June 19, 2020

Swing Dancing and Dressage Have a Lot in Common

I had intended to get GIFs made of my ride of last week's lesson by now, but, you know, life and stuff. Stills will have to do - partially because I have TWO more lessons coming up with her this weekend as I take advantage of her last available weekend for lessons for a while.

I had two really, REALLY, REEEEEEEEEEALLY big biomechanics revelations during this lesson.

The first is that my left hand is ALWAYS behind my right hand:


Remember when I was like "When I carry the EquiCube I can't get Connor to go in a straight line?" Him being heavy on the left rein is a chicken-and-egg thing I think (was he heavy on the left rein and made me feel like I needed to be heavy back, or did I pull and make him heavy?), but I do know that when I put my left hand forward/even with the right, his whole body softens and he's no longer heavy in the left rein.

This is also why he turns left like this, I'm causing this. I heard "Get his right ear in front of his right shoulder! Bend doesn't happen in the neck! Don't give up on the right rein!" a LOT.

I'm not 100% sure where in my body this problem starts. Ultimately it goes back to not having my bear down strong enough that my arms can be independent, of course, but the actual arm position problem either starts at the shoulder or the torso, and I'm leaning toward shoulder. I have no problems "plugging in" my right shoulder blade, but the left is engaged so rarely it feels foreign to plug that in. When she yelled "left hand forward!" my automatic response was to engage that shoulder blade, and he immediately softened on that rein.

I've also noticed this under the barbell in CrossFit since this lesson, interestingly enough.

The other major discovery: my pulling problem persists, but not in the way I expected it to. I now perceive it as a rhythm/following problem.

Actually, you know what it feels like? It feels like when I was learning to swing dance in high school, and my band director kept telling me I wasn't following my partner. And I was like "what do you mean, I feel like I am" and he was like "No you're not, you're leading from behind" and he made me dance with my eyes closed so I couldn't anticipate what movement my partner was about to put me into.

(In swing dancing, the man is very much like a Dressage rider, responsible for choosing which movement to perform next and guiding the woman's body wordlessly and ideally invisibly through the movements - sound familiar? Side note, I LOVE swing dancing!)

Why I learned how to swing dance in high school - this was Prom (that's me!), and there was a live big band

I felt for all the world like I wasn't pulling, but she was so fast with "You're pulling!" every time that I started to realize (and see in the video) that I would be with him, with him, with him, against him, in the blink of an eye, stride by stride, and my contact wasn't consistent either. Even when I tried REALLY hard to stay with him, I'd have the rhythm and then lose it. I'm not FOLLOWING my partner. Just like in swing dancing lessons.


So what did I do this week? I rode with my eyes closed, just like I did in swing dance classes. Thank goodness for saintly ponies.  Is it completely fixed? No. But I have a much more subtle understanding of what my instructors mean when they say "You're pulling" now, and what I need to do to fix it.

We have a Saturday evening and Sunday morning lesson this weekend in which we're going to continue to unpack this, and I am SO ready!


  1. Really cool blog post. Though I don't really ride anymore, just being with horses has always been about the dance. The give and take, mutual respect and beautiful relationship by trust, well........you understand.

    1. I do! We need to get you riding again :) Just a little.

  2. Gosh this is why I love reading blogs - because I also have had so many issue's following, mostly in the canter. Trainer D has been having me ride with 1 hand and swapping them back and forth and that has helped. I will attempt an eyes closed ride - I also had a personal trainer a year ago mention that I push and pull more with my right hand with weights, but when I ride I feel like all I do is ride with the left arm. I'm still trying to figure out what that means (that trainer is long gone and he creeped me out anyway)

    1. I'm so glad you got something out of it! The canter is hardest for me to follow too, Connor wants to take me down down down and it feels like if I resist (pull, probably) in the reins I'm keeping him together, but that's not the right answer.

  3. I love this analogy! I learned to swing dance in high school as well.