Macarena and Flamenca, 2015 - Page 31 - The Horse Forum
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post #301 of 404 Old 05-28-2016, 06:35 PM
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I wish you could see the long jumps from behind, if they are what Nala was doing. The funny part is how the hind legs kick out behind like this:


Great photos, your son is doing a very good job of riding and Flamenca looks beautiful cantering. Macarena has such a lovely mane!
Quote:
Nothing worse than hearing an odd noise in the distance and fighting to smother your internal fear of a possible imminent explosion underneath you. And no better way of achieving the said explosion than to expect it....
Very true about stress and nerves perpetuating between horse and rider. Also true that the invisible noises are much more concerning than things horses can see most of the time.
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post #302 of 404 Old 05-29-2016, 05:10 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gottatrot View Post
Great photos, your son is doing a very good job of riding and Flamenca looks beautiful cantering.
Thank you. I love seeing Flamenca enjoying herself. I struck lucky finding her. Despite the sad state of her hooves when I bought her and her continuing thin soles, despite the fact that she is prone to laminitis every spring and gets subsolar abscesses if I let her graze too much with Macarena, despite all that I wouldn't change her for a younger, sounder horse. She has just the right combination of safe schoolmaster together with speed, excitement and a bit of difficulty when you ask for it.

My son is learning in the "keep the horse between you and the ground" school of riding. When I think about how I learnt - endless lessons in a safe arena on 110% bombproof horses before I was considered ready to ride in the real world - and how he is learning - you mount up and you ride out - I can't help but be impressed by how well he rides. I have given him two lunge lessons (last summer), which is the sum total of his riding in a safe, controlled situation. Apart from that, all his riding has been out in the unconfined open spaces where I ride.

Flamenca is as safe as houses at the walk and trot, but ask her for a canter and the years fall away as she metamorphosis into a young, excitable horse again. My son still grabs onto the saddle with one hand at times for stability - as in the photo - but he has the feel for keeping his balance on a horse in motion which is a huge plus.



I love the look of enjoyment on his face here! Also a query. Does anyone know why the curb bit seems to be in action when his reins are floppy loose? Or maybe a moment before the photo he was using the reins and the bit still hasn't un-rotated.

.
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Originally Posted by bsms View Post
I also think, on the whole, riding instruction often fails to teach people how to stay on a horse. Most instructors grew up riding, and they do not understand how many important things they do without thinking. So instead of teaching important stuff - keeping the horse between you and the ground - they teach things likes "Toes front", or stress a vertical line from ear to shoulder to hip to heel...... Feeling your horse's center of gravity and staying relaxed would be more helpful, but many experienced riders do that without thinking - so they don't think to orient their lessons toward learning to do it!.... "good riding" has become defined as "what wins in shows with well trained horses and experienced riders" instead of what many new riders need - how to stay on a horse while defusing tense situations.
A great quote from bsms in gottatrot's journal. It's always helpful to hear other points of view about what is important in learning to ride - especially when I learnt so long ago that I can't even really remember the nuts and bolts of my learning process.

What is it about "heels down!" that is seen as being so important and is so oft-repeated to novices? I think that heels down is a great way of keeping your centre of gravity low and stable, but it isn't the position of the heels in themselves that is so important as keeping yourself solid and stable in the saddle. And the same with toes front, elbows in, head up, shoulders square, and all the rest of it. These are all things that you need to do if you want you ride well, but perhaps concentrating on these separate details is distracting for a learner rider who really needs to be working on his balance as a whole.
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post #303 of 404 Old 05-30-2016, 07:47 AM
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Maybe because I've never ridden at "show barns" as an adult, I'm actually fortunate that I never had the kind of instructional experience that @bsms described. I've taken sporadic lessons over the past 10 years, but all of them seemed to be with people who believed in the "centered riding" approach. While some used Sally Swift's visualization approach more than others, I did spend a lot of time riding stirrupless, or with eyes closed to better tune in to the horse's motion and my body alignment. (To be fair, ear-shoulder-hip-heel alignment is a big part of centered riding, so I guess I did experience that. It generally makes sense to me when I'm riding in the arena, and feels comfortable and balanced. Not sure I'd say the same thing when Izzy is flying across the fields and then I'm standing in some sort of half-seat/jockey crouch to stay with her ;) I can't imagine trying to properly sit her canter in that situation...)

