Q11 – Are You Head Bobbing?

The head is essentially a 10 to 15 pound bowling ball at the top of your neck. Good head alignment means that you use a minimum amount of muscular effort to hold up your head, allowing the skeleton to do most of the work. When your head is well-aligned front to back, you can lengthen through your spine all the way through the top of your head.  This counters the downward force of gravity.

Whenever there is tension in the core of a rider’s body be that pelvis, lower back, abs, lats, you will notice it at the extremities of the body in the form of moving hands, jiggly feet, unstable lower leg or most noticeably bobbing head.

Head Bobbing Syndrome

The nodding head is a common symptom of tense hips that are not correctly following your horse’s motion. You may be cheating by collapsing at the belly button to absorb the motion or pumping with your upper body at the canter.   You will need to work on thinking tall and elegant and transferring the rocking to the pelvis instead of the upper body or head.

The idea is to follow your horse’s motion by opening and closing the hip angle whilst maintaining a steady, relaxed upper body.  Your following seat must move with your horse’s motion in a rhythmical way in order to allow your horse to move forward. If you say ‘go’ with your leg aids but your seat does not immediately follow the forward swing of your horse’s hips as he picks up a hind foot, you will restrict forward motion – guaranteed.  The energy created will flow through your body to your extremities and show up accordingly.

To find a good comfortable head position …

Lengthen your neck so that your head moves slightly upward. Think of ‘pricking your ears’ as if you were a horse. Feel the shoulders go back, turn your head slowly, left and right.

  • Is it easy?
  • Do you have any stiffness or restriction in the movement?
  • Do you feel any change in your seat?

If you are attentive you may feel your hip angle open as your seat deepens.  To summarise; if you have an unsightly head bob, particularly when sitting the trot, it will be due to tension in your core and an inability to properly absorb the motion of the horse.  You will need to address the stability issues in your core rather than think about how to stop your head nodding.

via GIPHY

Like this post?  Why not subscribe and get my musings directly to your in box? Or share with your fellow dressage fans.

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster

help@likecrystal.com

Q12 – Are Your Legs Under Control?

“Nag, nag, nag, nag, nag, nag, nag, … why not give your horse a break and see whether he’ll keep moving if your legs stop flapping – it’s worth a try!”

Legs Artist – Zella Strickland

I am a big believer in putting the leg on and then always immediately off – a squeeze and release.  This assumes that your legs are hanging gently at your horse’s side and only being used when needed and not clamped on for dear life or bump, bump, bumping with every stride.

The mechanics, when your horse is not responding are as follows:

  • The leg is on and immediately off
  • No response? Try again – same pressure – click with the tongue.
  • No response? Leg again – more pressure
  • No response? Leg again – with same pressure as second time and a tap of the whip behind the leg at the same time as you are applying the leg pressure, in order to reinforce what you are asking.
  • No response? Small, gentle, slightly irritating taps behind the leg until you get the response.
  • As soon as you get a response release all pressure, stop tapping and clicking and GO!

However to get your horse sensitive you have to work towards the point where your horse actually will go from just a click of the tongue or the slightest pressure with the calf.

Where Are You On The Evolutionary Scale For Dressage Riders?

When you reduce what you do to its very essence you could not take away anything more without it becoming ineffective.  Likewise, anything you would add is unnecessary and would only really create clutter and confusion.

Usually everything we aspire to do goes through an evolution; a cycle of development until the process comes to rest at the ‘essential state’.  This is where it nears perfection for its purpose.   When you try to learn something new there is usually some seemingly chaotic input.  It’s hard to separate the relevant or even essential elements from the irrelevant but as you learn more you start to set the pieces of the puzzle together for yourself.

In time, you arrive at the mastery stage, where it is just right.  If you apply this principle to something as straightforward as applying your leg aid, it is beautifully demonstrated.  As with all things, it does not come naturally to your horse to make an amazing transition without being trained to do so.  The way you introduce the training will not be the way you do it forever.  You will refine it over time as you should consider thinking about refining everything you do.

