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Green/young horse, MY balance + I'm riding in an Ansur

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  • Green/young horse, MY balance + I'm riding in an Ansur

    Just got back from a very fun dressage schooling show! Anyways, one of the comments on one of the tests was that I was riding off of my toe, not my heel. I've noticed this a bit lately but I generally tend to not want to sink my heel down riding this young horse because when I sink into my heel, I put more weight into my seat - yes, would be wonderful but ... I don't feel like my horse is ready for me to do sitting trot on him. Am I crazy? Is my horse probably strong enough for me to sink my weight onto him? He is learning to balance and when he gets off balance I tend to be lighter with him (ahem, rise off my toes when I trot) and it doesn't feel good to me but I'd rather do that than hurt his back. And ... it's a vicious cycle because him being a bit off balance and me getting lighter means I more easily get off balance.

    He's 5 years old, a sensitive TB (NOT a rolly-polly WB-type horse), and doing training level. We event also and he's a blast. Also, something relatively new within a few months is that I'm riding him in an Ansur treeless saddle. Maybe it's the saddle that's doing it to me? Before this saddle I didn't feel like this THAT much, but still to a degree.

    How come I don't want to sink my heels down and ride him like that? When he starts working nicely, I will sink my heels down and really ride him but I guess I just need to ride him like that all the time? It feels terrible to me to not have my heels down and easily be knocked off balance but silly me, I don't want to hurt him.

    Now, I ride third level with my WB and have NO problem sinking my heels down, sitting on him, and getting him to WORK. This little TB I don't want to hurt! But, he does need to start to be pushed a little in his training.
    Last edited by Merle; May. 4, 2008, 07:00 PM.

  • #2
    i don't follow your logic. are you thinking yuou should be sinking or bracing your heel down really hard when you sit the trot? sitting down on a horse's back isn't hard on them, you just start out doing a little and work up to more over a couple months. if the horse seems fussy when you sit the trot it may be because your hands become unsteady when you sit, not so much because he isn't able to have someone sit the trot on him.


    • #3
      Riding in light seat (rising and slightly ifv) had NOTHING to do with standing in the stirrups (riding off the toes). The rider's ear/shoulder/hip/back of heel should always be almost aligned, and the joints of the leg (hip/knee/heel) should all be 'angles of elasticity'. If you are standing on the your toe, then you are contracted, rather than feathered down. In addition, on a greenbean I would likely hike the strirrups up one or two holes to allow for this even better. Remember that only when the heels are lower than the toe (without locking the knee) are the calves properly 'bulked' so that the horse easily feels them.

      Whether you choose to sit has little to do with those things. Imho an ansur can contribute some of those problems because of the placement of the stirrup hanger (on some of them).

      IF you can (only) put the heels down while sitting I would worry that you are locking the knees/riding too long/or not properly aligned.
      I.D.E.A. yoda


      • Original Poster

        I honestly have not really ever tried to sit the trot very much and he is not fussy when I do try. I have had some well-respected dressage trainers tell me that a young horse does not have a strong enough back to sit the trot on. They haven't developed enough muscles.

        Also, it is not just sitting the trot that I would have my heels down with. It is my heels down at the trot whether sitting OR rising.

        Ideayoda, I like your post. Thanks so much. I think you are SPOT on. I think my leathers may be a bit too long -- my alignment is GREAT -- and I also think the Ansur is contributing. I may just end up with a different saddle. I honestly never felt like this before this new saddle. I feel sloppy and floppy in the Ansur. Perhaps a hole or two shorter will help. Also, this judge equated riding lightly with riding on my toe. I will try very much to get my heel down but boy, it is a struggle lately sometimes. When I am in my jumping saddle it's easy as pie, even in a longer stirrup.

        How can I become uncontracted and feathered down?


        • #5
          SIT on your sitting bones, and instead of contracting your butt and worrying that your horse can't tolerate your weight, envisage each side of his back muscles (which sort of contract and rise alternately as he trots) are able to push the seat bone on that side up slightly. Meanwhile, the extra energy is absorbed down through your heels.

