Whoa, EquiNovice, cool it on the multiple posts or you’ll lose all of your lovely followers.
I have been doing some reading lately in the interest of continuing my equestrian education outside of the arena. Most of the material I read was focused on your seat and it seemed to suggest that I needed to make some big changes to the way I currently ride. I liked most of the ideas presented and the imagery was good although, as we all know, reproducing these things from brain to body is never easy and Rome wasn’t built in a day. Perhaps the biggest idea I took from the combo of articles, book excerpts, and webinars was that I don’t think about my seat while riding nearly enough. Not good. At this point, I wouldn’t even say that my seat is established enough to be influential at all. If I am honest, my lack of attention to this detail in conjunction with my learning level means that I still spend a startlingly large amount of my lesson “just sitting” on my horse.
But EquiNovice, isn’t that what you do in riding lessons? Sit on your horse?
Welllllllll…yes and no…
It is true that it is far better to be just sitting on the horse than to be no longer sitting on the horse:
But the moral of the story is that there really should be a whole lot of subtle, nearly invisible activity going on to complement the “conversation” you as the rider are continually having with the horse while mounted. Conversing and influencing are very different from “just sitting”. Unfortunately, all this conversing and influencing requires massive amounts of energy and sustained muscle tone. Even riders in better shape struggle with this because a huge amount of muscle memory is required to not have to actively think about your seat the whole time you ride. Ugh, I am exhausted just thinking about it!
In my lesson last night, I tried to spend at least 50% of the time thinking about my seat. I think I came close to that goal and that it helped me a lot. Obviously, I spent the other half trying to piece together the other elements of riding. I occasionally get fiddly with my hands, and I often end up contorted when trying to create bend or even straightness (earth to brain: just think about this one, would ya? Contort to create straight?!!?! Fail.)
I did truly feel more influential during the moments when I maintained a certain tone in my core. Last night wasn’t without its struggle moments, though, because the line between “tone” and straight-up “tension” is hella narrow!! Things would feel magically delicious for a few strides and then I would be like “what are these shoulder-shaped things doing up by my ears?!” My instructor had to constantly remind me and as soon as I took a nice deep breath and allowed my shoulders to melt down my back where they belong, everything got better.
I also had trouble with correct contact last night. Later in the lesson Louie started to hang on the bit on the left or inside rein while tracking left. I was pretty exhausted and could tell my muscles had packed it in for the night because I kept playing tug-o-war with my left arm. My instructor kept telling me in a bajillion different ways that my left arm was static. She would say “your left arm is static, no longer following” “I can see half the bit hanging out of the left side of his mouth” “put your right hand back into the conversation” “you’re losing connection on the right side” and each time my brain processed the info and yet I did nothing but stare at my left arm and wonder why the hell it was no longer responding. Of course the second I stopped hanging on the left rein, Louie was like “oh darn, now I have to hold my own head up-is that all you wanted? Well, I suppose I can do that”