Riding in the correct position can feel sometimes like an added extra that is only for people that aren't struggling with everything else. Or a quality position is only there for those that have horses that are easy to ride and for bodies that aren't crippled with pain or injury. But even though we can sometimes think this, the key to remember is this, if you can sit in a bio mechanically correct position for both you and your horse you actually need up doing LESS. The correct position is there for a reason and it's not the finishing touch like a cherry on top, it should be the base mixture, the egg and flour of the mix. Unfortunately in our world of quick fixes and less time, the art of a correct position has become more shunned to the edge, coaches feeling under pressure to get riders "going", stories of people wanting to canter and jump before they even know how to walk and the belief that children on't enjoy riding if we focus on the basics, all mean that the correct position has become more of a "oh that would be nice to have" rather than an essential to ride. If we're honest, some people spend more time thinking about the outfit and the accessories than they do about how they are riding. I have been there with riders focussed so much of their spare time wanting to get the Samshield Hat rather than work on their own body. It's not their fault, it's no ones fault, it's what is sold to us...if you wear this, if you have this saddle, if you have these boots you will be a good rider. Unfortunately the truth is, this culture we have grown into has come at the detriment to our riding and our horses. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but when I grew up riding we we had red, blue and green as the colours to pick from. Riding wasn't a "fashion", it was a passion. And even those today who would say riding is their passion may unfortunately get tripped up with the culture of, focus on the external, focus on the expensive horse and if you can sit ok then that will do.
But the secret to good riding, and the secret to being able to ride most horses, the secret to not spending a fortune on quick fixes that end up in the back of the tack room, the secret to what we all used to hold up as the highest priority but seems to somehow have been lost is that riding isn't just about what's underneath you. Riding is about how you ride, how you sit, how you use your body.
It's a team sport, and you have a HUGE affect on your horses ability to do what you wish them to do.
This is a hard pill to swallow for some as it means admitting that we may be part of the reason that it's not working, that we may have a role to play in this. In todays culture it also means that we may need to work our way out of this rather than spend our way out, which is not the language used any more in todays world.
This is not the riders fault, this is not saying people are lazy or that riders don't want the best for their horses. But it's recognising the fact that the culture around riding nowadays isn't set up to focus on the riders way of going, and in some cases that are becoming more and more prevalent it isn't even set up to focus on the horses health and happiness, which is just sad.
If you watch most professional riders social media feeds, there is very little on "how they do it", "what they do", "the work they do", but more on what they wear, what products they use and the result they got.
Take a moment to think about this, again I'm not blaming the riders, we all have to earn money, BUT this language is not about the process, it's not about the hard work that they put in behind the scenes, it's not about how they spend a week working on their halt, or how they haven't left walk for 5 months with a particular horse. It's about the sparkly stuff.
Only when you dig deeper and read a biography or listen to a long format interview do you start to get a glimpse of what really happens, and most of the time it's only if you are listening for it. They obviously have to talk about their sponsors more than their processes.
Rewind, go back 30 years or more, riders weren't talking about what they wore, they were releasing books on "how too", the masters of years gone by wrote educational books on how to achieve what we wish. These books are rarely being released now, showing the culture isn't there, the cult doesn't have an appetite for "how to work at something" the culture has an appetite of "what to buy next".
This upsets me greatly, I feel the sport, the art, the partnership of the horse is suffering because of this. I feel that youngsters growing up in this amazing relationship aren't seeing the full picture. And as a coach I see this played out in lessons, in issues and in attitudes.
Riding correctly makes it easier, riding correctly helps our horse, riding correctly takes time to build at the start but sets you up for life (bar an injury/pregnancy, which means you have to rehab back) to be able to achieve what you wish.
William Fox-Pit talks about in his biography how he spent about 4 months learning to ride a 20m circle correctly, after he had competed at his first Badminton! He went to a new coach and she took him apart and built him back up, into the rider we see now. Carl Hester talks about similar stories as does Charlotte Dujardin in her biography, but unfortunately if you don't read deeper you just see the results. We are sold a pitch that if you buy this stuff you'll be this person.
