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View Full Version : Why do I lean *forward* when things go wrong? Any tips to stop it?



wsmoak
Jan. 22, 2010, 01:18 PM
So, I don't think I'm alone in the bad habit of tipping forward if things aren't going perfectly (or just in general).

It could be a jump that scares me, or picking up on signs that the horse is concerned about something Over There.

My reaction is to tense and tip forward. In the worst case, up on my toes, butt out of the saddle. ?!! Preparing to flee? From the _top_ of the horse?

Intellectually I know this is a Very Bad Idea. And I'm getting better at catching myself doing it and saying "Self, sit up and relax, he's not going to *do* anything."

I'm also improving at understanding when he takes a long spot *because* I leaned at him, and fixing it the next time around.

Any tips to stop doing it in the first place?

If you haven't seen the video of Hans Peter riding a scared young horse from the thread in the Dressage forum... THIS is what I want to ride like when I grow up, always right in the middle, no matter what: Video (http://www.topdressage.tv/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=445)

I've had trail rides that look like the first part of that. ;)

Thanks,

GotSpots
Jan. 22, 2010, 01:36 PM
Jump a few downhill jumps and/or sit on one who wants to stop dirty.

After you pick the dirt out of your teeth a few times the muscle memory will lock in.

Joking (though not completely) aside, as you sit in the tack, think about leading with your belly-button as much as possible and feeling the horse jump up out in front of you. A useful visual image for me is the idea of thinking that I am sitting on top of the horse's hind legs - since if you can control the hind legs, you can control the horse. Obviously, you're not actually that far back, but I find it helps think about riding with my leg rather than trying to force something with my hand or seat.

AppJumpr08
Jan. 22, 2010, 01:40 PM
When I had the same issue, I would just put a mental image in my head of going face first and breaking all my teeth out. Worked pretty well for me.

Oh, and I watched exactly that happen to a woman at a local gaming show two summers ago, and it was horrible. Horse was spooky/being a jerk, and she kept leaning forward. Finally the horse's head and her face connected. She was spitting blood and teeth, and fractured her eye socket. Really ugly.

subk
Jan. 22, 2010, 01:47 PM
I have what is probably a silly theory. When you are scared for your physical well being the body subconsciously goes toward a fetal position. Thus you lean forward (and pull your hands to your chest and maybe even stop dropping your weight down into your feet.) The results are generally that you physically do everything directly opposite of what will truly make you safer.

Intellectual override is how I combat it. Anytime I find myself in an uncomfortable situation I know that instinctually I'll take my leg off and lean forward, (which of course will make the bad stuff I'm trying to prevent happen even more quickly) so even if I'm not feeling it happen just yet, I sit up straighter than I think I should be, and put a little more leg on than I think I need.

findeight
Jan. 22, 2010, 01:57 PM
I have what is probably a silly theory. When you are scared for your physical well being the body subconsciously goes toward a fetal position.

Not silly at all. Actually read that in some sports psychology books over the years. Just your body reacting to a perceived threat by curling to protect it's core and vital parts. On some level, it is quite sensible.

I finally quit that after learning to really keep my shoulder back over my hip and sit down and around the horse.

Just mind over matter and changing your thinking. takes time but, once you realize what you are doing and why, it's easier to talk yourself out of it.

Peggy
Jan. 22, 2010, 01:59 PM
Helps to have someone good on the ground shouting instructions during bad moments. After awhile it gets seared in your brain and you hear their voices when you get in trouble: sit UP, right-rein-right-leg, forward...

Meredith Clark
Jan. 22, 2010, 02:04 PM
I have what is probably a silly theory. When you are scared for your physical well being the body subconsciously goes toward a fetal position. Thus you lean forward (and pull your hands to your chest and maybe even stop dropping your weight down into your feet.) The results are generally that you physically do everything directly opposite of what will truly make you safer.
.

I always say that I curl into fetal position when something goes wrong!

There was a period of time when Jay was having major issues, bolting, bucking etc and I got into a bad habit of curling up because I knew i was going to come off.. whether I jumped or fell.

I never had this problem in my early years of riding when I did only Western Pleasure, but then again I wasn't riding squirrely OTTBs either!

My sister also has an issue with it but I think it's more because she's very tall and long through the torso. Her body just folds over when she gets nervous.

No solution.. but you're not alone!

kellyb
Jan. 22, 2010, 02:13 PM
No advice for me but I do the same thing. I think it's because I had two bolters - had to be ready for them to take a breeze at any time :lol:

Whenever my current horse gets tense I lean forward (worse than I do normally) which is completely irrational - the worst thing he does is stop dead to spook - so it would make a lot more sense for me to sit straight or even a tad behind the motion!

