Sometimes some of us are lucky enough to ride with a clinician on occasion. On those occasions we usually look forward to it with great anticipation as we have high hopes of coming away with life shattering ah ha moments that completely fix our issues we are working on with our horses.
Experienced riders who clinic often know this is not the case. What I learned over time is that the time spent with that clinician is only as good as what I am willing to put in front of them.
It’s not so important to show off my riding abilities and my horse’s perfection as it is to show how I really ride and train. To allow my ride to look like crap and be ugly so that I can be observed and said trainer can give me honest feedback and suggest imperative changes.
Additionally, let’s talk agenda. We usually know in our minds going in what we are hoping to work on. Often riders never get to those things because they are stuck working on what the trainer wants to work on. This is obviously ok because the trainer wants to of course address the most obvious issues first. We as a rider, WANT this. But one also has to be willing to attempt to move forward within their session to begin to work on what THEY the rider, wanted to address. If the trainer feels they want to bring you back a few steps, they will say this. But if you don’t try to move forward to the next piece that you would like assistance on, often you will not ever get there.
In closing, have a plan, be open, and don’t be afraid to go where you need to go, it’s YOUR session, take some control of it!
Learning to isolate and use different parts of your body at different times and differently can often be a huge challenge for a rider. Typical example unfolds when we are asked to engage our abs or use our core or use our seat in a downward transition in order to get our horse to come under in the downward, meaning put his hind feet more under the center of his body and drop his butt, coming more up in the withers. This is an important concept to master because we want to preserve our horses mouth and not pull back on the reins in this downward transition in addition to keeping the withers up and butt down rather than looking like a wheelbarrow.
I had been asked to do many things to achieve this but it wasn’t until I could keep a soft elastic elbow and arm, giving and taking, while at the same time allowing myself to use my body to drive my horse under in the downward.
What I had to do was allow it to look really ugly. Give myself permission to lean too far behind the vertical. This is OK as long as a didn’t take my hands and arms with me, but left them in the same space they were in and just used my seat to tuck, engaged my abs and leaned a little bit back, everything down and under. But..leave my arms and closed hands alone.
After working on this and once the desired result is achieved consistently…then I could refine what I was doing. We all know we don’t want to be behind the vertical or brace but that is the ugly truth that I had to allow happen before we could slough off the old ugly and embrace the emergence of new beautiful downward transitions!
My personal tip to help isolate your arms and elbows from the rest of your body: Walk and jog on an eliptical that has a middle hand rest to grip while walking. Focus on walking and jogging and keeping your arms and elbows loose and elastic while moving your lower body. Advance yourself into doing this at more of an uphill incline…voila after a few weeks you will totally understand how your upper body is supposed to feel and be, completely separate from your lower body.
Simple tips from my point of view.
On the subject of keeping yours heels down, I wish I was told, “toes up and in”, (although in never really happens, if you think this, it helps immensely in rotating your leg into the correct position to begin with) rather than heels down. Toes up and in allows for a much more relaxed foot that does not enact the leg muscles to stiffen much at all. The stiffening of the leg muscles and pressing down with force into the heel immediately tightens the calf causing the rider to bounce up and down in the saddle rather that forward and back, to move with the horse. It also causes more leg to be “on” thus negating the ability to use light aids. If the leg is always “on” you must then use even stronger aids to say something else. Think pigeon toe in, or rotated leg in, flabby part of leg out, 10% of muscle use.