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Position Help Dressage Gurus!!

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  • suzyq
    replied
    Mvp post #2 was my problem. You can't sit deeply and swing thru tight hips. My hips aren't naturally tight, but I was tightening them when I rode. I had to learn to really let go where my thighs and leg meet and balance with my core.

    Leave a comment:


  • mvp
    replied
    OP, the advice or images that work for you will be somewhat specific and personalized. But here is my two cents.

    1. Riding canted forward (as in HunterWorld where I came from) does not require lower core and less all-around core than does sitting on a dressage horse. There is no way around having to get stronger than you are at your office job or riding hunters. That said, aim to feel your lower belly and feel the whole front of your body getting tired when you ride. That will build muscle and tell you that you are building the right ones.

    2. If you are an old and competent hunter rider (like me) stiffening your hips (in the right position or not) will come naturally. And those muscles will be strong. And they are not what you want to use. Rather, I think we want to sit on the horse from that triangular bony base of our pelvis via balance and core with our hips relaxed. The weight and drape of our legs helps to keep us on the horse, but we aren't using our hip muscles to stabilize or resist movement. I think most of us know how to "relax and just follow" at the canter and the walk. But how to get your hips to "just do nothing" at the trot will take some intention and practice. Stiffening the hips postural habit and not something we think about... until we do. But it can be changed.

    3. I try to keep things really simple. I find that I can focus on two things in my equitation as I ride and do whatever else I have to shape the horse. In order to align my body so that I relax my hips and engage my core, I find that lots of leg problems are fixed by me trying to feel as if I am kneeling (as someone said above). I feel for that lower part of my knee that would be on the ground if I were kneeling, try to make it tingle and then think about putting it down, toward the ground rather than pointing forward. After that, I ask myself if I can feel my ankle and knee joint being loose. Lots of problems originate in a stiff knee (in both dressage and jumping seats). I find it very hard to feel whether or not my knee is stiff. But feeling for that kneeling position and my ankle is good enough to fix my leg. Kneeling will help you relax your hip, allow your thigh to come back, and force you to engage your core on the "down" part of the post. If you post and feel that you are sitting really deep or "into" your horse's back, that's the right spot. If you can stay there for a couple of strides, try it. That is the seat and level of connection to your horse's back you want.

    4. Lots of upper body alignment problems and slouching problems have been fixed for me by thinking about raising my sternum. You can also think about lengthening the distance from the wing of your pelvis to the bottom rib. But the sternum thing helps me put my rib cage over my hips; that forces me to use the front of my body to stabilize myself; and it allows my arms to drape down from shoulders that are at the back of my body. That sounds weird because of course your shoulder blades are on the back of your body. But the point is to orient your ribcage toward the vertical so that the shoulder joint (and your humerus) want to descend down from the side of your body, not the front. And I have short arms, so just thinking about my shoulder blades or pulling them back never helps. Raising my sternum really does!

    5. If you can go watch or ride with Susanne von Dietze, do it. She is the best dressage equitation clinician I have seen. She has exercises and ways of seeing how to fix problems that are amazing. Because the problem is to help you find whatever position, metaphor or exercise works for you and your body, I think there's no substitute for an actual custom lesson with a guru. It will be worth the price. But watching her instructions change someone else's body can help you along, too.

    Leave a comment:


  • kashmere
    replied
    Originally posted by Smthn_Like_Olivia View Post

    Sit back/up, sit tall, chin up, lift through your chest, legs long - I just threw that one out there because it's often the quickest thing to say in the moment when you're flying by on a horse. I live in a small town. Dressage instructors are not plentiful. We are both always on the look out for someone that can help us both improve. It's not a pick and choose situation unless you're willing to haul several hours away. Thanks for the books.
    Centered Riding, by Sally Swift, is another classic book with a lot of excellent visuals and imagery to help really explain how you should be physically moving and the sensations you should be aiming for. Swift had rather severe scoliosis and so developed a very keen sense of the how of things like feel and balance because she was sort of starting behind the 8-ball and didn't have the innate sense of balance that she saw in other more "able bodied" riders. I think a lot of what she says is very useful to those of us who have to spend many hours behind a desk, or who have weakness/stiffness etc because she acknowledges the how-to of physicality.