Tiffani B
Jan. 22, 2010, 02:13 PM
I had this problem for a long time, due to some nasty rearers who didn't know they shouldn't keep going over... :( I got to be very afraid of ANY upward movement with the front end/downward with the back end, including collection. That's not good...

My trainer started putting me on horses that were SAFE but had short fuses. If I didn't sit deep and keep myself centered, they'd stop, turn around, go to the center, whatever... no rearing or anything, but it FELT the same to me.

Once I could intellectually talk myself out of the fear it got easier. Now when a horse balks or changes their balance and I feel that first spark of panic in my stomach, my brain is there to override it. I just tell myself sit down, they aren't going anywhere.

Of course, I haven't ridden one who has given me a TRUE challenge like the horse in that video - some days I feel like I could handle it, and other days I'm not sure. But at least now I'm willing to try!

Oh - never visualize yourself falling off or getting hurt. It'll come true!!! Visualize yourself sitting deep and remaining calm on the scariest horse you can imagine. It helps to watch vids like that one, where the rider is successful, and put yourself on the horse in your mind. It's funny how, even in your mind, you'll start to "curl up" and feel the panic setting in, but you can watch the video and use it to recondition your instincts. It works, it really does!

EquineRacers
Jan. 22, 2010, 05:14 PM
Its called the Fetal Position and people tend to do that when they are scared. Kind of like curling up in alittle ball. Its a mental thing that you will have to really work on. Having a very good trainer on the ground couch you thorough it should help!

wsmoak
Jan. 22, 2010, 05:32 PM
It's definitely curling up in fetal position. Too bad that instinct is so directly opposite of what *actually* keeps you safe!

I knew someone would suggest riding one that stops if you lean. ;) Been there, done that, and have the chronic neck and shoulder pain as a souvenir. It wasn't his fault, he's a little guy and really *couldn't* jump with me hovering over his shoulder! That history just makes me more defensive.

Now I have the horse everyone should start out with -- jumps what he's pointed at and does what you ask him to, modulo the laws of physics.

I do hear my instructor's voice in my head, which helps as I don't get up there very often (and now am moving away. :( )

Cheval Gris
Jan. 22, 2010, 06:16 PM
Yes, the fetal position is not a silly theory, but in deed very true. My last injury, through eye witness account, instead of sitting back and tall, by the end of the 'bolt' i was in the fetal position going 20 mph when I decided to bail...dont' remember this but I hit my head. I NEVER did this as a younger rider, but with three falls and all ending in injury, that was my body's natural reaction. Now how long it is going to take to fix is yet to be seen. Maybe some sports psychology?

Risk-Averse Rider
Jan. 23, 2010, 06:16 PM
I do hear my instructor's voice in my head, which helps as I don't get up there very often (and now am moving away. :( )Maybe you can get him to record some key phrases for you, and just play them back while you're riding ;-)

asterix
Jan. 23, 2010, 06:33 PM
Dollars to donuts you (and me, and everyone else who does this) are tensing up when you tip/curl as well.

I try and breathe, really consciously, deeply, to remind myself to sit up and relax (I know, I know, but you can TRY to relax). I talk to myself -- sit up, sit back, stretch tall, leg on, horse in front, ride AT the fence, belly button, present the chest, ....
just all these mantras to keep me breathing, thinking, overriding...

Something else that helped a lot (for a stopper, not a bolter, for obvious reasons) was to learn to reach back and smack my hesitating wonder pony behind my leg at takeoff -- it's really empowering, it works, AND it keeps you tall :D

sunnycher
Jan. 23, 2010, 06:54 PM
My friends and I would always laugh at our 'going fetal'. What helped me was...
1. having a TB that would stop if I got ahead
2. my current horse is 1/2 shire and likes me to ride 'deep' to my fences. When I know I'm helping my horse, it is easier for me to train my body, I never want to interfere with my horse. If you are a decent rider, you can just about always catch up in the air. I don't ofter get left behind.

Good luck.

skip916
Jan. 23, 2010, 06:59 PM
i did this when i was younger as a result of a really bad bolter/school horse that scared the pooh out of me on a daily basis... i finally figured out that if i always picked a spot to look at just above and beyond the horses ears and stared at it when scared or when i felt him "building" to the bolt/buck i would not only stay on, but counteract my body's instinct to resort to fetal...

think about it like when you see a ballerina doing 400 crazy turns but they keep their eye focused in one spot and subsequently dont fall down. it balances your whole body and really, your body goes where your eye goes- especially when it comes to jumping or a bucking fit... so when you are about to think to yourself, "oh sh*t", instead train yourself to think "pick a spot" and stare at it. you simply can't curl over if you're looking up.

don't feel bad- it's hard to break a natural instinct!

evntr06
Jan. 23, 2010, 11:41 PM
Same problem here! Keep the tips coming, I'd love to know of all the tools I can use!