When I started teaching beginner kids, I guess I adopted those techniques without really thinking about it. The instructor training I had deeply emphasized giving a "why" to instructions, so you don't end up like a drill sargent directing traffic from the middle of the ring. So I guess I've been lucky in that way.

Where I agree with you and bsms is wishing I had experienced riding outside of the arena much earlier on. It's great your son has the experience to learn like this! It was many months into owning Isabel before I was "brave" enough to even ride her up and down the barn's driveway. I had ridden on trails before, and even went on a fairly intense 3-day horse trekking trip over varied terrain in Ireland, but I think I had a mental block to riding out and riding on my own. And I didn't know Izzy well enough at that point to really trust her. In the arena, she was very forward and I sometimes felt like she was running away with me. So that worried me. Looking back, the first couple of rides out on our own, I'm sure I had a death grip on her mouth "just in case." Thankfully she's very forgiving!

I do wonder why there aren't more proper lessons with instructors riding out hacking or on more difficult trails one-on-one with students to help them process what's happening and how to react. Is that common anywhere? I can't think of any barns I know that offer that.
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post #304 of 404 Old 05-30-2016, 11:06 AM
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The Army taught riding by having a 5-10 minute talk by the instructor. Then everyone rode out behind the instructor, and he led them where he thought they would be challenged but not overwhelmed...although it they were, they were in the Army so tough!

Many rules come from competition, which means the artificiality of competitions then create an unnatural way of riding. The shoulder-hip-heel rule is designed for the up/down motion of a collected horse, and it is a good rule - for dressage. Once one gets used to it, it works OK on the trail too...but better than something else?

I find that once I'm used to something, it becomes "right" for me. I got used to riding with my stirrups long enough that, when sitting stretched out in the saddle in my socks (on a saddle stand), the floor of the stirrup barely touches my heel. That came about because bracing against my stirrups had become my big problem, and lengthening my stirrups until bracing was impossible fixed that problem.

But I've been trying to shorten them because A) everyone says the stirrups should be shorter, and B) I do believe an inch or so shorter (about 2 holes of adjustment) would make it easier to balance. But I've gotten so used to my current position that I find it hard to change without it feeling "wrong". In fact, I tend to go back to bracing and straining my knees. Part of me thinks I should ride with them shorter until my mind and body gets used to it. Another part of me wonders why I worry about it. My weight is always mostly in my thighs, so I'm not sitting back with my weight on his loins. And lots of folks have ridden without stirrups, and many recommend practicing that way...so why is a very long stirrup "wrong"?

I believe this painting goes back to 1810. The guy who made it was an experienced rider. The toes are down because (I think) they rode with slick metal stirrups and slick leather soled boots, and toes down kept the stirrups from coming off.



Another one:



Other than riding deep with a long leg, that is pretty much the forward seat 80 years before Caprilli. And this one was a Rembrandt done in 1655:



I hate the way folks back then docked the tails, but...the position he is using could be found on a polo field today. And from the western side, these are a couple of stunt doubles on the old TV show Bonanza, racing their horses:



I don't know the answer. I know I get stuck in a rut, but I don't know if doing something different would improve my riding or not. I'd like to take some lessons in jumping, but I have no idea where I would find decent lessons around where I live. That would certainly shake up my riding, but does it matter to the horse? Was VS Littauer right, and the only real test of a position be that it allows you to move "in fluid balance" with your horse (and be able to cue your horse the way you desire)?

I wish I were trying to figure this out at 20 instead of at 58, though...

It looks like your son, though, is figuring it out - what he needs to do to feel right, as taught by the horse!

Curb bits rotating: A curb bit will rotate very freely in the mouth until the curb strap tightens and the rotation stops. The weight of slack reins is plenty of pressure to rotate the curb bit. If the curb bit has straight shanks, and the horse's head is not vertical, then the weight of the reins will pull the end of the shank under the mouthpiece of the bit, rotating it. This is a picture of Mia where that happened:



That is why I switched to curb bits with a bend in the shank. That way, the weight of the reins will balance the bit prior to rotation. I was using it as a snaffle in the picture below, but notice how the end of the shank is under the mouthpiece when Bandit's head is at its resting position:



In that position, I can pull back on the reins and rotate the bit 45 degrees without any pressure in the mouth. That gives the horse warning, or what western riders call 'signal' - "I'm asking politely, but I'll demand in a moment". If the horse obeys the signal, the cue is given without any real pressure in the mouth. If the horse ignores the signal, then the cue become stronger.

