Just another little tip to add, because I have always suffered from Hands To Low Syndrome, is to just pivot your hands so that your thumbs are pointing to the sky, and your fingers are facing each other. This helps lift your hands just a smidge, without you getting too high or shaky or losing a good contact. My trainer used to get on to me all the time for my "puppy paws"...it feels more natural for your arms to be lower with the hands facing down more. It wasn't as comfortable for me to have them that low with my thumbs straight up, though, so as long as I kept the hand position right, the height problem fixed itself.
Good luck, looks like you have a really sweetheart to ride, and you've gotten a lot of good advice. Keep it up!
Thank you. I thought about the hands thing today when I rode. It actually wasn't hard for me to just lift them a little bit, without changing the position of my thumbs (my thumbs are usually up, anyway.) I also thought about how my trainer sometimes tells us to "hold the bit" for the horse, as if the cheekpieces of the bridle weren't connected. And how jn4jenny said my contact is better in canter than trot because I crave control. I felt like I had a much better contact today. I'm going to be posting a video update in about a month with a better-fitting saddle, better contact, more forward and just better all around.
I saw the angel in the marble and I set him free. - Michaelangelo
I think you have some really good basics! And I really don't look at you and think "whoa, leaning forward." My main comments are that you need to get the horse a LOT more in front of your leg. She is just crawling along. If you put leg on and she doesn't leap off of your leg, then it is time to go to the crop (or whip, if that is what you are carrying). Everything is easier if you are going forward - your own position, your control, just everything. At the canter, she is basically four-beating, which is both incorrect and difficult to sit. Getting her in front of your leg from the get-go will also make your canter transitions infinitely easier!
In the canter, try to think of relaxing your arm from your shoulder to your hands. I generally try to pretend that I don't have elbows, and that my hands are just attached to my shoulders by some weird, flimsy piece of filament. Right now, you are stiff through your elbows, which is causing you to pop her in the mouth a little bit in the canter. Relaxing the arms can be really, really difficult, so it will take a lot of time to get there.
Finally, just a little thing I do with spooking that seems to work well. If I have a horse that is spooking at, say, a cooler, I will ride past the cooler. If there is a big spook, I correct the horse and we circle around again past it. If all I get is a sideways glance, I consider that good, and I move on down to the other end, then just come back to the cooler on the next lap around. I basically don't focus on specifically riding past the scary thing - I just let it happen naturally and don't make a big deal about it. I don't pat or praise for the horse going past the scary thing either. I just basically expect that they will go past it without a problem, and I correct for any misbehavior (like running off or spooking hard) as it arises. I find that endlessly circling around a scary thing can actually make the spooking worse.
I, too, had a tough time watching the video. A bit too shaky for me but from what I saw... we could be "twins".
I have a hunter background also. My horse is from the hunter show world (AQHA and low level stuff I've done with him in the past). He is a bit sluggy. He doesn't have the highest work ethic out there.
So I rode in half seat. Leg was back. Body tipped forward. Puppy paw hands. Rolled shoulders. Head down. You name it, I probably did it.
I moved my horse about 9 months ago to a new barn. The old one was mostly Eventing and the trainer and I just didn't click well. So it's been about a year or so since I've taken lessons. Well, being on my own has not helped any of these issues.
About a month ago, I started taking lessons again from a fellow boarder who is an upper level Eventer. She's not focusing on making my guy go as an eventer/dressage horse as he is built to be a hunter but more about him having impulsion, use himself and be balanced. The focus on me (so far) is sitting back and thumbs up. Just those 2 things have made a huge difference for me. Yes, I felt like I was in a chair seat for awhile and that I was going to tumble off the back! But now it's feeling more like "home". And after many years of having a wiggly lower leg, it's becoming more steady. I found that I tipped forward and my legs would go back because I was searching for my horse to help him move on along. Well, he learned to ignore me. Now with a dressage whip in hand, I'm not doing all the work.
The thumbs up thing really affects your entire upper body... it helps bring your shoulders back, your chest up, your head up, etc. So that simplest of things can fix so many issues. Along w/ sitting back and straight. That has fixed my lower leg and hip issues. It's been very enlightening.
I agree you need a bigger saddle to. Really cute mare too. I don't normally ride many other horses than my guy but she seems very nice and kind so I'd hop on her!
ICAM behind the leg makes everything harder. It's like pushing rope.
Amen. It has taken me years to figure that out. And that going too slow (since faster scared me) makes it so much harder. I had to get comfortable with letting him GO! And once he has "forward", it's much easier on me.
"What happens if you tell her to go forward?" She listens, but doesn't overreact. I should definitely challenge myself to be more assertive. I do trust her. We've definitely formed a bond in the short time I've had the pleasure of riding her.
Glad to read this! Now you can confidently ask both of you for just a little bit more every ride. You will love the results! Good luck.
First off, love the mare! She looks like a quiet, safe ride. I do agree that while the tempo of her gait is good, she could use a bit more impulsion which will help you tremendously. No sense in you working harder than her Once she is in front of the leg it will be easier for you to sit up, and likewise, once you sit up, it will be easier to keep her in front of the leg and to feel when she is falling behind. It will feel funny for a while but once it becomes more natural it will make a huge difference!
Even with the saddle issues, I do not think your money would be wasted on taking a few lunge lessons- or can you have your current trainer put you on the lunge to do a few exercises? One of the main things that jumped out at me from your video was that you seem very tense through your upper body and arms. As silly as it seems, doing things like arm circles and airplane pivots at the sitting trot, posting trot and canter on the lunge can really help you free up your upper body and relax into a natural balance. Once you have your reins back, try to think about rolling your shoulders back, turning your thumbs up and allowing your hands to come a bit higher. Pushing her a bit more in front of the leg into the hand (not necessarily in a dressage frame, but just off the forehand a bit more) will be easier to do with your hands more dynamic and in a more natural position.
My other recommendation would be to try some no-stirrup work in your lessons. Your leg position looks good aside from some occasional swinging of the lower leg, which I would guess is from you trying to compensate for some loss of balance with the stirrup. Easy no-stirrup work at the walk and sitting trot (even on the lunge) will help reacquaint you with wrapping your whole leg around the horse, thus bringing your center of balance lower, encouraging you to sink down into the saddle, and stabilizing your whole body. I spend years as a working student riding in all kinds of tack that didn't fit me, so I totally understand the impact an ill-fitting and too-small saddle can have on your balance and position. I hope you can find something soon that works a bit better for you!
Bravo to you for posting a video, I don't think I'd ever have the courage to do that! You are a lovely rider and give your mare a quiet and encouraging ride, which is wonderful to see. She clearly respects and listens to you, so I wouldn't be too afraid of overtaxing her- she is ready to take it up a step to meet you Best of luck!