My problem is not only fetal position, but I also FREEZE in it, unable to move. My brain is saying I should relax and sit up, and my body does completely opposite! I can't seem to be able to "WILL" myself, so need some tricks to fool the sub-conciousness! :)

bip
Jan. 24, 2010, 12:39 AM
I have been given the image of pretending I am one of those plastic dolls where the legs snap into channels in the horse's side. They snap in right where the girth is, click! It is a lot easier to keep your shoulders over your center of gravity when you trust that your legs are locked in!

A BNT once told me a story where she was on course and her mount slipped coming around a corner. He went down and she ended up standing with one leg on either side of him. Perfect balance! The horse does whatever, but you stay over your legs.

I still suck at it, but I'm making progress.

2horseowner
Jan. 24, 2010, 12:57 AM
Yes, please keep the tips coming. Evntr06, do we ride together? I do exactly the same thing. When I FREEZE, the poor horse doesn't know what to do. I basically turned into a "soup sandwich" going over a 2'6" vertical. Yes, a simple vertical. I started curling around 5 strides out, then thought I better fix this now. I looked like I was on some sort of seesaw I guess. My poor horse didn't know whether to stop or go. Needless to say, he ended up stopping, and off I went. I have been watching videos of good riding, and I'm trying to watch their body position. It does seem to help. I think I get into the fetal position more often, if I think the horse is getting quicker to the jump, when all he's doing is a normal canter. A bad habit I picked up from a genuine rusher. Everyone, please keep the good tips coming, I'm glad to know I'm not the only "leaner"!

CamdenLab
Jan. 24, 2010, 01:24 AM
I do the same thing. Dressage lessons with a great trainer helped a lot. It's all about leading with the belly button and you really can't tense up to ride correctly.

woodside
Jan. 24, 2010, 06:47 AM
I do this! And I paid the price last spring schooling a downhill combination -- luckily I landed on my feet and the only thing I broke was my heel bone. I was out of the tack for 5 mos and when I was able to start moving again my trainer insisted I work out with her personal trainer for a few sessions so I could get stronger in my "core." We had been discussing for a long time prior to the accident that this was a must and I had been doing core exercises, so thought I was pretty strong. Turns out, according to the pt, that my core is pretty strong but my upper body -- shoulders, arms, upper back -- were weak and that was a big problem with tipping forward. She has had me doing alot of push ups, free weights, etc to strengthen. AND lots of work of the wobble board for muscle memory. I was amazed to find out what it really felt like to be standing up straight!!

enjoytheride
Jan. 24, 2010, 09:14 AM
Actually I think that an instructor that puts you on a stopper to cure a leaning forward problem is probably the worst instructor in the world and only wants you to suffer in fear and pain because someone did the same thing to them.

It's stupid, its dangerous, its mean, and it will do nothing but create more problems and send you to the hospital.

I don't know why people want to teach by installing a sense of fear, pain, and anticipation in their students.

It's a natural human response and it protects your body even if it's the wrong thing to do on a horse. Somehow you need to find out how to break through that patter and override the part of your brain that thinks it's a good idea. Lots and lots of confidence building lessons on a well behaved and steady horse are very helpful.

Tamara in TN
Jan. 24, 2010, 09:22 AM
[QUOTE=wsmoak;4635232]So, I don't think I'm alone in the bad habit of tipping forward if things aren't going perfectly (or just in general).

it's called "going fetal" wrapping up and protecting the internal organs from a fall...one does it in just about anything...skiing,skating,breaking up with a boyfriend...anything that might "hurt"

you have to learn not to...it's as simple as that

either thru practice or confidence (or bravado;)) one way of another you have to train your body to over ride the natural instinct to "ball up"

overcoming that is specific to each person

Tamara in TN

wsmoak
Jan. 24, 2010, 09:37 AM
Well I had several opportunities to practice just walking around the neighborhood yesterday! Everything is under water here and the horses have been locked in for days. Walking out on the dirt roads, Patrick was spooking at stupid stuff and jigging, and he doesn't DO that normally (takes too much energy. ;) )

I'm pleased to say I sat up and put him to work on serpentines down the road if he wouldn't walk quietly.

I second the advice to work with a personal trainer to identify areas that need improvement. I started with one back in May of 2008, and the strength and balance training have made a world of difference in my riding. (Losing 50+ pounds didn't hurt either!)

Leading with your belly button and looking up at a fixed spot sound like great things to try.

Blugal
Jan. 24, 2010, 11:43 AM
A good visual is to think of your upper body as a tree and your seat/legs as the roots. The roots are holding you there, and the tree doesn't lean - it stands tall.

