are catching him in the mouth.

Your seat doesn't seem to be committed to either sitting or two-pointing when you canter, as a result just flops as he moves. Rising the trot, you throw yourself with each rise and are working too hard. You can see that in the movement of your legs and hands. Hold you core tighter and think about posting through your navel.

You just seem very loose, while simultaneously being tense. Seat and Core strengthening exercises would be beneficial. Swing the legs back and forth from the hips, just the legs, not the pelvis or body. Your outer thighs will die after a couple sets. Walk and trot. Helps your seat to sit. Leg long. Think about holding your core more. To strengthen your 2-pt, get up in it and open and close the hip angle without letting the legs grip at the knee, or slip back/forward.

Stirrups need to be shorter to jump properly. Your 'two-point' isn't a two point. Stirrups need to be up ~2 holes, seat out of the saddle, hands a touch more forward. If you are finding your lower leg unstable or with excessive motion, turn the toes out a bit. (In a two-point/half seat. The mechanics of the leg hangs differently if you are in a full seat. You need the flat part of your thigh turned into the saddle when in a full seat).

Watch the last video, as you go over the pole. See how he missteps over the pole with his hind? Then his lead falls behind? That was you with your hands. He came in a bit long to that distance and neededa release in order to step under more. The hind legs are connected to the mouth. That's (one reason) why turning with the inside rein is bad. You block the inside leg from moving. When you come up to the poles, give him a big crest release, like its a huge fence. You need to be doing crest releases until you are more secure in your position and core.

I think that is where the anxiety about the fences is largely coming from. You don't release and catch him in the face. While it's not a big fence, he doesn't have any room to round over it and lands short.

Trouble keeping toes forward in this saddle is likely in relation to the twist, or lack there of. He is a wide horse and you are a small person. Your hips can't spread wide enough to have a long leg without the femurs rotating out. I just had this problem with dressage saddles. Switched to a narrower twist and it was so much easier.

(I might be missing and poorly worded things. In class with limited time)
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post #7 of 19 Old 04-04-2017, 04:57 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you! You've really dissected my movement for me

Quote:
Originally Posted by ApuetsoT View Post
Why are you riding in a treeless? What is your end goal, jumping or dressage?
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.

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.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ApuetsoT View Post
The biggest things I am seeing is that you are not secure in your position. Position is king. Next is you are catching him in the mouth.

Your seat doesn't seem to be committed to either sitting or two-pointing when you canter, as a result just flops as he moves. Rising the trot, you throw yourself with each rise and are working too hard. You can see that in the movement of your legs and hands. Hold you core tighter and think about posting through your navel.

You just seem very loose, while simultaneously being tense. Seat and Core strengthening exercises would be beneficial. Swing the legs back and forth from the hips, just the legs, not the pelvis or body. Your outer thighs will die after a couple sets. Walk and trot. Helps your seat to sit. Leg long. Think about holding your core more. To strengthen your 2-pt, get up in it and open and close the hip angle without letting the legs grip at the knee, or slip back/forward.
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!

Quote:
Originally Posted by ApuetsoT View Post
Stirrups need to be shorter to jump properly. Your 'two-point' isn't a two point. Stirrups need to be up ~2 holes, seat out of the saddle, hands a touch more forward. If you are finding your lower leg unstable or with excessive motion, turn the toes out a bit. (In a two-point/half seat. The mechanics of the leg hangs differently if you are in a full seat. You need the flat part of your thigh turned into the saddle when in a full seat).
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.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ApuetsoT View Post
Watch the last video, as you go over the pole. See how he missteps over the pole with his hind? Then his lead falls behind? That was you with your hands. He came in a bit long to that distance and neededa release in order to step under more. The hind legs are connected to the mouth. That's (one reason) why turning with the inside rein is bad. You block the inside leg from moving. When you come up to the poles, give him a big crest release, like its a huge fence. You need to be doing crest releases until you are more secure in your position and core.

I think that is where the anxiety about the fences is largely coming from. You don't release and catch him in the face. While it's not a big fence, he doesn't have any room to round over it and lands short.
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?

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.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ApuetsoT View Post
Trouble keeping toes forward in this saddle is likely in relation to the twist, or lack there of. He is a wide horse and you are a small person. Your hips can't spread wide enough to have a long leg without the femurs rotating out. I just had this problem with dressage saddles. Switched to a narrower twist and it was so much easier.
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.
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post #8 of 19 Old 04-04-2017, 03:35 PM
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Quote:
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.


Quote:
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.

Quote:
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).


Quote:
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.

Quote:
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.

Quote:
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

Quote:
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.
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post #9 of 19 Old 04-04-2017, 04:14 PM
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I did not read all the comments so sorry if there are some repeats here.

I think you both look really good. On your trot work, he has really good impulsion, but I would say you could use a half halt to bring him back to you and and get him to step under himself and use his back more. Cavaletti will help with this, just lay out more ground poles in a grid and trot or walk over them.

I noticed he has a very odd canter in that last video, you can see it at 0:10-0:20. He is on his left lead, but he brings his right rear leg forward with his front left instead of his left rear. He is correct until he goes over the pole, and then his rear legs switch and are off. I think @tinyliny is right. Here is a picture of a normal canter, and he is doing the opposite of this horse with his rear legs.


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post #10 of 19 Old 04-05-2017, 02:07 AM
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@Apuesto if I ever were to take hunter lessons, I'd love for you to teach me!
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