However, the bit rotates so easily that it WILL rotate before I get all the slack out. In the picture below, the weight of the rein sliding was enough to rotate the bit in her mouth until the curb strap tightened:


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post #305 of 404 Old 05-30-2016, 11:32 AM
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Bondre, I love the photos of your son riding.

It's rather embarrassing to admit, but I had my first "open riding" experience for the first time in my life two years ago. Prior to that it had all been confined to an arena, or the occasional, single file (regardless of pace), trail ride. There was something very freeing about the experience, and I wish I were in a place to have the again.

Your horses are absolutely stunning, and looking through the pics you have taken brings me more joy than I can say.
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post #306 of 404 Old 06-12-2016, 02:36 AM Thread Starter
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Life is busy and I'm sorry I haven't had the time to reply to everyone's comments. Please be assured that I enjoy reading all the contributions here!

Egrogan, so true what you say about new riders needing help to get out of the arena. Riding outside is a while different skill set, and yet I suppose most novices learn only in the arena. Then it's your problem how to transfer your knowledge of horse-riding to keep safe in a completely different situation.

I learnt so long ago that I can't remember many details of my lessons. I have a faint memory of being taken round the fields in early lessons, but still not quite the same as trail riding, and in any case the ponies were 110% bombproof and the fields were safe and familiar. When my parents bought me a horse I started hacking out under supervision, in company of the BO, but I don't know if that would have been a possibility on a lesson horse. I can imagine your first time out on Izzy - as a thinking, worrying adult - was quite nerve-wracking. It's so much easier to do these things as kids when you neither think much nor worry. Good on you for working through the fear and getting out into the countryside!

I had a great ride on Macarena the other evening. I'm delighted to say that we are now over the hump of her barn sourness, and although she still tries things on a bit, she's not committed to her protests. She does it more out of habit and to see if I'll give in and let her have her way. But when I say no, we're doing it my way, she doesn't get dangerous like she was doing several months ago. No running backwards, sidling under trees to get me off, or threatening to rear. What a relief! I hated all that business.

We went on a figure of eight route which took us out into the pine forest, round the block and back to the solar farm. There's a crossroads in the track here with one track leading straight home, which of course was her choice, and another track leading off alongside the solar farm and which is another round the block route, which was my choice. We had a brief discussion and I just had time to think "I've got to win this argument whatever" when she gave in. Just a few steps from the crossroads there's a patch of grass that she likes so I let her have five minutes grazing as a reward. Of course she kept trying to nose towards home while she was grazing, doing it casually as if she was merely seeking it the tastiest stems - which always happened to be behind her lol. Every time she tried to swing around and face back to the crossroads I blocked her and suggested equally tasty stems in my direction. So funny how you can see them trying to fool you!

We did a lot of trotting, mostly away from home but thanks to our figure of eight route I also did some trotting towards home. She tries to speed up and do an enormous trot but I turn her head and leg yield her a step and she slows down for a few paces, then tries it again. I can so understand how Halla learnt to go forwards with her head and neck sideways. It seems instinctive to me to do this to slow within the gait, but I'll have to be careful or I'll end up with Macarena corkscrewing her neck on me too.

We met a tractor and she stopped politely and waited for it to pass. A dog that followed us barking was a bit more bothersome, but when it got too close and her ears were right back I turned her to face it and we chased it off. She enjoyed seeing the dog turn tail - she's not a dog fan. My mastiff Astrid accompanied us today, so of course the other dog soon came back and they both had a great romp through the lettuce fields. The lettuce has been harvested and the remains of the crop are waiting for the sheep to raze the field, and the dogs thought it was a perfect place to play. We were very close to home at this point and I let Macarena graze in the verge while I watched their antics. Flamenca was in earshot, and was being noisy, but Macarena didn't take much notice which shows me that - finally - she is just as happy in my company as in the company of her boss mare.

