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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey everyone! I haven't been on here in quite a while. Been busy riding and keeping up with school and preparing for an upcoming spring show that I will be competing in! Yay! My first english show! If you guys can critique my position and what you think of Cassie! She's 9 year old APHA.

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heels heels heels.
No helmet? I'd perfer a helmet consider even a good solid beginners horse can spook or who knows what happends. You could easily fall or the horse could trip and fall with you.

Other then that I like your horse your leg is nice beside the heel issue and your thumbs are up head up. and nice soid horse on the bit good job :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you for your critique! We aren't required to wear helmets when we're riding in the enclosed arena, but I understand people have different opinions on when to wear helmets. :) I know my heels are horrible here! They're usually my best feature ;) But I am breaking in these new field boots so they're still a bit uncomfortable. I've noticed that my lower leg is slipping forward a lot now and I don't like it.
 

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Ah ok! Well at every barn it should be required because its dangerous. but yea I undertstand about the leg thing :) I have a leg issue as well and I dont like it either haha
 

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First off, your horse is super cute! You two look like an excellent team - you are also a lovely rider with some errors, so I'm going to nit-pick to try and get you really thinking about exactly what can be corrected to vastly improve your riding. You have an excellent base, and with some fine-tuning, you'll be "wow."
I'm not going to comment on all the photos, just some.

1) Straight back!! See how your back is arched and hollowed out? You want a straight back with your shoulder, hip and heel in line. If your back is hollow, your are not riding with an effective seat; without an effective seat, you are an uneffective rider. Pick those hands up, and get contact with the bit, fingers closed, thumbs on top. This arched back (which stems from an incorrect pelvis) shows through all of your photos. In the following photos, your back is straight, but your pelvis is rotated. If you brought your shoulder back in line with your hip without rotating your pelvis, your back would look like it does in this photo.

2) First thing I notice is that your left shoulder is dropped compared to your right - you want your shoulders at equal height. Practice in front of a mirror at home, and learn what "correct" is. Hands up off the wither, fingers closed, thumbs on top.

4) Your reins appear too long, so you're compensating by bringing your elbow back and dropping your hands; shorten the reins a good 6 inches, pick your inside shoulder up, and bring your hands up off the wither. You're leaning forwards too much - keep in mind that you want your shoulder in line with your hip in line with your heel to be the most effective rider. You want to be able to develop a true "flat" seat, a true "light" seat, and a true "two point" - perching (like it appears you are in this photo) is ineffective. While your horse has her head down (I have to say it again, she's super cute - I'm enamored) she isn't tracking up, and isn't working through her back. Learn what "headset" versus "working through the body" means, and learn to love it. She'll go from looking "cute" to "WOW!" in no time.

6) I like this picture a lot. You appear to be well-balanced through your 'sit' bones. The one thing I don't like is the twist through your upper body. Square up those shoulders, bring your inside shoulder up and back. Again with the arms, bring them up off the wither, shorten reins, close your fingers, thumb on top.

8) This really illustrates why a perched seat is ineffective; unless you're in a light seat or two-point, you shouldn't see daylight between your butt and the saddle. Sit deep, and rotate your pelvis with the motion. The next frame would show your butt coming down into the saddle - you don't want that moment of non-contact. Heels back under your hip, and shoulder back in line with the hip - all hand-in-hand with an effective seat. Hands up, closed, thumbs on top. (PS - you can see this all in photo 9 too)

10) Here you can clearly see a loose outside rein, and an engaged inside rein that is about to pull across the wither. To be effective in this circumstance, you must offer support through the outside rein, and draw your inside rein straight back, no crossover. You can see the horse's response is to tip her nose in and chew at the bit rather than give you the shoulder. If you had been supporting with your outside aids, this photo would show her relaxing through the jaw rather than fighting, bending through the rib and giving the shoulder like you were asking. Toes forward. I like your upper body, except for your arms.

12) Base of support, base of support, base of support. You can see that your lower leg has slid back without providing any support, and you're compensating through your pelvis and upper body; you can also see the horse's response - to tighten up and raise her head. Contact, girl! You're riding english, and unless you're working on testing the horse's ability to keep itself in a frame without support, this lack of contact is hindering her rather than helping.

15) Same as 10, you can see her nose tipping in, but little response to your rein aid other than that. Adding outside aids will correct this.
 

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^^ Wonderful, Solid advice! Thumbs up to you, there's nothing else i can say besides...

