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riding position crooked AF

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    riding position crooked AF

    I was crooked when I was younger and then since I've been back into riding for the last year, my coach has worked a lot to straighten me out - I assume I've just gotten more twisted with age from a desk job (in my 30s now). I got a new saddle recently and the Dresch fitter was baffled at "how my body even does that". It's what my coach says too. And the chiropractor dressage lady I rode with. I'm almost proud of my circus-like position. Truly bizarre - basically my left side squishes down, pushing my left seat-bone up and to the right a little, while my right shoulder and right leg go higher, but my left shoulders radiate left. My body looks a little bit like an S shape. A friend of mine who teaches Pilates thinks I have a tiny bit of mild scoliosis.

    It's gotten better (I can now ride the schoolmaster I lease without having him swap leads on me from my seat going weird), but improvement is so slow. It's hard to know exactly how to fix this. The crookedness can happen in my body so adeptly that dropping stirrups doesn't help a whole lot, since I'm good at balancing in my offside way. We try doing an exercise where I drop stirrups at walk, consciously try to straighten out much as I can, go up to trot, consciously try to lengthen legs and straighten up body tall, go to canter, same thing, back to trot, take stirrups back, drop them again, repeat repeat. My coach has also done the thing where she ties my elbows behind me with a polo wrap - also helps some, but not something I'm ready to do just yet on my young horse, quiet as she is.

    Wondering if anyone has had a similar crooked body issue and what you did to work on it? Thanks!
    Mr. Sandman
    sand me a man
    make him so sandy
    the sandiest man

    You need to work on straightness and balance unmounted.

    I would get a chiropractor and find someone who works with the Alexander technique. This is extremely useful. I’ve used it myself.

    Once you are straighter off the horse, you will have a better shot at riding straight.

    Show me your horse and I will tell you who you are.


      yes, yes, and yes.

      The best thing I have done for my riding was attend a Britta Pedersen clinic earlier this year. She is a dressage rider and human physiotherapist. She will watch you on the horse, then do some off-horse stretches and put you back on. I watched one clinic with riders from 1st level through GP and she helped every single one, and repeated very few stretches to release each person's blocks. I was able to attend with my horse later as a rider, and she quickly diagnosed the issue with my left hip, was able to release where it was blocked (yeah, that hurt, a lot) and when I got back on, my left leg just dropped into position and I was sitting so much more in balance. My horse was markedly more straight, and all our lateral work went from struggling to maintain bend, angle, forward all at the same time to fluid, harmonious and correct.

      I have continued to do the exercises she recommended for me, and I immediately notice if I skip doing them when I get on my horse. Now, because this asymmetry has been decades in the development, I still have to fight muscle memory to stay straight and still be very conscious of it. However, we have gone from struggling to put together a solid first level test to feeling comfortable with all the second level work and dabbling in some of the third level work in just a few months. My trainer was there too, and it was a lightbulb moment for both of us - I was trying to do what she asked, but was physically restricted, so I twisted myself into a pretzel to compensate. Now that I am straight(er) my horse is so much happier because my aids are clearer and I'm not asking him to compensate for me (as much).
      "So relax! Let's have some fun out here! This game's fun, OK? Fun goddamnit." Crash Davis; Bull Durham


        It's pretty normal actually. You probably have a tilted pelvis or some source of weakness/pain and you are compensating all over the place for things. It takes a lot of work to resolve the issue - eyes on the ground to tell you to straighten, a trainer who can help you get creative with solutions in the saddle, pilates/yoga, weight strengthening whichever areas/sides are week. massage/pt/chiro work. But it's not impossible (semi-former pretzel over here).

        My issues all stem from my right tibia that I broke 15 years ago - metal and muscle loss that I'll probably never fully get back Do you have any major injuries in your body?
        "I am but a passenger on this ship"
        -- Stendal (epitaph)


          I have similar problems and the Equicube makes it feel easier / more natural to be in a more correct position. I would recomend trying it.


            I'd recommend getting a referral for a physical therapist to get some targeted exercises you can work on at home or at the gym.


              Originally posted by Training Cupid View Post
              I have similar problems and the Equicube makes it feel easier / more natural to be in a more correct position. I would recomend trying it.
              Yes! I love the Equicube. I noticed in videos a few years ago that I had started to kind of do a weird twisty thing at the canter. I don't feel it, but damn if it isn't there on the videos. I never make time to go to the chiro or massuse. Probably should, but I've got other things that always need to be done. I do know that one of my legs is shorter by a smidge so my conformation works against me in that regard.

              Do you workout outside of riding? I have seen a marked difference. Yoga, Hiit, whatever... do something to strengthen your muscles.


                Original Poster

                Thanks, all. I was really frustrated today because I felt like it'd improved so much (only 6 months ago I could barely do a 10 m circle or shoulder-in right some days, and now I'm practicing Fourth Level on the schoolmaster fairly competently) - I just got dejected when I realized how much it's still there when I was speaking to the saddle fitter. Though of course 34 years of being crooked doesn't get straightened-out in a year, so to speak.

                I have no major injuries but I've always had funny stuff with my right leg (when I was a teenager I did vaulting and really hobbled it on some of my acrobatics - insane to even imagine the things I used to do on a horse, of course no helmets back in those crazy late 90's. Oh young bodies!) I will look into a PT to start - I agree the answer is to get straightness at all times and figure out what muscles are stiff/weak. I did some aerial yoga last week that definitely seemed to do something - trying to fix this only during dressage lessons isn't nearly enough, evidently. No use being straight for 5 - 7 rides a week a week and then crooked the other ~160 hours a week.