I've taken both of them out to graze in the big fields where I used to school Macarena and where she got freaked by the dirt bikes. Most of the weeds there are inedible but we've found a few acceptable patches, and the good thing about these fields is that they lead right up to the horses' corral, with only an infrequently-transited track between, so I felt confident to leave Macarena loose and hold on to Flamenca. Normally I hold Macarena's lead because I know that Flamenca won't do anything unexpected and I feel confident to leave her loose even when they're grazing beside the track.

Macarena is a fidgety grazer. She likes to move around a lot looking for the best mouthfuls, not like Flamenca who eats like a lawn-mower. Soon she was far away from us, she gave herself a scare and came bombing back towards us for safety. I was pleased to see her reaction - when in doubt, run to mum and the boss mare, they'll make everything ok.





On our return journey, she took off a couple of times, cantering for the sheer fun of it (the old lady's so boring and slow lol). Then she waited for us to catch up. The last time she headed off we were close to the corral, she cantered right up to the gate, swung around and headed back our. But instead of coming back into the field she went into the peach plantation that runs alongside the fields. The peach trees are separated by fairly narrow aisles, way too narrow to turn at the canter, and Macarena was going at speed so I wondered what she would do. She either had to calm down enough to stop and turn, or she had to gallop right down to the far end (at least 400m) where she'd be able to turn and come back. Of course, that's what she did. Flamenca and I were arriving at the corral when we heard drumming hooves in the trees and Macarena appeared, still at the gallop, in a different aisle. This time she galloped straight across the track and into the corral where she stopped and gave a tense snort of high excitement and alarm. I was just in time to get Flamenca in and shut the gate before Macarena thought of heading out again for more fun.

The next time I took them out to graze in those fields, I left Macarena loose again but she didn't so much as break into a trot, not even on the way home when a combine harvester passed on the nearby road. I think that gallop left her very relaxed! I believe that every horse needs to be unrestrained in a large area from time to time, to get the itch out of their heels - and half an hour in those fields is the best I can offer her.
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post #307 of 404 Old 06-12-2016, 12:10 PM Thread Starter
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I have been thinking about the 'ideal' leg and body position, prompted by the discussion in bsms' journal, and decided to post about this here (so as not to clutter up someone else's journal with photos of me lol).

What I wrote in https://www.horseforum.com/member-jou...622121/page27/

About lower leg position, I too have evolved into the 'incorrect' position of a more forward lower leg. As you say, it's a good, secure position for sitting out spooks or silliness. It makes posting harder as your foot isn't under your centre of gravity, so I find myself leaning forward slightly to compensate. So all in all, I wouldn't bring home any prizes nowadays in a show class as my riding has become more functional than elegant. But I stick on the horse and communicate effectively, which is what is more important to me at this juncture in my life than looking stylish. My leaning forward bugs me a bit, but it seems to be the inevitable consequence of keeping my feet forward, which I do positively prefer.

Photos of me with lower leg and upper body forward in a delicate situation and at faster gaits for added security and ease of anticipating unexpected movements on Macarena's part.




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Bsms posted this photo in his post above, to illustrate riders with their toes emphatically down on the hunting field.



The painting also shows them with my preferred leg forward position. None of them have a straight line from their shoulders to hips to ankles. Nor will you see many riders in that 'correct' position if you go on the hunting field today. I hunted occasionally as a teenager, and while I wasn't paying attention to people's position on the horse, I know that anyone in that straight position would have stood out like a sore thumb.

Another photo from the past: this was me doing cross-country in my teens.



We're not on the flat so obviously the straight line rule doesn't apply, but again see how far forward my lower leg is. It's a fairly safe position if the horse makes a mistake on landing, or clips the jump with the front feet which makes them lurch under you. Those jumps are solid, they don't fall apart if you touch them like in show jumping.

Note that the forward lower leg is not enough to save you if your horse refuses a jump or swerves violently. It helps, but if all that forward motion suddenly converts into sideways motion nothing will keep you in the saddle except a seat belt Been there and done that and seen my horse's belly above me.