Oh my gosh, that is a cuuute horse! She is gorgeous, has amazing build. I want!!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thank you soooo much, JustDressageIt! That was really good advice and I will definitely try and remember that I as I ride. I am really working on lengthening out her trot. Can you help me on that? Basically she trots fast and doesn't really step under farther. Granted, yes she is improving a lot since we first started but I'd really like to help her get there.

This is her first time going english! :)

Thank you everyone else for your compliments! She is a LOVELY mare! She has a bit of an attitude that some people don't like but I've learned how to handle that and we understand each other so its really fun when things are going great and learning to understand her helps me understand how to teach her. :)
 

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You're welcome!
Okay... *deeeeeep breath* Are you ready for this?
Your mare is currently very much working on the forehand. She cannot do any movements correctly when she's like this. She must learn to work through herself and achieve roundness, driving from the hind end, and impulsion first. Disclaimer: Don't worry about where her head is - since she doesn't know how to use her back correctly, she's going to need her head and neck to balance until she builds up the muscle and memory through her hindquarter and back. The head will literally fall into place with muscle and correct work.
Now... lengthening and extending stem from collection; the horse must must must be able to move on its hind end (rather than pull from the front) to achieve this movement. Collection and roundness go hand-in-hand. You cannot get true extension or lengthening without the horse working properly from behind. You cannot get the horse moving correctly from behind without you having a solid base (seat) and the horse accepting contact on the bit. See how this is all intertwined? Focus on you for the next little while, and get yourself set up with really solid legs and seat. Focus on getting her to accept the bit (read: accept and seek contact) before you expect her to be able to truly work through herself. Next, you want to look at the parts of the engine - is her hind end engaged? Can she supple through her ribcage and back? Do you have control of all four 'corners' of the horse?
Now, when you talk about lengthening stride and extending, you have to remember that the horse does not change tempo; she does not speed up, she simply must rock back on her hindquarters (collection!) and lengthen her stride out. If you were to ride this on pavement, you would not hear a change in the "clip-clop" tempo as you did this change, the only difference would be stride length.

Here are some exercises to work on:
1) Bend and counterbend. The most basic of exercises. Here you want to make sure you're getting bend through the entire body, not just tilting her head one way or the other. I work on bend and counterbend through my entire warmup and ride, it is SO important to be able to control the body; remember, the head and neck are nothing but a hood ornament, they don't control the body. So... while you're warming up at a walk and trot (to begin with) do some bends to the inside and out - remember, this all stems from your leg and seat, the hands are just a guide. Keep contact with the outside aids to support no matter what. Serpentines are your friend. Figure 8s with smaller circles throughout are good. 20-m circles with true bend and counterbend are excellent. Remember - seat and leg, then hand.
2) Straightness. Stand behind your horse (in a safe way) and in front of her. Notice that her shoulders are smaller across than her hind end. What does that translate to when you're riding on the rail in the arena when we talk about straightness? It means that her outside shoulder and outside hip cannot be in line for her to be straight. It means that you have to think about keeping her shoulders in the middle of her body for her to be able to work truly straight. This means that you will have to pick the outside shoulder up and bring it in a little - straightness is absolutely key to dressage and flatwork. If the horse isn't straight, you're going to have a hard time doing anything else correctly.
Here's a photo to illustrate my point:

See how the hindquarters are broader than the shoulder? You have to take this into consideration when riding. Mirrors along the longside are a handy tool for learning how to feel "correct."


Roundness. The big R. There are many threads on this forum pertaining to roundness, so I won't beat a dead horse and try to cover it here. I really do suggest going through and reading up on it, and how to get your horse to work through her back properly, as that is the cornerstone to collection and, ultimately, extension and lengthening stride.

*whew* I think I'll stop there for now. That's a lot to take in. Please feel free to ask questions, I'll be more than happy to answer :)

Oh! I do have one question for you - may I ask why you chose the Kimberwicke for your mare? The reason I ask is because in your photos showing her head down, she's breaking at the 3rd vertebrae, and isn't really "on the bit" in the sense of roundness. She is tucking her head, but not accepting contact, thus she is not on the bit. The bit, with its curb chain, might be part of the problem.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thank you for the information!