Less (Legs) Is MoreLegs

Some time ago I wrote a blog entitled Less is More where I described my experience with being told to ‘use more leg’.

I have had a succession of instructors that have screamed “MORE LEG”, “PUT YOUR LEG ON” to the point where I had convinced myself that I did not have strong enough legs for the job.  Imagine then what a relief it was to me discover that the better way is “Leg On, then immediately off.  If you do not get the response, on again and immediately OFF. 

When you get the response you want, keep the leg OFF”.  If you don’t, back it up with a tap from the whip, but be persistent in the on/off approach.  Not more leg, less leg but more often and just to re-iterate, when you get the response you want – KEEP THE LEG OFF.

In this example, the use of the leg aid gets stripped back to its heart.  My horse is sharp to the aids and I am less tired.

Aiming For Mastery

Once you establish your horse’s way of going and /or a particular movement when you give the aids, half the applied pressure, quite simply to test if you can get the required result.  If the answer is yes, next time half the pressure again, until you strip the aid back to its ‘essential state’ .  In time you will ‘think’ trot, your body will automatically react by doing the absolute minimum required and you will lift effortlessly into the transition.

In dressage the aim is to seem to do as little as possible.  Clearly this is the ultimate goal but whilst you are en-route you should continually work towards this goal in ‘baby steps’ by reducing pressure gradually.  By doing so you are teaching your horse sensitivity to the aids.

This may sound overly simplistic, but it works. Sometimes, just doing what you have always done or what someone else expects of you muddies the waters and overly complicates things.

Legs

Do what you do and see if you get the same results when you halve the pressure.

See what kind of magic you can create.  Have a go, it will surprise you.

Have fun, as always

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster

help@likecrystal.com

 

Q10 – Are your arms relaxed?

As humans we depend greatly on our hands. Our arms and hands are our first line of defense for balancing ourselves in everyday life. Instinct can take over and force you to use your hands for balance.  Hanging onto the reins for balance is not entirely the fault of your hands because the hands only come into play as other balance mechanisms fail.  The problem is inevitably elsewhere. You will not be able to develop good hands if you are experiencing balance problems elsewhere because as a human you will use your hands for balance.

ArmsStop for a minute and think about what you are doing with your hands. The reins are an extension of your arms, the bit runs through your horse’s mouth.  Next time you are on board make a conscious decision to be aware of your arms.

Give Yourself a Cuddle

Continue reading Q10 – Are your arms relaxed?

Q8 – Are You Bouncing In The Saddle?

I guess most of you would say no to self-assessment question # 8 : Are you bouncing in the saddle? but I am specifically thinking about sitting trot.  Now if I ask again, what would your answer be?  For many of you the answer will still be no, but for many more I’m sure it’s a resounding yes.

Whilst you are learning sitting trot, absorbing the shock waves created by the horse’s movement means you get ‘out of phase’ with movement and begin to feel the bounce.  In the trot, here’s what is happening … Continue reading Q8 – Are You Bouncing In The Saddle?

Q7 – Are You Blocking With Your Seat?

Hi Guys.  Today’s topic is a great one and one I’ve worked really hard to achieve, it’s a work in progress for me but worth the effort.

So many riders don’t realise they are actually working against their horses movement by just sitting on the saddle and by not utilising the hips to follow the natural motion of the horse.  So ask yourself …

Self-Assessment Question #7 : Are You Blocking With Your Seat?

Your seat must follow the horse’s motion in a rhythmical way in order to allow the horse to move forward. If you say ‘go’ with your leg aids but your seat does not immediately follow the forward swing of the horse’s hips as he picks up a hind foot, you WILL restrict forward motion – guaranteed!

There are a number of common symptoms of tense hips that would inhibit your ability to correctly follow your horse’s motion and block his movement. You may be …

  • Collapsing at the belly button in an effort to absorb the motion.
  • Pumping with your upper body at the canter.
  • Leaning back and driving with your seat.

