The last couple of weeks have brought some much needed rain to the Lockyer Valley, and it is wonderful to see all the paddocks a glorious shade of bright green again!
Horse owners are rejoicing, because with it comes a reprieve from the enormous feed bills we have all been enduring for so long, and with the renewed landscape, has come a renewed level of motivation to get back in the saddle and get cracking on their 2020 riding goals.
As a coach, my client base is wide and varied, and no two horses, riders or lessons are ever the same. I often think about what issues i encounter the most when coaching, and one of the major ones i see all the time is a lack of body awareness from the rider.
I vividly remember listening to a session with Richard Weiss at the Queensland Dressage Festival years ago, and he summed it up perfectly when he said “The rider is a burden to the horse, and it is our responsibility as a rider to be the least burden possible”.
A burden. Love that word! But he is correct. Horses were not designed to carry the weight of a rider on their back, and if we do not sit and move with the horse in a seat perfectly balanced over the horse’s centre of gravity, then we start to see all sorts of compensatory responses from the horse.
More often than not, a rider is not aware when they are not sitting in a well aligned, correct upright seat, and when corrections are made, they feel strange and uncomfortable with their new alignment.
Correcting the position takes a lot of time and conscious effort on the rider’s behalf, but once they nail it, the horse can move more freely underneath them, and a lot of the training issues the horse may have been having resolve as well.
Obviously working regularly with an experienced and knowledgable coach is one of the best ways to do this. Unfortunately though, most riders don’t have the coach there every time they ride, and therefore have to come up with a plan to be able to recreate the desired position when riding at home.
A set of eyes on the ground, be it husband/wife/neighbour/riding buddy/child/postman/etc can be ideal, and it doesn’t take much horsey knowledge to spot imbalances, once they know what they are looking for. Even get them to video you, so you can check for yourself.
What i love to do myself as a rider, is to take a very clear mental snapshot when things are going absolutely spot on. I start at the top of my head, and do a full top to bottom analysis. I then think about how it feels when it is perfect, and come up with some keywords that inspire me to find that feeling again once i am flying solo. Whenever I feel things going to pot when i am riding, i always go back to this visualisation, draw on my keywords, and usually i will find the root of the issue in my alignment.
Another way riders can help their riding stability, eveness and alignment, is to do work out of the saddle. I am a big fan of pilates, to strengthen my core, stabilise my centre, and keep my body strong and flexible. If you are lucky, you may even have an riding specialist equipilates coach nearby, who can tailor workouts to suit the needs of riders. 😉
At the end of the day, it is important that a rider treats themself as an athlete, and takes responsibility in maintaining a good level physical fitness and condition. We expect our horses to perform as a finely tuned athlete, and this is very difficult when one part of the equation is letting the team down!
Just some food for thought……….
Happy riding 🙂