I have her in the kimberwick--which is not jointed--because she listens to it the most compared to plain snaffles. I tried putting her in a french-link loose ring snaffle and she ran right through it. I told my instructor about it and she suggested a gag bit. I worked about 3 weeks with her in that and that really helped her to loosen up and not be afraid to lean slightly into the bit and extend forward. She was very nervous with the kimberwick at first and you could easily tell she was hiding "behind it". I was then instructed to go back into the kimberwick in order to keep her "results" more consistent. She's finally more calm with the kimberwick and she's not afraid to put that slight "lean" into it.

Does that make any sense? If you have any bit suggestions, I'd be interested. I think the simpler bits are not enough for her but that just may be the opinion of someone not as experienced.
 

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If she goes best in the kimberwicke, then by all means use it... but I'm going to say that:
1) she appears to be ducking behind the bit; she might not accept contact as readily because of the chain
2) once you start to get more control over the body, rather than relying heavily on a bit, I bet you will find that you won't need the extra "umph"
 

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I thought you had on an interesting feathered hat in the first picture...hahah! Anyway, I feel the need to comment on this thread as your horse is the SPITTING IMAGE of my friend's QH mare, Catey. Like, identical. Same build, same movement, same expression...so funny!
I haven't read JDI's post yet, but I'm sure that she's already given you some great advice, probably much the same as what I'm going to say! :)
I really like your position in the first picture - but thumbs up! :) You have a nice natural arch in your back, but you'll have to focus on keeping your back relaxed, as I think there's the potential there of overarching! In the warm up at the show, focus on letting your back muscles flex, but be elastic so you maintain that nice hollow area you have right now.
You may have a really good reason for riding in a Kimberwicke - and if so, ignore this section - but I'd love to see you do at least a little schooling in a D-ring or similar type of snaffle, even if you switch to the Kimberwicke in show situations. Training the horse into the mildest bit possible will increase the amount of sensitivity you have and thus the finesse with which you can perform. I'm not a huge fan of Kimberwickes as they combine a harsher bit with immobility - a preferable option, but of course much tricker to use, is a pelham - where you can use the snaffle-esque part of the bit and only employ leverage when necessary. With a kimberwicke there's only one setting.
Second picture, same - thumbs up! :) You're nice and level in your torso and shoulders - the stripey shirt would give you away if you weren't!
In the third picture, although it's kind of an awkward angle - I see a bit of Locked Elbow Syndrome. We're all taught to follow our horse's heads at the walk and canter, but a lot of the time the trot is skipped over. Last year, one of my trainers had me work on this - first she had me post the trot, and pointed out that I would lock my elbow in an effort to keep my hand perfectly still, and in return I would get resistance from my horse. So she had me sit the trot without changing my arms - even more resistance! The locked elbows actually cause enough tension - however minute - to make me tight enough that I bounced against the trot rather than flowed with it. Trainer had me stop, drop the reins, give my arms a good shake, and then pick up the reins with clenching anything. She had me trot, and told me to keep my hands over the withers but let my arms just hang from my shoulders. Because I was no longer set against her mouth, my mare moved forward much better and started seeking the contact. The moral of this overly-long anecdote? There is a very small amount of motion in the horse's head and neck at the trot, and we have to learn to follow it. It's trickier than the walk and canter, but once you feel it, you've got it.
Now, because of the angle, I could be wrong - you may have very elastic elbows! But just based off the picture, that's what I see. Your horse's head is in a good place, but her hind end isn't. It's right out behind her - so she's lulled you into a false sense of engagement while allowing her hind end to go on it's merry way. Work on those loosey-goosey elbows, give your horse her head, and get her tush underneath her. She has such a lovely neck naturally that she'll find it very easy to round over through her back and come into self-carriage once you engage her, and you'll find you don't have to pull on her mouth to get her there.
Next picture - same as above, with the whole engagement thing. I think this mare will be absolutely lovely once you're riding her back to front. Your position is essentially good, but you're overriding the front end and it shows a little in your equitation. I'd like to see you sit deeper in the saddle - get those seat-bones centered underneath you - pull your shoulders back, and let your legs fall a few inches further back. This will put you in an optimum position to push your horse forward, cue her from your legs, and get the coveted 'whole package.'
Fifth picture - shoulders back! Eyes up! Thumbs up! And if you're going to have more contact on one rein, make it your outside - you want to bend your horse with your inside leg, get her onto the outside rein, yada yada - if you use the inside rein to turn and flex, she'll just become wonky in her body and throw her weight onto her inside shoulder.
Sixth picture - same thing, really - thumbs up and driiiive your horse forward. In the seventh picture I like her balance, but again - the hind end is trailing along behind. If you find she gets more forward after a canter, incorporate it into your warm-up - while you're trotting around on a slack rein, throw in some transitions, get up in two-point and let her open up her stride, whatever. That way she'll be stepping underneath herself from the get-go. I like your upper body and arm position - to be nitpicky, I would have you slide your legs back so your calf aids aren't obstructed by the girth. It looks like you may be a little grippy in the knee; relax, sink your weight into your heel, and let your leg lengthen. In the eighth picture, same thing - only more so! Your gripping has propelled you a little out of the saddle her, and I suspect you began to lean forward to compensate and regain your rhythm. Lunge lessons would probably help you find your center of gravity and perfect your leg position. Your horse is also overbent to the inside - counterbending to the outside helps get those nice round canter circles, as it rebalances the horse. Although intuitively we all want to bend to the inside to get the weight on the outside shoulder, that unfortunately doesn't work. Counterbend when the balance or bend are compromised.
I can't see too much in the ninth picture - just the leg, again, and what looks like a bit of a resultant bounce. Also too much rein - as I've said, your horse needs forward now, rein aids later! :)
I see an offending inside rein in the tenth picture. I don't know if you've done any lateral work, but I'd suggest schooling a little shoulder-in, leg yield, and haunches in so that after a canter, when your horse wants to fall on the forehand and rush around on her inside shoulder you can regain your nice, bendy trot via your legs. Again, using the inside rein to fix the issue actually makes it worse - but if you can trot down centerline and push her into a leg-yield, she'll have to think about what she's doing with her shoulders. Same with shoulder-in - when you can move your horse's body all different ways at will via your seat and leg, you're well on your way to being able to achieve balance in any situation, without the inside rein!
In the twelfth picture your mare is hollowing through the back and resisting - be it because of the bit or a loss of balance, I don't know. I do see your leg coming up again, and with it, your body going forward, which unintentionally pushes her faster. If she's off-balance already, the resulting canter won't be too pretty! Sit tall, lengthen your legs - imagine you're dragging your heels in the dirt! - and half-halt, release, half-halt, release...if she needs it, down transition, whip out a handy leg yield or two, then pick up the canter again. In the last two shots, your horse is really overbent to the inside. We must always remember that for every moment of pressure, there must be an equal moment of release - so if you squeeze for a stride, you then give for a stride. Repeat as necessary, but never hold the 'squeeze' for more than a stride.
Anyway, I really like your horse and you're looking quite good - just keep schooling the fundamentals, and everything will really come together nicely. Good luck at your show! :)
 