Tense hips will cause bouncing, head bobbing, flying elbows and lower leg flapping.  However, do not despair, there’s plenty that can be done about it.

You will need to work on thinking tall and elegant and transferring any rocking/blocking to the pelvis instead of the upper body. Continue reading Q7 – Are You Blocking With Your Seat?

Q6 – Can You Influence Your Horse’s Paces

Self Assessment Question #6 in the ’99 Questions’ series of blogs.  A series looking a little more closely at those insightful questions in the report that I give you completely free of charge when you sign up for to get the Crystal System blogs into your inbox.   There is something for everyone; beginners, trainers, novice and Grand Prix riders.Influence

  • Do you fully understand the influence your body is having on your horse’s way of going?
  • Are you able to influence the paces, lengthen and shorten the stride?
  • Are you able to straighten a horse that is going off-line?

Of course, everything we do influences our horse’s way of going.  It is worth taking on board the primary message I have for you –

‘If you get the right response when you ask correctly, it surely follows that if you get the wrong response, you may not be asking correctly”. 

Continue reading Q6 – Can You Influence Your Horse’s Paces

Q9 – Are You Pumping With Your Upper Body?

You have seen them haven’t you? Even at the highest level!!!!! Check out some of the Olympic riders!  In an attempt to follow the horse’s movement you see extravagant rocking back and forth of the upper body in the canter.

To a lesser extent at the lower levels you will also see this ‘pumping’ action of the upper body.  The efforts involved are actually putting the rider constantly behind the movement.

  • A tell-tale sign that the seat is not so secure.
  • It disrupts the balance of the canter
  • Makes both horse and rider’s back tense.

Continue reading Q9 – Are You Pumping With Your Upper Body?

Q4 Is Your Horse Responsive?

  • How effective are your aids?
  • Does your horse immediately respond?
  • Are they crisp, clear and true?
  • Or are you having a numbing effect on your horse?

Dressage in its original form was developed as a test of the horse’s obedience.  Today your training should demonstrate that your horse is obedient to your aids.

I am a big believer in putting the leg on and then always immediately off – a squeeze and release.  This assumes that your legs are hanging gently at your horse’s side and only being used when needed and not clamped on for dear life.   In order to get your horse sensitive however, from this starting point you have to work towards the point where your horse actually will go from just a click of the tongue or the slightest pressure with the calf.

Continue reading Q4 Is Your Horse Responsive?

Shoot For The Moon

2017 is in full flow and now that the summer is here most of us will be turning our attention to what it is we want, nay need to do in 2017.

The end of 2016 was a very reflective time for me.  I lost my mum in November which was profoundly life changing.  Not just because she is no longer here and I have a big dark hole in my heart, but because she was so ill for so long that the anxiety I felt whilst looking after her has lifted.  I now seem to have so much time.

I got to thinking about my horsey goals and my competition dream which I  tinkered with in 2016 but couldn’t be pursued in earnest.  I got to thinking.

  • Is this still relevant?
  • Do I REALLY want to do this with my newly found and extremely valuable spare time?
  • Is the effort worth the reward?
  • Do I even have the energy?

Continue reading Shoot For The Moon

Q3: Do You Employ A Following Seat?

Still with me?  Fantastic.  Third in the ’99 Questions’ series of blogs.

Self-Assessment Question #3 : Do you employ a following seat?

Do you move with the horse in walk or rely on the horse’s motion to move you?  Do you allow with your hips in the trot?  Do you do the circular backward hip rotation in canter?   If not, you need to understand that a little help from you goes a long way to helping your horse forward.

Is it me or is it my horse?

Your seat must follow the horse’s motion in a rhythmical way in order to allow the horse to move forward. If you say ‘go’ with your leg aids but your seat does not immediately follow the forward swing of the horse’s hips as he picks up a hind foot, you WILL restrict forward motion – guaranteed!

Continue reading Q3: Do You Employ A Following Seat?

Award Winning Equestrian Blog