          Riding "lightly" is very counterproductive, as you are so concerned about staying off your horse's back that you contort yourself in a way that actually makes it hard for him to carry you. IF you want to stay off his back, ride in a modified 2-point position, which will require greater core stregth and shorter stirrups - with a deep heel.

          Make yourself SIT on the horse for several strides, and hen go rising (posting) trot again. Repeat many times!


          • Original Poster

            THANK YOU!! ... I guess I do contract my butt when I sit on him. Oh man, this is going to be harder than I thought! Well, I knew it would be hard for me but *letting go* mentally is extremely hard.

            I thought I'd add some pics to show you what my leg/position looks like. These are pics from a good day with him.

            Last edited by Merle; May. 4, 2008, 09:08 PM.


            • #7
              Lengthen those stirrups!!! I don't think your saddle is helping you get a good seat. It looks awkward. It has a very forward flap. You hips are rotated back too much (sitting on the back pockets), and your shoulders are tipping back and legs forward into a chair seat. Your arm position is very nice! I like the straight line from bit to elbow. The legs need to be under the hips. Right now you are not sitting effectively and not helping the horse have balance. Also, with this horse I would be cautious when using the half-seat. He is already on the forehand (as most horses are!) and that could just create more heaviness in front. It's a good warm up exercise but there is no reason green horses need to be ridden in such a light seat.


              • Original Poster

                This is a photo from 4 years ago ... is this any better?


                My heel still isn't down as much as I think it should be! I can't find many pics between then and now but I certainly have improved, I think. Maybe not!


                • #9
                  B2E, I'm not sure this will have any bearing on your situation, but...

                  I'm coming back from an accident and so am being made abundantly aware of exactly what types of things my body does out of fear and defense.

                  One thing I'm finding myself doing is not sinking into my heels very well, almost as if subconciously I feel "safer" or more in control when my weight is more on my toes. So, I tell myself to let the leg hang, drop my heels and sit deep, and within about 5 minutes I notice it creeping back.

                  I am just wondering whether there is a trust issue there with the horse that is making you do this? Might be way off .


                  • #10
                    Keep in mind I'm not a "dressage" rider I think lengthening your stirrups is the last thing *you* want to do right now. Stirrup length isn't your issue. You are a bit closed in your hip angle which is putting your heel forward of your shoulder/hip line - it's not all lined up. You seem to be sitting back on the cantle - maybe causing the forward heel, or maybe the forward heel is causing you to sit back, I'm not sure which came first. Either way, you need to open up your hip flexors and get your thigh more under you, which will get your heel under you. It's difficult to get weight in your heel when it's out in front of you. To weight it would tend to push you back even further.

                    The older picture looks much better.

                    Sure, the Ansur could be doing this to you, or it could be how you are inclined to ride this particular horse - I know I tend to ride my TB mare differently (and not necessarily in a good way) from my WB gelding.
                    The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                    • #11
                      Dressage rider or not, with the Anur your legs look scrunched up and blocked. I'm suggesting a compromise where you have some angle behind the knee...the older pic looks better but I would still lower it one hole. Your knee is almost coming off the front flap. the older pic's saddle also looks too small, and having the stirrups longer would help keep you off the back of the saddle.
                      As far as the seat bones, I would suggest trotting in the half-seat where you just roll of the seat bones slightly. Let the weight sink down. That's where your leg should hang. Keep that feeling when you start to sit. Try work on the longe where you grab the front of the saddle and really anchor your position. Don't block any motion with your knee, thigh and calf. I'm not trying to turn you into a dressage rider, but I know when I tried riding with too short of a leg I would not be balanced. Besides, there is a reason the saddles have the design they do.