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Some excellent advice, dantexeventer! We do disagree about the arched back though - a hollow human back blocks the horse's movement; you want a straight back and a deep seat to be able to move with the horse. "Perching" with the pelvis rotated like the OP has is a bad habit, and one that's tough to break - ask me how I know...
 

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I agree that a flat back is more fluid and beneficial when riding - I think perhaps I have arched-back envy, as my problem is entirely the opposite! ;) I do like to see a little flexibility in the back if the end goal is jumping - although this is so often overdone in the hunter/jumper rings that it's sort of hard to justify it.
To the OP, I will concede defeat here; JDI's advice about your back makes more sense than mine. ;) I think I'll have to dig out a picture of my friend's mare to post here now.
 

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Happy medium?
Flexi-back = good, ability to move with the horse
Stick-straight, rigid = bad, inability to move with the horse
Rigid, arched back = bad, blocking horse, inability to move with horse
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Haha! Thanks guys! I think I understand what you guys are saying. Now that I think about it, I should of put more information in the original post! The first picture, I was posing. I know, shouldn't do it. I wanted to see what I looked like when I pulled it all together. My back does relax when I ride as you guys can see, you never had to comment about it again after that picture. My instructor is always telling me not to over bend her and that must be what you all are talking about especially when I don't offer any support from the outside rein. I will try and remember that as I ride. I think I may also be trying not to pull on her bit too much and that's why I leave the reins a bit slack? I honestly don't know; its probably old habit!

I've really noticed that my saddle--which is VERY old--has become so soft on the flaps that there's a huge bulge under the flap where my girth and billets come together and its like right where my calf should be and when I really get to riding my leg slips forward. Could that be causing the problem with my lower leg? My legs are always my best feature and I've noticed that my legs have been slacking. I'm not trying to make excuses, believe me, I love hard work because I've had to work so hard to make my position decent. There's probably not much I can do about that besides just ignoring it and putting my leg on that huge bulge?
 

