Open Hip, Open Doors

I pulled up to the barn last night in time to see my trainer and the two women who ride before me on Wednesday evenings out in the mare pasture trying in vain to catch any female horse but the mares just were not having it. That’s correct, two 45min lessons spent entirely on watching their mares run around the pasture like a bunch of lunatics. Luckily for me, someone had put my gelding in to give him his dinner early in an attempt to coerce the girls to come in too. I had a much easier time catching my ride for the evening. Mares…

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Cute dappled butt.

                                                                               Cute dappled butt.

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I have been working very hard lately on making significant changes to my seat and correctly engaging my core while riding. It has been a long process of strengthening some parts while loosening others in the right combination. It is difficult to describe how far I have come but let’s just say the improvement has been slow but staggering.

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Last night I received a little confirmation that things are moving in the right direction. My trainer is always positive and supportive, but she definitely isn’t one to over-compliment. I generally appreciate this since I am ultimately taking lessons to improve-not have smoke blown up my ass. But she is so keenly observant that she will say it if she sees it. It makes the compliments that much more meaningful. Last night after my lesson she commented that my seat has improved so much. She said it’s clear that I am able to give much more effective leg aids without it throwing off my upper body. Nice to hear since I have been slowly trying out some of these things on my own while riding Tyco but I never quite know if I am making the right change or not.

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She said I must be working on my core strength because she can see a difference. This is inaccurate to a point- I’ll explain. Unless you count laughing at Amy Schumer’s stand-up or sitting a bunch of bucks core strengthening, then I haven’t been working on it. HOWEVER, she isn’t wrong in her observation- I had some core strength deep down in there that I simply wasn’t using effectively at all while riding.

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I used to let my back be so loose in the saddle in what was a well-intentioned attempt to “follow or allow the horse’s movement”. Unfortunately all this does is prevent your parts from working independently. Try sitting a trot and instead of using your core to support your own frame, letting your hips/spine roll all over place. Here’s the sad punch line- you’ll be unable to use your legs as aids. You lose all ability to isolate muscles.

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The Jean Luc Cornille clinic was the kick-in-the-pants moment I needed to start experimenting with poise and tension within my own riding frame.

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Poise vs.Tension

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Super important principles offered up to you for some thoughts.

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In another post I’ll geek out on a rowing analogy involving poise and tension that eventually connects to riding, I promise. But not today…

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I had been festering squarely in the red zone below and could not seem to connect the dots physically.

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Last night for a good portion of the lesson, I maintained a tucked seat, upright body, and even convinced my hips to supple occasionally. You know what’s crazy?! Using multiple parts of your leg as different aids. Whoa.

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I also learned that I was giving up too early on some of these “new to me” aids. When Louie torques his body to avoid bending or switches the bend on me I would correct him by lengthening my inside leg while using my upper thigh to ask him to bend around my inside leg. The effort required was a lot for my right leg especially and I would apply the aid but not exactly give Louie enough time to process before I gave up on it. At one point, tracking right, he threw his shoulder into the middle of the arena and swapped the bend. I asked him to re-establish right bend and, ironically out of frustration, I held the aids a fraction longer and he rebalanced underneath me and bent right. He will get quicker at this eventually too, and I won’t have to extend the aid so dramatically. But for now, I needed to give him that extra beat to sort out the balance.

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3 thoughts on “Open Hip, Open Doors

  1. Nice observations and changes! Her tendency to not-over compliment is one of my favorite things too. Also, hi, I spent 20 minutes trying to catch the mares in the rain on Sunday to bring them in early. They wouldn’t have it then either, so I left them out there in the rain. Women.

  2. this is awesome! glad you’re starting to feel the difference in your rides!

    i’m really trying to work on these exact concepts and kinda get so jealous when i read your insights (and Jen’s too haha). my biomechanics trainer started working with JLC recently tho so hopefully she’ll be able to impart some of that wisdom to me at our next ride!

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