                      • #12
                        The old(er) pix is somewhat better, but you definitely need to take up the stirrups. You are swimming the way your are. Especially on a young horse your want to be lighter on the back, not in a chair seat. The joints of your leg all need to be more folded, but it will not be accomplished by pushing weight only into the heels, Even take the stirrups up too much and do some two point. Open the hips/lower the knees and heels with a shorter stirrup (two point standing still). (And imho alot of times only a more educated rider should ride in an ansur, this can easily happen if you do not have good eyes on the ground). It does not help that the reins are too long, hands too low in the trot, and the horse so lowered and onto the forehand (just as on the chestnut). You need to know where alignment (ear/shoulder/hip/heel)is (which was was better earlier), it is not great it is missing the points. Generally put the height of the iron about the height of the lower side of the ankle bone when the leg is hanging. In the pix your foot is also too far 'home' (too far into the stirrups) to allow easy feathering into the heels. You are sitting too much onto the pockets, the thighs are too high, not feathering into the heels. Doing two point would be impossible in the seat the way it is (even at a halt), you will have to realllllllly move the entire leg more back under you even to get up off your butt. Imho, the ansur is placed too far forward as well.
                        I.D.E.A. yoda


                        • #13
                          Ideayoda is absolutely right! Yes, shorten your stirrups a hole or two. Yeah, two. Years ago, when I first got my Neidersuss/Hippostar saddle, my then-trainer had me riding with a very long stirrup. I have embarrassing photos from those days with me pitched onto my crotch, struggling to maintain contact with my stirrups. I HATED my saddle, and often told my trainer that something had to be wrong. She kept insisting that I just needed to "lengthen my leg". Well, they can only go so long!

                          When I switched trainers, the new one shortened my stirrups by at least two holes. (Might have been three!) Voila! My saddle felt better and I suddenly had the secure and effective seat I remembered having from long, long ago.

                          I very much like your second picture from years ago with the shorter stirrups. Looks much more secure and "together".

                          I've had no experience with Ansur saddles, so cannot comment on what it might be doing to your position. I'd trust what The Yoda says.

                          Something else that might be helpful to strengthen your young horse's back: (I'm doing this with my Hannoverian gelding who's recovering from a back injury) Alternate your posting diagonals. That is, sit two strides, then rise, sit two strides, rise, and so on. Helps the back, helps hind legs.


                          • #14
                            I ride in an Ansur Carleton but have also ridden in the classic.

                            When I started riding in a treeless it became IMMEDIATELY apparent to me that I was relying on my other dressage saddles to "put" me in a position. When it came to a treeless, I had to find that balanced position for myself. What an eye opener.

                            Now I don't like not riding in a treeless, because I can't feel his back and "talk" to him with my seat.

                            Not saying I have the world's greatest seat, but it's light years beyond what it was when I rode in a saddle that "fixed" me in one place. Which isn't very good for the horse, because those dressage tests apparently judge you on the moving gaits.
                            a 501(c)3 organization helping 501(c)3 equine rescues


                            • #15
                              just another thought on the 'shorten' vs. 'lengthen' stirrup thing. I always, always thought longer was better. I spent about an 18 month period of time in literally blood, sweat and tears trying to achieve a 'vertical' thigh because that is what the trainer I was learning with wanted.

                              Almost a decade later I discovered that *I* need MORE ANGLE in my knee and hip in order for the joints to work. It makes sense. A hinge opened all the way has no place to go (and sometimes locks in that position!) A hinge open half-way can open and close. Now add a spring to that hinge for an even more appropriate dynamic.

                              Once the joints are working softly to absorb shock, THEN you can lengthen the stirrup again-ON SOME HORSES. Other horses due to their shape, you'll want a shorter stirrup with more angle. There is quite a bit of angle in some SRS photos--tall, lean men on short, round horses. There is much more angle in Nuno Oliveira's leg on narrow, withery TB's than on the Iberians which fill his leg to perfection... etc.

                              The Ansur can be fabulous for some conformation types. It can be quite detrimental to the point of injury for others. And I mean *both* equine & human conformation. Same rider different horses can = problems. It is ideal for a certain type of rider, very good for others, and impossible for others.

