Getting Pulled Out of the Tack

I've had five lessons since I last wrote about a lesson.  Get ready for a whole pile of biomechanics posts, Dressage nuts!

I know I've said that 'if I ride better, Connor goes better' before.  Duh.  But a couple of weeks ago, in a lesson in which the wheels really fell off, my trainer started in on a personal crusade to improve the way I sit.

"You sit fine, and then we add in more complex movements or Connor changes something and your position falls apart.  You have to be consistent in the way you sit so that no matter what he does, you are the same, and we have to make that good position your default."

Suddenly all kinds of things came to light, I'm going to focus on one today: getting pulled out of the saddle slightly every time I use a rein aid.  Not by Connor, by myself.  I essentially pull myself onto my pubic bone every time I give a rein aid.  Which, y'know, is often.

Pulled out of the saddle = flat horse.

There are a lot of side effects to that.  It means my hip angle and arm length change constantly.    It means Connor is getting tons of noisy, useless movement transmitted to him.  And it explains why I'm more effective with my trainer (constant reminders to stay quiet and upright) than on my own.

(Side note: Connor knows how to pull me slightly out of the saddle in exactly the same way as I pull myself out of the saddle, and deploys that tactic in lessons when I juuuuust manage to get him going well.  Sneaky.)
I'm not sneaky!

You always hear that you need to "use your core", but I'm starting to understand, at least at this point in Dressage, that the core itself is a means to something else, biomechanically. At least where I am now, using it effectively just means absorbing energy, blocking movement and keeping myself upright. I have this idea in which I'm going to ride in my weight belt sometime (whose purpose is mostly to remind you to have a tight core throughout a heavy lift), because you feel it if you let your core go loose while wearing it.

Same test: I'm sitting taller and Connor is moving better.

When I sit up, when my core muscles are "long" and tight up the front of my body, when my shoulders are down my back, when my chest is open, and when I am sitting back on my seatbones, all of which are becoming more automatic now, Connor pretty quickly goes really well.  When I don't, he doesn't go well.   Thanks to the Dressage saddle (what good freaking timing buying that thing was) and a whole pile of makeup lessons lately, I'm starting to default to that position, and our rides are becoming more consistent.

17 comments:

  1. I like how you explain this, the core can sometimes be difficult to explain when teaching.

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    1. I agree. It's not like heels down, where you can feel an immediate difference. Core takes some listening ability from the horse to feel a difference.

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  2. This. Position is everything and when you(accidentally) or your horse(purposely) get your position messed up, effective aids go out the window. I have found it most helpful to have about three position reminders that I check over and over as I ride. The three change depending on what's going on in training but project my core is almost always one of the three!

    The weight belt is an interesting idea. Heather Moffett of Enlightened Equitation recommends using a back protector turned around in front to teach people to use their core/project from the waist and also using it turned to the collapsed side to teach people to sit straight. Your weight belt would be a similar idea...

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    1. That is interesting, and makes my weight belt idea seem not so strange. Thanks!

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  3. It's simultaneously so enlightening and frustrating when you realize what you've been doing wrong! Great thought process about using your core, and you'll have to let us know if the weight belt helps!

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    1. I will! I'm still not sure if I want to look that ridiculous while riding yet or not...

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  4. I love that image, of the core being long. Definitely going to use that one, and an excellent reminder to remind my kids that we engage our core for a purpose, not just because we can.

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    1. Good! Yeah, my trainer gets credit for that one. It helps a lot. Actually today I rode with my cell phone in my sports bra and realized if I thought about pushing it 'up' it did the same thing...probably not good for kids though...haha.

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  5. That's a great picture to show the visual. This happens to me on jumper courses when I get tired and begin to rely on my hands. Just like dressage, the wheels fall off for me too.

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    1. Thanks, and thanks for drawing that parallel! That's absolutely what it is - overusing my hands, underusing my seat and core.

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  6. You really are good at dissecting and describing what you are learning. I must say, trying things you discuss like watching weight on the outside hip in a turn etc, really reinforces what my trainer says, but often in a different way. When I remember to use my core, I find my hips open and relax = huge change in my riding.

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    1. Thanks! I need to remember hips open like that too. I think a lot of our trainers are constantly searching for the right way to say the same thing that will resonate with a particular person. Sometimes my trainer says things and in my head I'm like "...I have no idea what that means." That stuff usually doesn't make it into the blog. I'll bet that same line works great for someone else though.

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  7. I'll be super curious to hear how riding in the weight belt works out for you should you get q chance!

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    1. I just have to get comfortable with being that much of a weirdo first...

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  8. Interesting! I know my coach would often tell me to think of having a string running from my back and holding my up, to prevent tipping forwards or being pulled.

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  9. Saddles make a world of a difference!

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