No top rider is just buying things and not working on themselves, every rider you look up to in any discipline is constantly working on themselves, most riders now have personal trainers, but they are also realising the importance of conscious movement, Gemma Tattersall mentioned in an interview after her fabulous score in the dressage at Badminton that the increase in marks is due to her taking herself seriously, she's got fitter, she's been doing pilates (Equistretch is my form of this), she even did a 20 min session in the lorry before she rode the test.
When I talk about culture I talk about the riding culture in different degrees, your yards culture is key to how you perceive the importance of things, if you're in a yard where the focus is on jumping bigger, buy the most expensive horse, or wearing the right clothes, it's really hard to go against this culture. I talk about this in one of my podcasts and how we must make sure the culture we want to live by is around us as much as possible.
It's human nature to be drawn into culture so recognising good and bad culture is key, knowing who you follow on social media is also part of your own culture, are you following educational helpful accounts or are they more influencer types, when you see the posts on your feed do they inspire you to do your own work, or make you jump onto the internet to buy something?
It's no secret that I am a geek, I love reading, studying and knowing more, but I'm also lucky, I come from the years when riding correctly was the goal, the girl who had the beautiful position at the yard was the one we idolised not the one in the expensive coat. I wonder how this new culture is changing how deep the quality of riding goes?
In my most recent audio lessons in my membership academy I'm talking you through the art of riding lateral movements. The key thing to these is they aren't as complicated as they look if you have the right position, that's how these top riders make it look so easy, and make it look like they aren't doing anything, because they have the correct base to build from.
When we sit in the correct position our horse has the best chance of achieving what we are asking for, this means they need less signal to get there and so we can do less. String correctly therefore means that things like chronic pain are eased not exaggerated, chronic fatigue is lessened as we are doing less and so on.
But if we are surrounded by a culture which places the riders position on the back burner, or see's it as hard we can see why we wouldn't realise this. If we are surrounded by a culture which puts your worth on your results and not your process then we can see why people don't want to start again like William Fox-Pit did, even if it means that you get further in the long run.
Riding is never about the quick fixes, it's about the long game. The process of taking time to get somewhere correctly, if people get bored of focussing on the detail then maybe having a hobby that involves another living creature may not be the right hobby?
As a coach this is a hard one to swallow as again, we have to make a living, but if you are coaching riders whether beginners or advanced and they don't want to work n the basics, we have to ask ourselves three questions, is this sport right for them? Do they understand why it is so important? How can I make this stuff interesting?
Details do not have to be boring, they can be fun, details do not mean you stop doing the stuff you want, it just means you do it in a different way, details mean that if we zoom out and look at the long process we are more likely to get where we dream of than if we just focus in on the day to day.
To get the correct position may be hard to start with, it may take every ounce of your focus for a while, but it won't be something that you save at the back of your tack room never to be used again, your body and the way you use it will be with your forever, on every horse.
I know I'm a biomechanics specialist, but it's because I believe this is an art and a science that isn't new, it's what all the masters knew, it's what the professionals know, but it's become unfashionable and quirky to talk about.
So here's your call to action. If you've got to this point in the email I figure you may agree with what I'm saying, so now it's time we start to make a change.
Follow the accounts that teach you stuff, case in point
Piggy March has 46k followers on instagram before her piggy tv she shared a ton of tips and she still does behind her membership
An influencer that just shares products and pictures has 78k followers, no helpful information, no learnings, just things to buy.
Lets raise the accounts that show real horsemanship, that share their process, that show the work, that believe in the traditional basics of quality training for both horse and rider.
Let's change the culture on our yards, change the conversations around who is the person to look up to, the flashy horse or the good rider?
Let's ask more questions, and make knowledge the power.
Because if we move better, we ride better, if we ride better our horses have a better time, and if our horses are happier then that's the most important thing. No horse knows that they have a £100 numnah in a new colour or a £20 numnah, as long as it fits, but a horse does know if you are trying your best to ride your best.