                              For those who will spring up and argue that 'it makes me a better rider if I stick with it.' Yes, it may, with excellent instruction over a very long time. But, life is short. You wouldn't pay THAT MUCH MONEY for a car which wobbled around the road until you 'got used to' driving it? If you are SURE you will become MORE correct in it, go for it. Otherwise, try a few other options. I & my stallion advanced more in the first year after getting a Fhoenix than we had in the previous five. I had found something that worked for both of us, that I wasn't fighting.

                              Life is too short. I'm not at all against the ideal of a saddle that 'does nothing' to help... (hell, I ride in an Ancient Passier these days... NO help there!) BUT, that's not always appropriate for every stage of training & riding.

                              (editing to add--was posting the same time as DGRH--was NOT referring to anyone *specific* though it might seem I was because of timing! If you can improve with ANY saddle--go for it. If it is detrimental... change
                              Last edited by pintopiaffe; May. 5, 2008, 12:37 PM. Reason: clarification because of ribbon ho' lol!
                              InnisFailte Pinto Sporthorses & Coloured Cobs

                              Bits are like cats, what's one more? (Petstorejunkie)


                              • #16
                                While a bit eccentric, Sally Swift's Centered Riding books just cannot be beat when it comes to releasing tension, learning to move with the horse, and getting your body into the right position. I've really started using these techniques (which are mostly mental) with my 5 year old endurance horse. I've noticed her becoming softer, she concentrates more, and when there is a spook I sort of just flow with her instead of bracing myself and getting throw up on her neck or over her shoulder.

                                And yes, I ride treeless too.


                                • #17
                                  Oh, I HATE getting throw up on Bea's neck and shoulder!


                                  • Original Poster

                                    Wow, thanks for the replies! I don't have time to write a long/involved response but I just got back from riding. I took out the front blocks on the Ansur (they are BIG blocks) so it was literally just a flat flap on the horse with NO blocks. I had much more "room" and focused on keeping my weight in my heels and felt much, much better. I also shortened my stirrups (I'm now at the top hole ... I only had one left!). I felt as if I had my "real" leg back but if I relaxed a lot then I still felt as if I was in a chair seat. I wish I could relax and be in the position I want to be in.

                                    It really is just this horse that I ride this way on. I had a terrible accident falling off of him last June (we were jumping) and my family thinks it might just be a mental block I have when riding him. It wasn't his fault at all but I still got hurt (on crutches for a while, was rushed to the ER). I think I may just never get over that to trust him even though he is trustworthy and quiet.


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Born2Event View Post
                                      It really is just this horse that I ride this way on. I had a terrible accident falling off of him last June (we were jumping) and my family thinks it might just be a mental block I have when riding him. It wasn't his fault at all but I still got hurt (on crutches for a while, was rushed to the ER). I think I may just never get over that to trust him even though he is trustworthy and quiet.
                                      When you have a chance, go down to off-course and read the "relax your..." thread. I think tenseness is the hardest part of getting back to riding after a fall!

                                      I'm JUST getting back- like I've ridden my new pony a couple of times and my big guy (who I was riding when I fell) once. I have my first lesson on Wednesday. The tenseness is huge, it's going to take a while (and, I assume, some help) to get over.


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by Beasmom View Post
                                        Oh, I HATE getting throw up on Bea's neck and shoulder!

                                        Ok, now that I'm done laughing at Beasmon's comment...

                                        Be sure that your Ansur sits level on your horse's back. I ride in a Classic, and I had to have a saddlemaker raise the back of the saddle by adding a soft leather flap to the underside and inserting a 1/2" thickness of wool felt that tapers to nothing about half way to the front of the saddle. It made a huge difference in my ability so sit properly in the saddle.
                                        Donald Trump - proven liar, cheat, traitor and sexual predator! Hillary Clinton won in 2016, but we have all lost.