Category Archives: 99 Self Assessment Questions

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.

Experiment by following with your seat in the walk. Really exaggerate the movement.  You may find your horse becomes irregular in the walk as you push him out of his rhythm.  Follow this with a complete stop in the motion of your hips. Lock your hips. Notice the effect it has on your horse.

Find the natural balance between pushing with the seat and blocking with the seat. This is where your following seat is correct.

Open Your Hips to Unblock Your Seat

Now think about opening THE ANGLE of your hip, but first, do you know where your hips are?  The hip joint is the joint between the femur (thigh bone) and the pelvis.  Its primary function is to support the weight of the body. The joints of the hip are the most important part of your body in your quest to retain balance.  We all know that word don’t we?

Where would you point to if asked “where are your hips?”

Most riders would think of the point of the hip (where the model puts her hand) whereas others might think of the position at the outside of the leg.  As dressage riders our interest lies in how the hip functions and so we need to delve deep and feel for the movement of the joint.  The ball and socket bit.

SeatThe best way to do this is from a sitting position (can be in the saddle) and by using your index finger to follow the crease of your underwear move your knee left and right.  Feel the ball joint movement in the groin area a little at a time.  You will know when you hit the spot, it’s a little bit eww!

Move your leg in small movements up and down and feel how the hip joint closes and opens!  Fold forward and lean back to feel how the hip angle closes and opens!Seat

The meaning of the phrase ‘open your hips’ eluded me for years.  I just couldn’t get my head round what was meant by it.  Now when I hear that phrase I think about how the ball and socket joint in my hips works.  When you hear this, you should sit tall and straight (think of someone pulling you up by your ears) and allow everything else to fall into place.

Put a little more distance between your chest and your thigh.

Make the upper body more upright or stretching the leg down and back.  Open the ANGLE of your hips!

If this is not easy for you, you could have tight hips as a result of a tight Psoas muscle the main muscle group that flex the thigh.  Take a look at my articles on this subject to help you.

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster

help@likecrystal.com

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?

Q#3 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 Q#3 Do You Employ A Following Seat?

Q#2 Are You In Balance?

In BalanceHey horsey friends – Second post of the ’99 Questions’ series of blogs.  We have a long way to go to get all 99 in but stick with it, I’ve written 8 of them! lol

I’m trying to keep them quick fire and succinct with links to other blogs that might help you and to give you a quick nudge and provoke a thought before you ride.  I really think there will be something for everyone.

Self-Assessment Question #2 : Are you in balance?

Can you let go of the reins and ride without reliance on your hand? If you can’t you may need to go back to basics which means checking your riding position.

Find Your Centre of Gravity

To find if you are truly over the centre of gravity whilst the horse is moving, means verifying that your legs are in the correct position.  To do this lift your bottom out of the saddle and go into ‘half seat’ (at least).

However, iWarm upn order to check absolute alignment (and slightly more difficult to do) is the ability to stand up straight, with an upright back.  Do this from your seated position without gripping with your legs or using the reins to keep your balance.

If you find that you tip forwards or fall backwards, or if you find that you need to move your legs in order to stand up independently, then your legs were not in the correct position when you started.

Continue reading Q#2 Are You In Balance?

Q5 Are You Consistent With Your Aids?

Horses thrive on routine, doing the same thing repeatedly is how we train effectively, how they learn easily.  It is doing the SAME thing time and time again that gets us there.  So, if you try something different every time you train your horse will become confused.

  • How many of you have had the comment “needs a more consistent contact” from the judges?
  • Are you clear and do you fully understand and give consistent aids or
  • Could you, unwittingly, be creating creating confusion?

Developing a clear, non-verbal language with your horse means making a connection and is where your dressage journey begins.

consistentUnfortunately, expecting something to be difficult to achieve can often become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  So, in order for you to begin the process of achieving a ‘usable contact’ with your horse you must decide for yourself that it can be done.  That is decide that yes, you may face obstacles that will be challenging for you; you may have to sort out a few issues; most likely with your riding but sometimes with the horse (teeth, back), sometimes tack issues (saddle, bit), but get your mindset right and choose to believe that you and your horse are not only willing, but more than capable (once all issues have been investigated and dealt with) of working in an outline; with a contact; on the aids; on the bit, on the vertical, call it what you will.

Contact

 

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster

help@likecrystal.com

 

Q#1 Are You Relaxed?

When you sign up to The Crystal System Blog you get 3 valuable reports

  1. 5 Dressage Tips that could Revolutionise your Riding
  2. 10 MUST DO Dressage Test Tips that will Take your scores to GOOD or better
  3. 99 Questions to help you self-assess your Training Progress – (catchy title – does what it says on the tin!)

Report No. 3 is the ultimate, ridiculously long, ‘quick check’ guide and is essentially a whole heap of quick fire questions designed to help you self-assess your training progression.  Most riders print the report and put them it in their tack room, so that after riding they can pick it up and use it as a reference guide.

I thought it might be useful to delve a little deeper into each question so I am starting a new series of blogs to give you a little more information about each question and how it might help your riding goals.

Self-Assessment Question #1 : Are you relaxed?

Are there any muscle groups subconsciously tense? – gripping thigh, tension through shoulders, tense fingers, rigid jaw-line, rock hard arms, solid back? All of the above? Continue reading Q#1 Are You Relaxed?