    Often, trainers - even if they are very good teachers! - can forget or simply not personally relate to the physical challenges of someone who isn't on a horse x-hours a day. Very good riders and trainers often do have their sense of feel and balance so internalized that expressing it in terms of what us mere mortals need to do with out bodies is a real challenge. I think this can apply to trainers who are very worthwhile good teachers and not necessarily a sign to head for the hills. If you find some of the imagery suggested in this thread or in books to be helpful, I'd encourage you to share that with your trainer. It should be easy for her to incorporate those specific images, and ideally it will help her to a) understand more generally the kinds of directions that are impactful to you and b) develop suggestions/imagery of her own to help you with other challenges as you progress.

    A very simple example of this, is that my coach often says "elbows" if I am getting locked up - because that is the joint that's connecting with the bit. When I think of correcting "elbows" things do improve, but only marginally. However, if I think of shoulders and thumbs (so a more whole-arm realignment) the improvement is significant - the actual change is really seen and felt in the elbow, but but physically I need to think about the adjustment differently. I explained this to my coach, and now she says "soft in the arm." it's very minor, but it's more effective for me.

    Leave a comment:


  • Smthn_Like_Olivia
    replied
    Originally posted by Arlomine View Post
    I hate to say this, but “sit back” is a pathetic piece of advise, and if that’s the best your trainer can come up with, its time to find someone with a better tool box.
    There are many trainers who are more articulate, and who are truly interested in the biomechanics puzzle of dressage instruction.

    I suggest that that you purchase These books https://www.amazon.com/Susanne-von-D...ne_cont_book_1
    shes also produced some very good DVD’s

    the information here will trump anything you will receive from us.
    Sit back/up, sit tall, chin up, lift through your chest, legs long - I just threw that one out there because it's often the quickest thing to say in the moment when you're flying by on a horse. I live in a small town. Dressage instructors are not plentiful. We are both always on the look out for someone that can help us both improve. It's not a pick and choose situation unless you're willing to haul several hours away. Thanks for the books.

    Leave a comment:


  • kashmere
    replied
    I worked with a coach a few years ago who had me picture myself more as "kneeling" in the saddle than as sitting, which really helped with my alignment. I have very long legs and am just generally lanky, and I occasionally struggle to keep all of my limbs where they need to be.

    The kneeling imagery I think accomplishes a similar thing, physically, to Scribbler 's suggestion of dropping the thigh. I would have a hard time with that direction simply because it doesn't relate to anything I would actually do in real life, so if you are like me and need a real world connection. "kneeling" might be something to keep in mind.

    ETA: I see many people have made the kneeling suggestion! This is what I get for responding before reading thoroughly

    Leave a comment:


  • outerbanks77
    replied
    You mentioned earlier that a friend told you to let your weight flow down through your heels, and that helped with your leg position. I'm actually surprised, because "heels down!" was such a pervasive admonition through my formative years of riding, and now I'm having to overcome it to find my dressage seat. Weight through the heels is great for security when jumping or galloping, but for dressage, it creates a brace in the hips, and tends to push the seat back towards the cantle.

    I think the feeling of kneeling, or letting your weight flow down through your kneecaps, is much better. Your toes should be lightly in the stirrups where you can vary the weight easily with a flex of your toe or ankle, and your foot can stay level. Reducing the flex in your ankle makes it easier to keep your lower leg back, and by extension, keep your hip angle open and seat bones forward. On the other end of the equation, make sure you're riding with your hands up and in alignment bit to elbow. I see a lot of people riding with a downward hand, which again encourages the forward tipping, and creates tension because the deltoids are engaged instead of the lats to maintain contact, resulting in a closed front torso.

    Leave a comment:


  • Arlomine
    replied
    I hate to say this, but “sit back” is a pathetic piece of advise, and if that’s the best your trainer can come up with, its time to find someone with a better tool box.
    There are many trainers who are more articulate, and who are truly interested in the biomechanics puzzle of dressage instruction.

    I suggest that that you purchase These books https://www.amazon.com/Susanne-von-D...ne_cont_book_1
    shes also produced some very good DVD’s

    the information here will trump anything you will receive from us.

    Leave a comment:


  • Melissa.Van Doren
    replied
    It's terrifying to think a custom saddle may not be working for you, but I'll add my voice to the chorus. Borrow a few different saddles to see if you find a positive difference.