This usually helps me with horses that root - I think, "You can't pull me forward, I'm a tree." :lol:

I also start singing slow calm tunes in my head when things go wrong - keeps the rhythm and makes me breathe normally.

ReSomething
Jan. 24, 2010, 11:49 AM
Supposedly some saddles will balance you better, others tend to let you tip or sit in a chair position.

I couldn't afford dressage lessons so I went to the saddleseat barn down the road. As a veteran tipper who was afraid of forward, spooky horses I thought it might give me some more tools for the box. My advice is always look up, always breathe, support your efforts with exercise that incorporates balance, such as Yoga, and just as the other poster said envision yourself *right there*. I fell off a couple of times because I just plain gave up instead of scrambling back upright.
And also I use a pain reliever so I can move the way I need to, I'm in my 50's.

Sightunseen
Jan. 24, 2010, 05:53 PM
I have this problem too. The biggest thing that helped me on the flat was thinking about how I wanted to look on the horse. I actually almost ignore my horse and think ride like an Eq rider. This makes me sit up and lengthen my leg and basically just get my stuff together, and ironically the horse steps into line. While I stand by the fact that I have the coolest young horse EVER and he just responds ideally to everything, I do think that by redirecting your thoughts to something you can actively do calms you down and therefore your horse too. I also really like to get video of me riding so I can see how I look its really helpful because half the time I would swear to you I was sitting up straight when I was pitching forward. Also tell yourself to do things in the positive like say "Sit up" rather than "DONT lean forward".

jen-s
Jan. 24, 2010, 08:23 PM
I agree with all about the fetal position, but my take on it is a bit different (because if anyone's gotta be difficult or quirky, it's gonna be me!).

My OMG-I'm-gonna-die go-to-position isn't the true fetal but two point! I have short, short arms and if I get freaked and expect that I'm gonna lawndart, then I immediately hop into two-point. It's better than fetal because I've got my heels down and weight in them (and MANE!!), but still not the best idea.

Since my gelding is an occasional bucker (sometimes mild, sometimes not-so-mild), I've learned that I can stay with him not by my standard two point, but by standing up! I can't quite seem to get the sit back thing, but have modified my two point stance to one where my seat goes up, my shoulders go vertical or behind, and I let the reins slip enough that he doesn't pull me down but I can get some leverage to stop him. Definitely not ideal and I wish I had video or pics to show you (heck, to show me as I can't see myself), but so far it's worked like a champ. Even if he throws in twisty bucks, I've been fine so far.

I'm holding out hope that I can continue to progress towards sitting down and back, but I'm definitely happy that at least I'm not longer two pointing it.

mybelle
Jan. 25, 2010, 01:15 PM
Great thread! Please keep the tips coming

Tiffani B
Jan. 25, 2010, 01:27 PM
Actually I think that an instructor that puts you on a stopper to cure a leaning forward problem is probably the worst instructor in the world and only wants you to suffer in fear and pain because someone did the same thing to them.

It's stupid, its dangerous, its mean, and it will do nothing but create more problems and send you to the hospital.

I don't know why people want to teach by installing a sense of fear, pain, and anticipation in their students.

Totally disagree. I didn't say a DIRTY stopper. A horse who needs to be ridden 100% of the time is a GREAT teacher for someone who's mind "checks out." It trains you to keep your brain in the game. Of course, a horse who quits no matter what you do is not going to help. I'm talking about one who will quit if YOU quit.

bornfreenowexpensive
Jan. 25, 2010, 01:37 PM
all the visual thoughts suggested are good....but really, the only way to fix it is to ride more. Lots more. You have to learn to feel when things are going wrong, not be afraid...and keep riding. Most riders with this issue have stopped riding when they lean forward.....

The more horses you ride (good and bad), the more time you spend riding..the more confident in your balance...the more likely you are to keep riding when things go south....and be able to ride through those naughty moments.

evntr06
Jan. 25, 2010, 02:01 PM
Totally disagree. I didn't say a DIRTY stopper. A horse who needs to be ridden 100% of the time is a GREAT teacher for someone who's mind "checks out." It trains you to keep your brain in the game. Of course, a horse who quits no matter what you do is not going to help. I'm talking about one who will quit if YOU quit.

I think that approach (putting a student of a horse that needs rider to be there 100%) depends a lot on personality, bravery and ability of the student. For some, that would help a lot. For others, it may scare the student even more, creating a visious cycle, which will either end up with student being hurt or giving up riding all together.


ETA: Bornfree, I think you hit the nail on the head. It is definitely about having enough confidence and experience to ride through whatever, and I feel like I still lack in both (which is probably the reason for fetal position to begin with).