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.
If you are guilty of this, because you are now behind the movement, your aids become delayed and less effective.
To correct a pumping upper body, revisit the development of your seat and leg position at the halt. Look in a mirror or ask a person on the ground to check to see that when you sit in the correct position in the saddle. Check if you are in true alignment and are able to draw a line from your shoulder to your hip and straight down to the back of your heel.
Your leg needs to hang long and relaxed. Your seat must rest in the saddle in a relaxed manner, and you should feel both seat bones in the saddle.
Merry Go Round
Think about the motion of up and down and forward on a merry-go-round. All very smooth and rhythmic due to the mechanical nature of the ride. When your horse moves at the walk, trot or canter, your pelvis follows the movements smoothly while your upper body stays quiet, upright and balanced.
The secret is in the Core
- To maintain a quiet upper body your abdominal muscles and those of the lower back, have to contract and relax rhythmically.
- Try not to grip with your thighs because this will lift you out of the saddle.
- Relax your leg muscles so that you can sit as deeply as possible in the saddle and go with your horse’s movements.
- When your horse canters, allow his canter to ‘roll’ under you.
- Keep checking that you are sitting upright.
As always with potential positional faults you should consider lunge lessons and work without stirrups. This will help you to develop balance and really feel your horse’s movements in the canter. By riding on the lunge whilst your instructor takes control of the horse you can focus on your seat and leg position.
Once you find and establish the balanced seat at the canter the pumping will stop.
- 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.
Which I explain in this post : How to get, and keep, your horse sensitive to your aids.
“One of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple is harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clear to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” – Steve Jobs
Find the heart of the matter and then halve it.
We all are guilty of not challenging ourselves when things are going well. Goodness me, we spend enough time struggling to get it right without putting more pressure on once we have achieved something worthwhile. But are we not seeking continual improvement? My advice to you is that once your horse is established in his 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 very same required result in a more subtle way.
If the answer is yes, next time half the pressure again, until you strip the aid back to its ‘essential state’ where 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 muddy’s the waters and overly complicates things. 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!
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.
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?
Hey 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, in 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?
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.
Unfortunately, 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.
When you sign up to The Crystal System Blog you get 3 valuable reports
- 5 Dressage Tips that could Revolutionise your Riding
- 10 MUST DO Dressage Test Tips that will Take your scores to GOOD or better
- 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?