    And try this:
    Concentrate on lifting your ribcage up and away from your hip bones. Practice it standing on your own two feet. When you do it, you'll feel your chest open, your shoulders drop back and down and your upper arm close at your sides.
    Then...
    Pull your chin back over your collar bone. The head is heavy and a leading chin can pull your whole upper body forward.
    And finally...
    When you rise at the trot, think of bringing the bottom of your zipper up and forward and make sure it lands towards your pommel when you sit.

    Leave a comment:


  • Smthn_Like_Olivia
    replied
    Originally posted by lorilu View Post
    Two thoughts: First, Just because the saddle "fits" you does not mean it is the right saddle for you. The angle of your pelvic floor, the angle your femur makes in your hip socket, the distance between your seat bones and width of your crotch area, the fleshiness of your inner thighs, the length of your thigh and lower leg - all (and more) affect saddle fit beyond the size of the seat. I know this from personal experience - a saddle fitter assured me the saddle fit both of us - but I could not keep my leg under me. We discussed it (I was sure it was me) and she suggested another saddle. It took me 30 seconds to feel the difference.

    Secondly, a good visual for me is "Hips forward", and the feeling of kneeling when I post.
    She actually took my measurements for it and had me sit and ride in several different brands and models. I honestly believe this is more me than the saddle.

    "the feeling of kneeling when I post" <<THIS! This is what I needed!

    Leave a comment:


  • lorilu
    replied
    Two thoughts: First, Just because the saddle "fits" you does not mean it is the right saddle for you. The angle of your pelvic floor, the angle your femur makes in your hip socket, the distance between your seat bones and width of your crotch area, the fleshiness of your inner thighs, the length of your thigh and lower leg - all (and more) affect saddle fit beyond the size of the seat. I know this from personal experience - a saddle fitter assured me the saddle fit both of us - but I could not keep my leg under me. We discussed it (I was sure it was me) and she suggested another saddle. It took me 30 seconds to feel the difference.

    Secondly, a good visual for me is "Hips forward", and the feeling of kneeling when I post.

    Leave a comment:


  • Smthn_Like_Olivia
    replied
    Thank you all! These tips are really helpful! You would think I'd done Hunters for years before Dressage. If you moved me to a hunter horse, I think my position would be perfect! Lol. Didn't get to ride tonight. As soon as we started tacking up, the sky opened up and the rain came, but I am definitely taking notes from this thread!

    Leave a comment:


  • SolarFlare
    replied
    Originally posted by Training Cupid View Post

    I'm new to dressage after 25 years of riding mainly hunters, and it still feels impossible to change that muscle memory!
    Sigh...me too. 30 years of hunters does not then translate well into dressage (I switched to eventing).

    For me, it's about the pelvis. "Sit back" also does nothing. Puzzled's " think about lifting the front of my pelvis and to draw my belly button to my back" works beautifully...when I remember lol!! It's definitely something that is helped by eyes on the ground, then instilling that little voice in your head to remind you constantly.

    Another phrase that may work is "imagine somebody pulling your ponytail towards your belt". That helped me engage my abs and SIT during downward transitions better.

    One thing I also do that you might (related to your leg) is tighten my hamstring. If you flex that, you'll get tight behind the knee, which will affect your leg and seat. It's also a matter of just consciously reminding yourself to relax that muscle, which will allow your leg to drape and your seat to soften. I tend to tighten it both at trot and canter.

    Leave a comment:


  • Training Cupid
    replied
    I have the same problem (though for me canter is worse than the trot) so this is kind of "do as I say not as I do" because I can't really to it myself! But I usually think about trying to touch my horse's tail with the back of my head - obviously I can not actually do that but if I aim for it then.... I'm maybe only just slightly leaning forward instead of totally. Or I pretend I'm a saddleseat rider and try to exaggerate it so much that anyone seeing me would wonder what I'm doing. (In reality I still look like a hunter rider sitting in a dressage saddle, leaning forward slightly ) Other different visuals you could try thinking of:

    - Stretching/opening your hip flexors
    - Make your front (upper body) longer then the back

    Part of my problem is my legs swing back a bit, then my upper body comes forward to counter balance so make sure there isn't some of that going on.

    Tyrus' Mom yes the Equicube! I have one and I really like riding with it, it does make it easier / feel a bit more natural to ride more correctly.

    I'm new to dressage after 25 years of riding mainly hunters, and it still feels impossible to change that muscle memory!