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Wow...your horse is toooooo cute for her own good.
I have no comments as JDI touched on a lot of the things I could see and then took it all a step further in explanation of how to correct them and buid a better seat which will influence your horse and enable you to achieve what your looking for.

A wonderful thread.

HP
 

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I agree with everyone here ... your horse is adorable!!! Gorgeous colour, build and looks like she can give a lovely ride!
You've been given such good advice about what to do to improve your already solid riding but might aswell give my two-sence
Firstly, you look you have all the basics down; you have a solid position which i am wholly jealous about! But there are a few tiny things you could improve on
+ while i see a little arch in your back, i dont see a massive problem with it .. i think you are tipped slightly forward in a lot of the pictures, upsetting the balance and meaning you do not have the shoulder/hips and heel alignment. If you bring your shoulders back WITHOUT tensing your back or shoulders, you should have an even more solid seat and be more effective with your rein and weight aids.
+ i also think that your reins are a tad too long, it would do you good to shorten them a little, and though it is considered good to have your reins high and together when riding english, i think it would help you to engage your hhorses back end and get her working a little more properly if you open and lower your hands a little - NOT so they are resting on your legs like some people do, but so the bit is lower in her mouth and she is more accpeting to soften and working properly using her back!!
+ your lower leg looks stable but just remember to sit on your pelvis so your lower legs naturally fall into a long, correct position!

But overall, your position is enviable and i think you and your mare make a great pair! I dont think theres anything worong with using a kimblewick if your mare doesnt respect softer bits as mine is exactly the same, and i have problems collecting or even slowing in a snaffle!
Good luck with everything you do, you look like you could achieve a lot :) and your mare looks like she has a jump in her! i want her lol
 

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Haha! Thanks guys! I think I understand what you guys are saying. Now that I think about it, I should of put more information in the original post! The first picture, I was posing. I know, shouldn't do it. I wanted to see what I looked like when I pulled it all together. 1)My back does relax when I ride as you guys can see, you never had to comment about it again after that picture. 2)My instructor is always telling me not to over bend her and that must be what you all are talking about especially when I don't offer any support from the outside rein. I will try and remember that as I ride. I think I may also be trying not to pull on her bit too much and that's why I leave the reins a bit slack? I honestly don't know; its probably old habit!

I've really noticed that my saddle--which is VERY old--has become so soft on the flaps that there's a huge bulge under the flap where my girth and billets come together and its like right where my calf should be and when I really get to riding my leg slips forward. 3)Could that be causing the problem with my lower leg? My legs are always my best feature and I've noticed that my legs have been slacking. I'm not trying to make excuses, believe me, I love hard work because I've had to work so hard to make my position decent. There's probably not much I can do about that besides just ignoring it and putting my leg on that huge bulge?
1) I'll try and explain myself a little better here; I addressed it earlier, but my posts were so darned long that I'm sure it got lost hehe. Okay.. so the first photo shows your pelvis rocked forwards like it is in all your other photos, but you have brought your shoulder back in line with your hip and heel, creating the arch. If you were to keep your pelvis as is in the other pictures and bring your shoulder back, you would get that arch. Instead, you are straightening your back to follow the line that your pelvis has created - do you get what I'm saying? In order for your back to be straight and for you to become un-perched, you must fist look at your pelvis; that must be rotated forwards (think of sucking your tummy in and bringing your butt under you by rotating your pelvis) so that you're sitting on your butt, not perched on your crotch. Once you have that taken care of, your lovely straight back in the other photos will follow, bringing your shoulder in line with your hip.
BUT! If you try and bring your shoulder back in line with your hip without correcting your pelvis FIRST, you will create the arched back you see in photo 1.
Aha, this image (from Biomechanics of the spiral seat) is perfect!!



2) Yes yes yes! The "overbending" you're talking about is likely stemming from her bending her head to the inside only. You want the whole horse to bend, which always involves outside aids. Learn to love the outside aids.

3) Yes. The saddle absolutely can influence how you ride, and the wrong saddle can make your legs sloppy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
That makes sense! :) Thank you for all the help! I love critique! I guess I will just have to ignore that bulge and just put my leg on it. I could use that as a guide then for my leg; if I don't feel my leg on that bump, then its out of place! :)
 
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