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Virtual Session 18th April
So good to meet you yesterday and see your beautiful girl. Above is the video from your session, hopefully this will help you see what I'm talking about as well as feel it when you ride.
I want to stress where you have got her to from where you were is huge, to see her wanting to take a longer body shape and find her balance is huge credit as a lot of people would have just kept riding her head into her chest and kicked harder.
The things we covered yesterday were:
Initially the thing that popped out to me was you pelvic movement, it felt a bit stuck and there wasn't a clear left right swing with her stride, I feel this may contribute to the feeling you sometimes get over her getting onto the forehand and a bit heavy as our hips are very much linked to their hips.
In the walk we want to aim to create the same movement within our pelvis as we want them to have, this means we want to have the freedom of each side of the pelvis to move independently, as she places her right hind down her right hip will raise up and roll over the top f the standing leg dropping down as she releases the foot from the ground, the left will do the same but at the opposite time, so we want to make sure our hips can achieve this same movement.
This movement is natural for us, it's the same thing that happens when we walk, so the key as a rider is to not think about us sitting on our horse but maintaining more of that standing pattern.
When we took your stirrups away two things happened, your legs dropped longer which allowed the hip joint more freedom to move, but also your pelvis came into a much more neutral position, by this I mean you had your 3 point plug, pubic bone and seat bones in more contact, this alignment allows the pelvis to move more freely in the way we do as we walk as it is more natural to our standing position.
A good exercise for you to do at the start of each session is to drop your feet out of your stirrups and locate this movement, when you take your stirrups back maintain the same movement and feeling, if you loose the movement drop the feet out again and relocate the movement, as you start to get this more and more your body will find it easier to achieve.
Because we changed the way your pelvis was functioning on her back this immediately started to show more movement and stride length in her body too, it felt less stumpy and fully and more push from behind.
As we went through the session I think she is very sensitive to her back (not in a painful way more of a responsive way) so your focus on keeping the energy flowing underneath you will be key throughout your training.
When you took your stirrups back there is a body pattern response to slam the heal down and the lower leg shoot forwards, this is what I call the water ski position, and what it does is change the pelvic alignment to a more backwards tilt, more weight in the seat bones and that weight gets sent down the back of the saddle. When I suggested adjusting your stirrup so it was less on the tips of your toes you immediately felt you could drop them and with this I definitely agree.
You aim is to get the foot flat, at worst a tiny bit of the heal down, but you don't want to have the heal forced down so the ankle is in full extension, this takes away your shock absorbing (not great for your back) and also pushes your lower leg out of your balance. Because she has a round barrel there is also a feeling that brining your leg underneath you feels probably a bit too far back, but hopefully you can see in the video that you have room to do that and not be at risk of your leg going too far behind.
If we can work on these two main things, pelvic alignment and freedom, with leg underneath you rather than out in front, I think your whole balance on her back will change, when you did get those moments of it all being in balance she definitely changed her movement to be more whole body and less shoulder and neck.
On the left rein where she struggles to bend so well, be super aware of this position, as because you are slightly out of your own self carriage your left hand ends up balancing, this makes her heavier into it and you end up with a bit of a battle. Start from really creating the balance within yourself and I think she will soften that inside and feel more able to bend truly when she feels you are over your centre of balance too.
This audio lesson about the walk and the pelvic movement will really help - here
This audio lesson on your pelvic position will help you to feel what I'm talking about - here
She definitely has her go, but I think the go she expresses is from a lack of balance now and so we can work on creating the balance she will settle and feel more confident.
As I said in the session for our horses to feel they can release the neck and reach forwards, they need to feel they have their balance in the rest of their body, if they feel they don't have that balance they keep hold of the neck and shoulders as a way of balancing themselves.
To help her achieve this you I would recommend lots of circles, maybe even smaller than a 20m so she has to think more about where she is placing the hind end, I would also recommend doing a lot of changes of bend so she has to think more about her body, and start to feel it. I get the feeling from her she was in shut down for so long, (freeze mode) that she shut off from feeling the body, she now is overloaded with feelings and sometimes they get a lot for her so she panics a tad (run mode), we need to comfortably help her to be in her body without the overwhelm of what is happening. So lots of turns and circles can help her feel while not getting to in her head, I would also recommend shorter bursts of trot coupled with a few strides of walk and then back to trot so that she stays with you and her brain doesn't start to drift off into that overwhelm. The transitions themselves can be used to help rebalance her.
This mini series on building balance through bend will be perfect fr the two of you - here
I would also recommend starting her on the right rein, as you are much more balanced as a rider this way so will build that confidence in her before moving her onto her left rein where she needs more support.
From you in the trot; the biggest thing for me is working on creating the support from your inner thigh so you are balanced more from your seat, this means creating more strength from your midline muscles and the ability for that internal rotation. Unmounted exercises are key here as they will help your neurologist pathways re focus where you movement pattern needs to come from.
All the exercises in the section for rising trot in the academy will be great for you as these focus on the muscles I was getting you to use whilst riding.
This connection from the inside of your thigh will help with two major things:
- For you it will help with your brains feeling of being more stable and balanced, you will then be able to make more detailed changes to your contact, and this will help you take more connection through the outside rein.
- For her, you will be catching the energy between your thighs and then controlling the amount of energy you release into her front end and your hands, this acts as a half halt and rebalances her rather than letting her fall into the shoulder and into your hand.
It's really key here to focus on this through the transition as well as the pace itself, because once you've let the energy past your seat its a real challenge to get it back, and then you'll find yourself being more "handy" than you wish.
The next thing to focus on is when you sit into the saddle you don't allow the pelvis to drop back, this creates a brief moment that the saddle drops into her back a little more through the cantle which encourages her to dip and run out from in front. If you can keep the pelvis stable and not collapse at the last moment which once I asked you to you did the trot becomes much smoother and less runny.
Again thinking about keeping the legs underneath you so that you don't let the lower leg shoot out in front is also key here for you to feel more stable and her to feel more balanced.
The canter work showed the biggest improvement, when we got you more mobile and stable through your body she softened and you were able to give much clearer aids and half halts.
The canter posture is the same for the pelvis and leg, inner thigh connection (about 10x more than trot) and pelvis not dropping back, lower leg not shooting forwards so feeling of weight in toes and heals. But there is more movement through the central region of our body. The canter requires the hips to mobilise more and the spine to absorb more of the forces and power that is created. If we are too still we become rigid and then the feeling becomes jolty and messy.
When you focused on creating more movement in the belly area and then a feeling of mobility around the pelvis your canter took a whole different feel, you were more balanced and connected so could make for subtle changes to your body, and she felt like she could balance underneath you rather than running out from underneath you.
When you got this feeling of security we could then start to think about using the outside rein and seat as a half halt to rebalance, I would highly recommend only cantering on circles for a little while as they create a more balanced horse anyway, and then separating the circles into quarters where you half halt using your seat (strong inward squeeze) and your outside rein. This will help her to take her weight more over her hind legs and feel like she can balance and soften.
Then from you working on the ribcage rotation rather than a lean to avoid the motor biking feeling.
Because there is a tendency to collapse through your side (shown for you as a shoulder dropping) I would also recommend doing some short daily sessions of unmounted work on the core and contact which will help you to stop that collapse.
Fabulous work and we covered a lot, any questions do not hesitate to ask.
Have a great day