    Leave a comment:


  • Tyrus' Mom
    replied
    Someone suggested an exercise in another thread of sitting several beats of the trot, rising for several beats of the trot, and so on. I have been doing that one and I think it helps me. I have a problem with sitting straight all the time, standing straight, I'm a terrible sloucher. I got a posture brace for my shoulders when riding and that has helped. It's a very uncomfortable reminder of how to sit straight, but it's making me better. I did buy one of those little gizmos you are supposed to stick to your back and it buzzes you when you slouch, but the DH has yet to synch it to my phone so I haven't begun to use it yet. Still, I know yours is not a slouching problem, but those gizmos exist to help keep the back straight and give better posture.

    I remember hearing about a block. I can't remember the name of it, but it was a small block that you hold in your hands along with the reins and by holding the block you are forced to sit up straight. I have never gotten it. I heard about it somewhere, probably here, but nothing but good things to say about it, just that's it's a cumbersome thing to ride with, but it works.

    Leave a comment:


  • Dunkhead
    replied
    How much off-horse fitness training do you do? As a 50+ aged rider myself, I have found upper body strength training and lower body stretching to be essential in my ability to correctly sit my dressage horse. As you likely already know, the sitting so much during the day is highly counter-productive to your dressage seat. Best of luck on this glorious adventure.

    Leave a comment:


  • Samantha37
    replied
    I like this one I heard my trainer use:
    "create more space between your hands and chest"

    Helps both put the hands down and sit up taller

    Leave a comment:


  • Hej
    replied
    During lunge lessons long ago I was told to

    "keep your shoulders away from his ears."

    It sounds odd but it worked for me. (Insert bewildered head scratching emoji here.)

    Leave a comment:


  • Smthn_Like_Olivia
    replied
    Originally posted by Rerider54 View Post

    Is there anyway for you to spend part of the day at your desk sitting on a fitness ball? That might help to use different muscles then those for sitting in a chair. Also consider that when you are in a chair, or car, the angle of your torso and thigh is 90 degrees. Those muscles will pull your torso forward over your hips when you are in the saddle. Forty hours a week versus how many in the saddle? I added a quad stretch to try and loosen that angle while on the ground. As an ‘older’ rider also I suggest holding on the something secure, stand on one foot and grasp the opposite ankle. Then open the hip angle slowly and without causing pain let yourself relax without too much arch in your lower back. I also do this while laying on the floor for my stretches before bed. Much easier for us ‘older’ folks so we don’t tighten other muscles trying to balance.

    One of my friends has told me to ‘sit on my back pockets’... another to ‘lift my rib cage’.. lots of good visuals, sometimes they work, always better when I am relaxed.
    This is great! Thank you. Will look into getting a fitness ball for my office!

    Leave a comment:


  • Rerider54
    replied
    Originally posted by Smthn_Like_Olivia View Post
    I'm an older rider.....
    sitting at a desk all day for work. ...
    correct this problem with my hips and leaning over them.
    Is there anyway for you to spend part of the day at your desk sitting on a fitness ball? That might help to use different muscles then those for sitting in a chair. Also consider that when you are in a chair, or car, the angle of your torso and thigh is 90 degrees. Those muscles will pull your torso forward over your hips when you are in the saddle. Forty hours a week versus how many in the saddle? I added a quad stretch to try and loosen that angle while on the ground. As an ‘older’ rider also I suggest holding on the something secure, stand on one foot and grasp the opposite ankle. Then open the hip angle slowly and without causing pain let yourself relax without too much arch in your lower back. I also do this while laying on the floor for my stretches before bed. Much easier for us ‘older’ folks so we don’t tighten other muscles trying to balance.

    One of my friends has told me to ‘sit on my back pockets’... another to ‘lift my rib cage’.. lots of good visuals, sometimes they work, always better when I am relaxed.

    Leave a comment:


  • Smthn_Like_Olivia
    replied
    Puzzled I hope the saddle fits me! I had an independent fitter come out last year that measured both me and horse and made the recommendation for the model that I ordered custom. I think it's more my previous saddle that trained my body to sit this way. When I go back and look at old videos prior to that saddle, I didn't seem to have an issue with leaning over my hips. :-(

    Scribbler - Dropping my thigh! That could really help! Thanks! I will try it this evening!

    Leave a comment:

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