Saturday, December 4, 2010

Slo-Mo Passenger Lesson

This morning, Guinness and I went for a walk away from the other horses down to my septic field - where the grass is still green. He was overjoyed. There I spent a half-hour or so closely observing his halt-walk-halt transitions, shutting my eyes, and trying to work out where his feet were and how things felt. It was really educational. This is the second time that we've done this and I figured that I'd better blog about it while I can remember what I was thinking..

- It seems that when a hind foot is loaded with weight, that hip rises - and when it is unloaded, it drops. This is totally counter-intuitive to me!

- However, when a front foot is unloaded, the shoulder rises.

- If the rider's weight is back and we are trying to encourage the horse to use his hiney more, shouldn't the rider synchronize MORE with the horse's hind end?

- It seems that the rider should avoid "falling into the dip" created when the horse unloads a hind foot, since it seems that would tend to off balance the horse?? Should the rider strive to keep her own hips even - say at the trot?

- I tend to sit more on my seat-bones, and to stay off of my crotch, while riding. To do this, I tip my hips up. This is ok, except that I had a L4 discectomy after rupturing that disc during a sit-trot lesson about 10 years ago, so I can't over-do that position. In this position, it is natural for my thighs to move somewhat forward to compensate for me shifting my cheeks under me and my weight a bit back.

- To keep my thighs aligned under me, I have to tense the muscles at the juncture of my hip and back of my thigh. This is not pleasant and makes me feel stiff. Thus, my "chair-seat." (I admit that I have chunky thighs and short legs, and this may be a factor!) I can allow my lower leg to hang straight from my knees without having to tense any other muscles..

- If I squeeze my upper thighs a little, it tends to roll my legs from a pidgeon-toed position and my toes will point a bit more straight forward. Is this good? I probably do this without knowing it.

- To cue a HQ yield, I can easily bring my inside lower leg back behind the girth and point my toe downward. To cue sideways, I could use a neutral leg with pressure at the girth. To cue a FH yield, I could squeeze my inside thigh/knee and allow my toe to point a bit in toward the horse which results in pressure a little in front of the girth. Is there any reason not to do this?

I would greatly appreciate your feedback.

It is snowing here.


inchwormwv said...

Hey Clare, about the leg cues... Buck Brannaman had us scissor our legs a bit to steer - rather than pushing the horse somewhere, you create an opening that the horse moves into. So for a simple right turn you would move your right leg back and left leg forward.

Tina said...

I like the scissor idea!

I think that whatever works for you and your horse is fine. Trying to do it a certain way (or not) just because "that's how you do it" just adds stress to the equation. So, decide what works for you and go for it! I once rode a horse that stopped and backed when you said "rutabaga" and spun when you said "turnip". (Get it...TURN ip!) Anything goes!

Note: If you ever find a new partner for G you might want to include an instruction manual, but I don't think that'll ever be sounds like he's a keeper!

Lisa said...

Clare - some AWESOME insights!

I'm not sure about the footfalls. I used to know this. An excellent resource is Mark Rashid's "Understanding Foot Fall" and Susan Harris "Balance Gait and Movement" (I could be wrong on that title but it's close and I know the author is correct).

Another way to think about it is this, when the hind leg swings forward, the belly has to swing away. You can figure the timing of the hind leg by feeling the swing in the belly.

I don't think the rider should be back too far. The further you are back on the horse, the more you sit on the weaker part of his back. The more his back drops, the more he camps out his HQ.

I have found, with my riding, the best "seat" is the classical seat. It's a tripod where you are supported by your seat bones and your pubic bone. Not so far forward as to be on your crotch but not so far back that you are too far onto your pockets.

If you can find Wendy Murdoch's "Simplify Your Riding" it's a great resource. It's out of print (I think) but I found one on eBay for about $12. She comes from a Centered Riding background and the way she breaks things down is really cool. I think you'd like it.

Naturally Gaited said...

Thank you, ladies! I pretty much do the scissors-thing (Linda P. suggests to practice riding a barrel and turning it).

Lisa, I'll consider belly-swing next time I'm paying attention. Hey, Lisa, my crotch is *between* my seat bones & pubic bone - this not-on-the-crotch idea has always confused me! ;-) I'm going to pull out the old Sally Swift book to remind myself of some of her ideas. (My buddy Sierra has taken years of Centered Riding lessons up in Cape Cod and is willing to teach me some lessons when it warms up.) I'll look for "Simplified Riding"!!

Hey, have you guys checked out You would not believe the available titles - including Mark Rashid's videos and MANY more.

Tina, I figure that if something happens to me, all my PNH & clicker stuff have to go with G. plus my blog should help his new partner. I've given it lots of thought!! (Too much probably.)

Thanks again. - Clare