Please Share Your Helpful Mental Images for Riding
You know what its like to struggle with something over and over until you think about it in just the right way? I had a lovely light bulb moment not long ago, and the solution was just to think of things differently. It was so simple, I wanted to kick myself for not thinking of it sooner!
First I have to admit that I have a really bad tendency to use too much rein when the pony is naughty, and ride backwards when I should be focused on reminding my horse that he needs to be mindful of the leg and seat aids, and riding the correction back to front. One day, my instructor said "imagine your reins as stiff, like dressage whips, which you must push away from you to lengthen the neck and ride the horse into the contact." That image has made all the difference! I'm finally breaking this really bad habit, and riding a happier horse.
I'd like to know what other mental images people are using to help them ride better? Where did you learn about them (trainer, book, other COTHers...)?
I had an instructor tell me to envision squeezing an orange with my shoulder blades so I would keep my shoulders back instead of rounding them forward. When I actually remember to do this, it's pretty amazing the change in not just my posture, but my horse's too!
I read one in the back of DT a few months ago to help with your position in canter:
Imagine you are riding on a skate board with your inside leg being the one that you are balancing on top of the skateboard with and your outside leg is the one pushing you forward. It helps keep you on your inside seat bone with that leg at the girth while supporting with your outside leg slightly back in the canter cue position.
I also like the one where you are a tree trunk from the tip of your head to your tail bone and your body must move as one piece be it posting or just sitting tall.
And one that helped me with getting my leg in a proper position - imagine your femur (thigh bone) has an arrow that points out through your knee. That arrow should point more towards the ground than out in front of you. That helped me from keeping my hip and knee angles too closed.
Member of the ILMD[FN]HP Clique, The Florida Clique, OMGiH I loff my mares, and the Bareback Riders clique!
I agree that Sally Swift was a pioneer in helping you answer your question.
For me...#1 is "soft eyes". I never focus look hard at letters, circles, the wall, horses ears, ground. It may be that I liked that one because that tip was easy for me as I've always been a big user of my peripheral vision.
Re: hands? Clearly the "don't squish the little birds in your hands, but don't let them fly away".... What a useful image! Little birdies wiggle in one's hands, and so does a horses head -- and how your hands handle that is felt on the bars of your horse's mouth.
"Tree trunks/roots" were also great for my legs, thighs and stopped me from gripping. Allowed me to relax into the movement of the horse, then learn how to influence it. Her imagery for finding your core was also wonderful as well.
If you can get her original book do so...I actually found the book, when I got it back in the late 80's (and didn't share the experience for being deemed a fruitcake by my horse friends...), was better than the video series for me. I found the drawings in the book spoke to me more effectively because I relate to things visually -- and I could refer to them over and over again.
I was so glad when SSwift became mainstream -- and hope her incredible work remains so. LOTS of lightbulb moments come with it.
A couple of weeks ago my instructor went to a Mary Wanless clinic of which I was able to audit her first day's ride. She now in corporates her "arm cuffs" into my thinking and to help me cement my arm cuffs into place, to think of having screws that connect my chest to my shoulder blade area. Harder for me to describe into words, but when used with the instructor's visuals and placement of hands on me, I can actually feel my body "tighten" and stay together in those places.
here are some for rider position/correction of pelvis:
~your crown pushes against the sky while your knees press against the earth
~straight, stacked spine
~the energy flows off the backs of your ears and trickles down the back of your body and drips off your heels
~for downward transitions, visualize compressing a ball between your hands and your center.
My trainer is wonderful!! I'm apparently daft and cannot comprehend what normal people can... so she always has to use different visuals for me. But she's so good at realizing how "special" I am...
To keep my spine straight.. she has me imagine I'm stacking each vertebral body on top of the other.
My left shoulder wants to hang and hold and roll forward, so she did the whole "roll it back and down" thing but stuck her finger right in my shoulder blade and told me to bring my shoulder "there"! And it works.. I just get it now.
Also.. the whole canter seat... she told me to imagine riding bareback and it worked. And then to abduct my thighs.. which in turns lengthens my leg, turns my toe back in, and puts even pressure down my horses side. The whole toes in never works.. Heels out does.. but abducting my thighs works best
My trainer told me to think of a parachute opening between my shoulders, really helps in the downwards.
To help keep myself from collapsing, I also think about riding with a banner pole, like the Household Cavalry musical ride, or use a Wanless image about being a carousel pole in the middle of the horse.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
A simple thing that really helped me: Rather then thinking of keeping my shoulders back (I'm also a huncher), I now think of keeping my UPPER ARM back. This helps me keep a still soft hand, open chest and engaged core as well. Such a simple concept, wish I'd had it expressed to me that way years ago!
For people who want to roll up: "Put your heels, hips, head against the imaginary wall behind you." Also, for females: "Think of your breasts as apples, put your apples on a plate, not in a bowl." This one always makes people grin.
I think soft eye focus is very important. I love Sally Swift's teaching!
I've had a few that I figured out in the past couple of months:
1.) Leading with your outside hip and opposed to staying completely square in the saddle and move one leg and one hand. I apparently am able to disengage all my appendages separately from my trunk, by leading with my outside hip I use my entire body to support my horse. It also helps my collapsing shoulders around corners, oddly enough.
2.) Pelvic loop in order to keep my hips and core "upright" and as a stabilizer and my shoulders in a naturally back position. I can really force my shoulders back, but it forms a really unnatural arch in my lower back and I end up sticking my butt out (basically I form a severe "S"). I think of tucking my tail under, bringing my thighs deeper into my hip sockets and my pubic bone "up" in a loop. I got it from a yoga class, it made soo much sense in the saddle!
Timely thread and great idea!
I am reading Mary Wanless' Ride With Your Mind and it is amazing how her mental images affect my riding.
Thigh bones like iron bars
Pressing upper body to an iron gate
on a circle, advancing inside hip to align seat bones with horse's long back muscles (very helpful because on a left circle, I tend to pull on the inside rein too much). For this I think of Fencing, which I've competed in as a kid and although it might seem exaggerated position, it's what I need to get the correct position.
Bear down (as if going to the bathroom!) instead of sucking stomach in