October 4, 2021

Lesson Wrap-Up: Put 75% of Your Weight Over Your Left Side

Before my in-person lesson with CGP on Saturday, my head was already spinning with so many new thoughts about riding and biomechanics, and then CGP proceeded to completely blow my mind.


In the picture above, she had just physically grabbed my left thigh (after asking permission, lol) and yanked it down the saddle while moving my quad muscle behind my leg, then put her hand underneath my left seatbone and asked me to drop my weight down onto her hand. "There," she said. "Now you're straight." "Um don't take this the wrong way, but I don't believe you. I feel like I'm falling off to the left." So she went and got my tripod and took the above photo to prove it to me.

Mary Wanless teachers and touching people, name a more dynamic duo

When we moved onto doing this at the trot, she had me stand in the irons with 75% of my weight over the left side, then go back to sitting or posting. I'm doing that in the below GIF, and while it feels to me like I'm about to fall off of his left side, I'm actually pretty straight.

We also worked on my posting mechanic. It took both of us quite a while to get through to each other on this, but when she said "You're getting to the top of the rise and adding this extra...motion," I suddenly realized what was happening. I was using my glute maxes to lock out my hips like a CrossFit air squat, and it's that lock out motion that causes my leg to swing in the posting trot. You can clearly see it here:

Ingrained movement patterns are hard, yo

She had me think about keeping my hip bones pointing more forward instead of down and shortening the distance from my boobs to my pubic bone by keeping "crunched". And just to complete the CrossFit air squat thing, she also got onto me about sending my hips backward in the post, saying I need to kneel down more than sit back.

A lot of the posting mechanic work ended up being about my shock absorbers. I tend to neutralize my shock absorbers by not allowing my joints to flex in the saddle:

I lose my balance and post once partway through this GIF because I'm not allowing my shock absorbers to absorb his motion. I look still, but it's not a good still.

But it wasn't until she told me to soften the underneath of my foot to allow my arch to also act a shock absorber did things really change. The irony is that I teach a running class at my gym in which we begin our form analysis by jumping with a totally straight leg so they can feel how the shock moves through their body if they neutralize all their shock absorbers, and then jumping while allowing the joints to flex, allowing the arch to act as a spring. But for some reason I had never thought to apply my own lessons in the saddle before.

The last piece of the puzzle Saturday was my left arm. See, (and I have a whole other post on this, lol) Connor loves to toss me onto his right side using diagonal force that goes from the left hind to the right fore. I spent a lot of this lesson learning to identify and fight that, and you can see it clearly in this GIF right as we come alongside the door:

"I think this may have something to do with your left arm," she said. "Huh?" I said. "You often hold your left arm out in space, and I think you feel the need to do that to counterbalance yourself. If you were falling off a balance beam to the right, you'd put your left arm out to catch yourself."

She's not wrong, you can see it in tons of my photos over the years. And sure enough, keeping my left elbow by my side felt like the last piece of the puzzle Saturday.

We didn't work on Connor AT ALL, he was practically a glorified lunge lesson horse, and yet:

Mary was like "What did you DO? I've never seen him move like this before!"

Literally nothing, except fixed my position!

...and bought him a saddle. "None of this would have been possible in any of the other saddles you've had since I've known you," she said. "You are not wrong!" I said.


  1. Ugh, I feel that falling off to the left sentiment with my entire being LOL
    Glad you're getting to the bottom of it! He looks amazing in those last photos :-D

    1. It's hard! And it's the type of thing that I can't see without mirrors or a coach to tell me when I'm straight.

    2. Yup! Eventually you'll be able to feel it happening either to your body or your horse's body (or both!), even if you aren't able to fix it yourself quite yet. I'm at that point now. I can be riding along and all of a sudden, "Oh crap, I'm leaning right again and my horse is drifting and/or counter-bending." But without the instruction on how to fix it, I just keep leaning right. Self-awareness and feeling it is more than half the battle, though!

  2. He looks fantastic!!! I love when fixing ourselves magically makes them better.

  3. This is so cool! The biomechanics stuff is just wild. I’m glad you are willing to explain and share the things you are trying on here. It’s valuable to hear these aha! moments.

    1. It helps me too, I learn it a lot more deeply if I think through what I felt in the lesson well enough to put it into words. I'll write this post later this week, but I actually taught Mary a similar lesson in the Dressage saddle yesterday and she was able to get the same feelings and results I did, which was helpful to all three of us.

  4. As an instructor said to me 'our bodies lie to us'. It's hard to unlearn these things but you look amazing.

  5. Awwww I'm so happy for you. What a fantastic toolbox to unlock.

  6. Oh shit. A lot of what you just wrote identifies for me, but off the opposite side. Today I learned I'm a left-side faller.

    1. I think I have the opposite side problem but I have to go read this before getting on a horse to find out lol

  7. Great post, and so relatable with what I've been working with myself. It's amazing when everything comes to together!