                Edited to add - my non-riding exercise is mainly running. I love running. It doesn't really help straightness though - it's just so different. I also have been waylaid to less mileage these days because of another right leg ankle thing. Running is excellent to give me cardio ability/abdominal strength to ride lots and lots, but doesn't really help riding symmetry that I'm dealing with (I know I said "crooked AF" but I suppose it's less apparent than it used to be - it's just that even infinitesimal crookedness can feel so apparent in trying to be perfectly balanced in dressage, etc. etc.)
                Mr. Sandman
                sand me a man
                make him so sandy
                the sandiest man


                  Mine was relatively minor, but still got in the way. I started with a chiropractor who was willing to listen and watch riding videos to understand my complaints. I went 2-3x a week for the first month to get everything under control, and have gone once a month ever since. Then I added 15 minutes of stretching after my workout at least 4 days a week. After that, I removed my standard office chair and replaced it with a yoga ball, a saddle stool, and a convertible standing desk. Most recently, I've added weekly pilates lessons.


                    Alexander Technique or Feldenkrais would help you no end (I can tell you from personal experience )

                    You need to retrain your body and brain so what feels correct is actually correct.


                      I am currently working with a PT for back and neck issues that have made me quite uneven (and painful!) It is really helping, but it is not a fast process. It also helps that the indoor has mirrors so I can check myself. I even video some rides to see what I am doing. My prioperception of straightness is still out of whack!


                        Second (third?) the recommendations of a chiro and PT! I was able to correct a lot of my crookedness on my own but that last bit I just couldn't manage. I actually went to a chiro for other symptoms (chronic headaches and lower back pain at 24...) but my first ride post adjustment was a whole new level! Suddenly I could actually feel my right seatbone. For a few days I couldn't even ride the left lead canter which was usually my good side.

                        I specifically see an upper cervical spine chiro, so they did a CT of my neck before any adjustments. I was going twice a week to start because my neck was so bad, I'm down to once a month now and my riding as improved so much.
                        "I'm too sexy for my blanket, too sexy for my blanket, these mares-they should take it..." (J-Lu) - Featuring The Skypizzle Pony aka Classic Skyline


                          I was also crooked AF. Now I'm only crooked. Mirrors help. Your instructor harping on it will help. One weird, easy, tidbit that helped me? I also sat in the car crooked. EVERY. TIME. Like would sit more on one seat bone, one hand on the wheel, etc. Now I sit straight. Two hands equal on the wheel. Both feet as close to equally spaced/placed. It felt SO BIZARRE at first. So formal. Now (months and months later) it is second nature. I try to always sit "square" in every situation. I alternate which shoulder I put my backpack or purse on (or use 2 straps equally). When you become aware it's amazing that we don't realize how crooked we are all the time. Of course it translates to our riding!

                          And FWIW, my coach said 3 years ago that my left leg was purely ornamental. Now she says I "used to be crooked". You can be straight!!
                          From now on, ponyfixer, i'll include foot note references.


                            I second working with Britta. She is based in CA but really made a world of difference to everyone at our barn. My trainer brings her in for a clinic a few times a year. She is amazing.


                              Originally posted by Pony Fixer View Post
                              I was also crooked AF. Now I'm only crooked. Mirrors help. Your instructor harping on it will help. One weird, easy, tidbit that helped me? I also sat in the car crooked. EVERY. TIME. Like would sit more on one seat bone, one hand on the wheel, etc. Now I sit straight. Two hands equal on the wheel. Both feet as close to equally spaced/placed. It felt SO BIZARRE at first. So formal. Now (months and months later) it is second nature. I try to always sit "square" in every situation. I alternate which shoulder I put my backpack or purse on (or use 2 straps equally). When you become aware it's amazing that we don't realize how crooked we are all the time. Of course it translates to our riding!
                              ^^ This was one of the biggest factors for correcting my similar crookedness to the OP. That and yoga + weight training. I am also a runner but discovered it was exacerbating some imbalances and sciatica. The weight training (with strong core focus) has made an absolute world of difference, and I use a 20 minute YouTube "yoga for scoliosis" video when I have flare ups.

                              It is ongoing work though, OP. I got discouraged many times, but focusing on it as a lifestyle change instead of a "fix" really helps.


                                Feldenkrais is magical stuff!

                                I do a ton of strengthening and stretching and core work seven days a week, went to chiropractors for years, went to physical therapy for nine months, and still had asymmetries – though not as bad as yours.

                                Started doing Feldenkrais “lessons” and have found that without effort on my part, my skeleton is starting to align properly, and the tight places in my hips and back and legs are letting go.

                                It really is body awareness through movement, and “tunes you in” to where your body is misaligned and to the places where you are blocked and tight, enabling you to “let go” without pain or force.

                                It’s helped my riding quite a bit! 😊👍
                                "Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."

                                "It's supposed to be hard...the hard is what makes it great!" (Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own")


                                  Original Poster

                                  Thanks everyone! I've had ongoing back and neck pain for years and it's probably related to this crooked body. Lots of really great suggestions here to improve, and I'm sure it'd help more than just dressage (even if that's all I really care about haha).
                                  Mr. Sandman
                                  sand me a man
                                  make him so sandy
                                  the sandiest man


                                    In addition to all the other good advice, I've found using an inversion table really has helped me improve my alignment.


                                      Sooooooo, since my insurance doesn't cover anything, I've just been doing yoga in a studio. I try and pick the classes that are smaller, where you can get more attention from the teacher. For me, it's done a great job of making me aware of my weak and tight sides. Strengthening my core has also helped tremendously with my posture (they say that's important....)