So my conclusion is that the concept of the correct position as being the a straight line from shoulder to hip to ankle is only applicable to riding on the flat in an enclosed space on level ground; ie: in an arena. It's a useful guideline for a beginner to use until they find their balance on the horse. But amongst non- novice riders, I doubt you'll see it widely respected outside of the confines of the dressage arena.
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post #308 of 404 Old 06-12-2016, 12:25 PM
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^^Look at you flying over that timber @Bondre ! Gorgeous photo.

Funny, I was thinking about @bsms ' journal while riding today too :) I think I still tend to ride with an "aligned" lower leg (i.e., heel under hip under shoulder) but what I've been noticing about myself lately is that I've almost lost the ability to sit a canter because I always ride it in a half seat on the trails. Isabel can be a little choppy when she's not in a manicured arena, and it just feels much more comfortable to get up off her back instead of getting jostled in the saddle. But I noticed the other day when I was warming up in the arena, when I asked her to canter, it was almost automatic that I came up into a half seat. I tried to make myself sit and it was not a pretty sight. I guess I've created tension in my body somewhere, but when I do it the "wrong" way, I feel perfectly secure and in sync with her movement.

I wish I could arrange for an evening of riding and some post-riding dinner and drinks with all the interesting people on this Forum! There would be so much to discuss :)
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post #309 of 404 Old 06-13-2016, 06:19 AM
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I've been thinking a lot about this...why the forward leg position is not incorrect. It isn't, it can't be, because all the excellently balanced riders I know ride this way.

When I stand, my toe is not under my knee. My foot juts out in front of my leg. When I squat down without holding onto something, my pelvis is behind my heels, not over them. I can only keep my heel underneath my pelvis if I do not have bend in my knee. Since we need some bend in our joints in order to ride balanced and well, as we add bend the leg goes forward, which is anatomically correct.
If you really look at this rider, you can see there isn't any actual balance: If this horse takes off, the upper body is going to go backwards, and the lower leg is going to either swing back or forward to try to compensate.


We're not balanced with our leg back that far. Which is why as people become better riders, I believe they automatically abandon the "proper riding position" alignment. As I've learned all too well, if your lower leg is too far back, when the horse takes off or leaps your lower leg pivots backward. This often throws your upper body off balance. Having your leg in front of you (in proper balance) means you have a stable base of support that compensates for all the horse's movements. Having your leg "underneath you" means having your leg somewhere around this position:

That's regardless of short stirrup, long stirrup, etc. And no need for the heels to be down so low...are you trying to have your foot on the stirrup or behind it?

Otherwise, when your horse does this, your lower leg will swing back instead of allowing you to stand up over your base of support.
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post #310 of 404 Old 06-13-2016, 10:23 AM
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I beleive the shoulder-hip-heel thing comes from dressage, where the goal is to ride a very collected horse. A very collected horse doesn't cover much ground, but it has a lot of up/down motion. If you want to ride an up/down motion smoothly, keeping your body up/down helps.

But then, a good dressage horse shouldn't bolt, spin, twist sideways or do ANYTHING that wasn't specifically asked for, let alone totally unexpected. But once you leave the arena, or ride an inexperienced horse...well, horses do that. I'd go further, and suggest the very vertical position of dressage is intended to show their confidence that their horse will never surprise them or do anything unexpected.

This is my attempt to show the base of support, starting with a diagram from the last US Cavalry instruction manual:



I added a blue line for a dressage seat (which the US Cavalry did not teach), and an orange one for a western seat (which they also did not teach). From what I've seen, western riders TEND to use a straighter leg to the front. Since they do not want to jump, they do not need the folded position with its "hinges" for getting out of the saddle or for absorbing the shock of impact. Instead, one uses a vertical body for slower speeds (staying a little behind the horse's motion), and then simply lean forward to go faster.

These were stunt riders for the old TV show "Bonanza". In particular, the guy in the rear is kind of like what I've seen a lot of western riders do for speed. The guy in front is probably gripping with the knee (IMHO) and might be in for a nasty surprise if his horse suddenly stopped or swerved:



One nice aspect of a forward leg is that it pulls your center of gravity forward without moving your upper body. If the goal is to match your center of gravity to the horse's, and the horse's center of gravity moves forward with speed, then there are two practical ways of adjusting yours - with upper body, or lower. The least disturbance would come by moving both lower and upper, which is why (I think) the rider in the rear has a more vertical body than the guy in front.
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