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Help - Rider position riding circles

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  • Help - Rider position riding circles

    Can anyone offer advice to help me stay in the center while on the left rein? I'm having seat lessons right now and the right rein is good. The left rein is big struggle. My trainer keeps telling me to "step in to my inside iron - put more weight on the inside leg." I can't seem to make this correction. Also i am struggling to not slide to the outside of my saddle in canter.

    I know these are very novice issues so please be gentle - i am learning and dedicated to getting it right.

  • #2
    Hard to know what to tell you without seeing what you are doing. Are you right handed or left handed? It makes a difference.

    My guess is that you are sitting twisted and collapsed at the ribcage to the inside, your right knee is coming up and or away from the saddle. When you do that, all your weight ends up in your right leg and seat bone. Sometimes the Sally Swift (Centered Riding) visualization works. Think of a barber pole as it spirals. You want to keep your lower torso (navel down) facing straight ahead, even on a circle. Your left (inside knee) needs to be snugged into the knee roll just like the right one. You seat bones should have equal weight on them. Just let both legs hang out of the hips. The top half of your torso should be spiraled in very slightly in the direction that you are traveling on the circle (left). Your shoulders should match the shoulders of the horse, and your head should follow that same line. Make sure that you are sitting up very tall with your vertebra stacked one on top of the other and your shoulders relaxed and down.

    Another approach is to get a "physio-ball" exercise ball and sit on it at home and try to balance. You will learn what you have to do to stop your weight from going to the right. Also check out www.mary-wanless.com She works on a lot of these asymmetrical issues and has a lot of different ways of expressing what you need to do to feel what you should feel when you are sitting correctly.
    good luck.
    "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller


    • #3
      I agree with all the above advice. I also had problems on my left side - mostly collapsing my left ribcage and dropping my left shoulder. I had many instructors tell me to put weight into my left stirrup and that didn't seem to help me. If you are being lunged for seat work, try riding with your left arm straight up in the air - stretching that ribcage up. Also doing large slow circles with your left arm. When off the lungeline, do self checks asking yourself if you have as much space between the hipbone and armpit on the left as on the right. And be sure that you are not leaning to the left on circles, i.e. your hips are even going straight ahead while your upper body is swiveled to match the horse's shoulders (don't confuse swiveling with leaning!) Off the horse, stand in front of a mirror and observe your natural body posture (fold your arms and relax, pretending that you are talking to some friends - I bet you will find that you have most of your weight on your right leg, your left knee is bent and your left side is slumped a bit ). Also in front of a mirror, experiment with the difference (in the look and feel) between leaning and swiveling your upper body. Don't get discouraged - this can get fixed! Hope this helps some.


      • Original Poster

        Yes, you both have it right - i am collapsing my rib cage on the left side, my left leg "crawls" up and i end up with all the weight in on the right leg.

        Also, I am right handed.

        I know i need to keep the weight on equal seat bones and put more weight on the inside leg and stretch it down. But knowing this and DOING it are two different things. Yes, i can do it at the walk. Posting trot is messy as is canter.

        I have Mary Wanless and have read - but looking for any analogies or tips others have used to make this correction - thanks so much in advance!


        • #5
          Sometimes the instruction based on a correct observation just doesn't help the problem because the thing that is observed is really just the result of something going wrong somewhere else.

          In many cases, it is that the person is just not sitting absolutely on their seatbones with their vertebra stacked. If you are even just a tiny bit toward "chair seat" there is too much bend in your hip joints and they are not open and your legs cannot hang freely out of the socket. When that happens, your thighs drift upward and your stomach collapses.

          The real correction will feel "wrong" to you. Try rotating your pelvis so that your public bone is making contact with the saddle, but not so much that your back hollows. Really engage your stomach muscles and feel like you are pushing your stomach in front of you like a sail while you tighten your lower back a tad to flatten it. You should also feel your hips open naturally as you do this. Then let your legs hang. Do not, I repeat, do not, try to put weight in your legs. Just let them hang like spaghetti.

          You will need a lot of core strength to maintain this position, but try it, and I think that you will see an improvement on your left side.
          "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller


          • Original Poster

            Thank you! I will try it today and report on how it felt .

            I swear i feel like the village idiot in that i simply can't figure out how to make the correction of "more weight on the inside leg." It's as if my brain is not connected.

            So i will try to focus on pelvic tilt and see how it goes .


            • #7
              A lot of times if you are right handed, you haven't been able to develop your horse's left side. So then the two of you are both stiff going to the left. If your horse is already stiff to the left it exacerbates your problem and vice versa, you exacerbate your horse's problem. If your horse was well-schooled before you got him, you still will not have been able to continue with keeping the left side of your horse flexible (horse reverts back to level of rider).

              So, one exercise that I like is to practice the leg-yeild to the right (horse moves forwardd and to the right, head and neck are bent to the left). Use only your *inside rein* and your *inside leg* at first. Ask the horse to move away from your inside leg on the girth. At this point you may need to add your outside rein, but you must keep things relaxed. If using both reins makes you get stiff, just go back to the *inside* rein. Yes, your horse will be overbent in the neck ... this is the time to use your leg on the girth. You need to make sure your horse knows how to move away from your leg aid.

              This is a rider's leg exercise .

              In the barn aisle, when working (grooimg, etc.) your horse, practice using your knuckle on the spot where your *inside leg* on the girth would be when riding. Make sure your horse bends away and moves over.

              This will help TREMENDOUSLY when you are up in the saddle using your *inside leg* on the girth because your horse will understand what you are asking.

              All of this adds up to you learning how to control your left leg instead of collapsing out to the right. You will have to put your weight into it (left heel) to make it work. And you won't be focusing on anything else, whihc is good until you get the correct feel of it.


              • #8
                For me, lifting one knee or other is always a sign that I'm collapsing the hip. It can be extremely subtle.

                Agree with those who say forget your feet/leg. This starts in the hips. If you are collapsed you can push your foot down all you like and it will just make things worse.

                I have two visualizations I use. First, I think of the guys carrying their banner poles in the Household Cavalry. (I've posted these guys often lately but they're such good examples of core straightness! Prolly somethin' to do with all those sit-ups. ) The straightness comes all the way up from the knee and thigh with that pole, through the hips and the back and shoulders. They aren't collapsed against those poles, they are carrying the pole upright beside them.

                A similar visual, from Wanless I think, is holding yourself pressed up against the carousel pole through the horse.
                Last edited by MelantheLLC; Apr. 2, 2011, 06:58 PM.
                Ring the bells that still can ring
                Forget your perfect offering
                There is a crack in everything
                That's how the light gets in.


                • #9
                  I am struggling with the same thing. When I feel myself slipping at the posting trot I switch to sitting. It just is easier to get back centered that way. Through trial and error also found some muscles that I hadn't been using in my leg and core to help me keep balanced. I didn't improve until my fitness level improved, so for me its taking a long time to fix.


                  • #10
                    I PM'd you!


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by RodeoQueen View Post
                      Thank you! I will try it today and report on how it felt .

                      I swear i feel like the village idiot in that i simply can't figure out how to make the correction of "more weight on the inside leg." It's as if my brain is not connected.

                      So i will try to focus on pelvic tilt and see how it goes .
                      Ack! I just saw this! Please do not think "pelvic tilt." Those that I have seen who use this term end up tucking their buttocks underneath them which is exactly the wrong thing. Your pelvis should be 100% upright--not tilted forward or back. When I mentioned your lower back muscles, I meant to tighten them just the teeniest bit to counter act the strong engagement of your abdominal muscles (so that your stomach isn't sucked in and hollow which will make your lower back round.) Your tailbone should be pointing straight down.

                      Some things that trainers have said that gave me light bulb moments are:

                      -Proper position in the saddle is more like STANDING than sitting. When you are standing, your pelvis is upright, your legs are hanging down out of the sockets, and you don't put weight in them. Gravity takes care of that!

                      -Do not sit ON the horse. Sit IN the horse.

                      -Tighten your abs, but keep your belly button out in front of you.

                      -Don't sit on your buttocks. Your buttocks should be out in back of you.

                      -If you have a tendency to sit in chair seat, then exaggerate and sit in what feels like "fork seat." That will be more correct for you. Refinement can come later.

                      I hope that something here will click!
                      "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller


                      • Original Poster

                        Thanks for your input - no need to fear . I know where my seat bones are and know the difference between being on top of them versus a "tucked" bum or bubble bum where the bum sticks out and the back hollows. For ALL of my faults of which there are many, i do sit pretty well on top of my seat bones. i lose my balance which is a strength issue.

                        From work this weekend i think basically i need more strength in my abs and back to keep my shoulders upright and straight. I cave to the left and so i need to think straight shoulders and straight hips.

                        Trying to "step into the inside leg" is a wasted correction for me and i don't find it helpful. Straightness in my shoulders and equal hip bones made more positive impact and kept me more in the middle.

                        thanks so much to all of you for sharing your thoughts and analogies. I hate my right brain which always asks "what should it feel like" so that i can create the feel.


                        • #13
                          You're welcome. Sounds like some pilates may be in order.
                          "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller


                          • #14
                            An idea I got from one of the pilates books out there (don't have it in front of me) was to align the ribcage over the hips. Feel where you can slide the ribcage around without moving the hips. My horse likes it much better when I move my ribs to the left. Sometimes I think when you think step into the left stirrup it just makes you more crooked.

                            It will take lots of trial and error to figure out what works for you.

                            Good luck.


                            • #15
                              Has your trainer ridden the horse using your saddle and NOT had the issue? I'm asking as for a while with my Dutch mare the saddle kept falling right. Turns out for a few months her muscling was underveloped to the right side of the withers which threw the rider and saddle to the right. I purchased a pad that has shims and used that until her muscling could be corrected.
                              Now in Kentucky


                              • #16
                                I have a student that does this and couldn't quite make the connection with the instruction to step deeper into her inside stirrup. I told her to try and make that side of her body as long as possible from armpit to hip and instead of stepping deep into the stirrup to slide her hips over toward the middle. What was happening when she collapsed was her hips were sliding to the outside - almost from centrifugal force. Asking her to just slide her hips back towards me (in the center of the circle) made sense to her. Not sure if that helps, but we JUST worked on that last weekend.... (if nothing else this proves that you are not alone )


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by islgrl View Post
                                  What was happening when she collapsed was her hips were sliding to the outside - almost from centrifugal force. )
                                  It's not just almost from centrifugal force, it IS from centrifugal force!

                                  I think it's easy for us to forget that the primary reason we are doing all these exercises to ask our horses to balance themselves is because the horse and rider package is ruled by the laws of physics.

                                  Back to high school physics--any body moving on a curved line is generating vectors of motion. On a circle, one of these vectors points in a straight line in the direction of travel, tangent to the circle, and one points 90 degrees to that, toward the center of the circle, like the radius. These forces have to oppose one another equally or the body won't continue on the circle, it will fly off the curved track or fall in toward the middle.

                                  (That's why roads are banked in curves, because the bank helps counter the forward motion vector which is the dominant one with a fast-moving car. In fact, if your steering wheel is turned and you accelerate slightly into the turn, you will help the car make the turn and avoid a skid, because you will be adding energy to the inside turning vector. Of course that's also adding some velocity to the straight vector, so if you accelerate too much, off in the ditch you go.)

                                  So you and your horse are governed by the same laws. If the horse isn't doing the work of accelerating into the turn--using the hind legs properly to carry and push to accelerate that turning vector--then he's going to be falling either in or out of the curved line, and you are, too.

                                  As riders, we're potentially like those old cartoon clowns in a runaway car, swaying waaaaaaay waaaaaay out from the center of motion as we go around a mountain curve.

                                  Instead, you want yourself and the horse to be a solid body which is banked at exactly the degree that your velocity and the angle of turn requires.

                                  If any part of that body gets too far to the outside (like your hips off-center), your shoulders MUST lean farther in to compensate, or you'll be flung off like the clown. So once the torso collapse to the inside begins, it's very difficult to stop it as long as the horse is moving. You have to drag your hips upright against the forces that are trying to push you off the curve.

                                  That's why you want to remain straight like a pole from a point between your knees all the way up through your seat bone to your neck. This pole may be tilted into the turn, but it MUST be straight, or you'll be fighting the physics.
                                  Ring the bells that still can ring
                                  Forget your perfect offering
                                  There is a crack in everything
                                  That's how the light gets in.


                                  • Original Poster

                                    thank you everybody for your insights. Indeed, i am making progress, and islgrl, your correction is the same one my trainer used the other day and it really helped. the inside leg creeps up when my inside ribs collapse and then the centrifugal force sends me to the outside.

                                    I have to really concentrate to keep my shoulders EQUALLY over hips and this seems to help. It will take practice but i will not give up .

                                    Also am doing lots of exercises with the balance ball to help strengthen muscles in my core. I'm former ballet dancer so am able to utilize parts of my body without moving the core or losing my balance but still i require analogies so that i can make the necessary correction. Does that make sense?


                                    • #19
                                      Remember to drop your shoulders down, and make your shoulderblades like they are touching. Then, on a circle, bring your inside shoulder back and outside shoulder forward some - exactly the way you want his shoulders to be on the curve of the circle. The sudden correction of this, on your circle (left is my bad, too) can be an eye opener, as the horse suddenly carries himself. He isn't doing it right because you aren't doing it right!

                                      As for standing into your outside stirrup, this is part of it, but here's another thought - you proably aren't level. Use your visor of your helmet like a carpenter's level so you don't tip in!

                                      If you are tilted to the inside, your horse will fall in too.

                                      If your head is level, and your shoulders are dropped, inside back a bit, next pay attention to your hips.

                                      On the circle, on the bend, lengthen and stretch your outside leg, waist and stretch tall and long,

                                      Make sure your outside leg is back, under you and really supporting your horse in the bend around your inside leg.

                                      Hope some or any of this helps.
                                      Airborne? Oh. Yes, he can take a joke. Once. After that, the joke's on you.


                                      • #20
                                        I have this problem when doing leg yield to the left, my right side collapses, leg creeps up, and suddenly I've lost my stirrup. My instructor shouts at me to lengthen that side of my torso, and viola, weight and foot back in stirrup
                                        So just try lengthening the side of your body/torso that you're having trouble with.
                                        Hope this helps!
                                        "rythm, power, feeling, harmony, and heavy competition"