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What can I do to better ride my big mover?

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  • What can I do to better ride my big mover?

    Hi everyone, visiting from hunter/jumper land...

    I bought a yearling TB/Hanoverian years ago, backed/started him when he was 4, and rode him lightly until he was 5, and then started his training in earnest. Aiming for the hunters with him and he is now 6.

    My background: successful jr. hunter career, have been riding/training my whole life, and now train part-time, teach lessons full time. However, beyond the occasional catch ride as a junior, this guy is my first with any decent amount of warmblood in him; my riding/training experience comes mainly from OTTB's and grade horses (I tend to gravitate towards project horses that I either re-sell or get going for a student).

    This horse has always felt quite different to ride; a much bigger, nicer mover than I have had the opportunity to work with; the best I could describe it at first was that it was like riding my average horses, but without stirrups. But, it was something I really loved and became very comfortable with.

    After hitting a roadblock in his training in which he was having a very hard time picking up his right lead, I devoted this spring to fixing that. After a full vet exam (two, actually, not having found anything), switching trimmers, incorporating a lot of hill work, scheduling bi-monthly chiropractic and acupuncture treatments, and learning equine massage to help him in between, we are starting to get the right lead more and more consistently.

    Yeah! HOWEVER, I thought he was a big mover before, he is incredible to ride now; almost too incredible.

    I ride an average of 3 horses a day, including this horse. One is an easy enough TB that I can tune her up without stirrups, and do so every day. I am in good shape, very strong from doing all the barn work from stacking hay bales to cleaning stalls. But, I am having a very hard time riding this horse Best I can explain it, it feels like riding something that is about to explode (he is not being naughty, or strong, he's just...walking/trotting/cantering and being a complete gentleman) and I feel like I am not staying with him very well and certainly not riding him as effectively as I should be. My main concern is that whenever we traveled last year to ride, his excitement and energy was very close to not being ride-able (for me) and with him feeling good like he is now, I think that when we try to go to a show, it will be impossible to ride him until I can start to figure this out at home.

    He is 17.1, I am 5', 1", which doesn't help much...

    I figured if anyone knew how to nicely sit a big mover, it would be you guys. ANY help or tips would be hugely appreciated, and thank you for any time you might give me...

  • #2
    two suggestions, and not everyone is going to agree with me, but really really work on tempo control, ( like the dutch) do many transitions within the gait and make sure you have a good steady school trot, and even play around a little with the "pony trot" aka Totilas warm up gait when Ed Gal was schooling him.

    so, make sure you are setting the rhythm and tempo,

    then , for you, when you sit the trot, you should use your core muscles to anticipate the movement, so that you are not behind it, or reacting to it, but are active with the movement .

    finally, even big horses become easy and a pleasure to sit if they are properly through, and uphill. begin to incorporate a little lateral work to get that balanced feeling and then go with it

    Comment


    • #3
      You say you are in good shape, very strong from doing all the barn work from stacking hay bales to cleaning stalls, but how strong exactly is your core? Barn works don't really build your core...

      Comment


      • #4
        Big movers may be less jarring as training advances, but they don't become "easy" to sit. The key is lots of core muscle exercises as well as flexibility in the hips (there was a thread on exercises for the latter recently). Most riders of the really BIG movers spend quite a lot of time on off-horse exercises and physio sessions, because non-targeted strength training doesn't really do the job.

        Much of the solution will come with experience and strength. Be very aware of what your body is doing - many riders instinctively tense or hold hip or thigh muscles to stabilize themselves, whereas it's a combination of core stability and hip/lower back flexibility that is needed. Yoga and pilates can be helpful, especially if you find a teacher who also rides. If you can find a local instructor or clinician that uses biomechanics or physio-inspired teaching, it might be worth a session or two.
        Proud COTH lurker since 2001.

        Comment


        • #5
          Situps, pilates, and more core work! As much core work as you can get! Something involving your hip flexors would be beneficial, too. Arm and leg strength doesn't mean much in dressage, it's really all in your abs/back.

          Really think about going with him. Sometimes when I struggle with a big mover I actually hold the front of the saddle and pull myself into it (sitting obviously). As in, when sitting the trot or canter, actually pull he front of the saddle upward and into your seat. This lets me feel what muscles I need to key into, and it stabilizes me to an extent while I work the rest out. Not a long-term fix, but if gives and idea of what you need to ideally do by yourself.

          Other than that, just being used to it and trusting him! I feel your pain, though, as I am 5'2" and one Dutch WB I rode was 17.3... It took a long time to get used to those strides, but once I did it was the most fun I've ever had riding

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by eastendjumper View Post
            My main concern is that whenever we traveled last year to ride, his excitement and energy was very close to not being ride-able (for me) and with him feeling good like he is now, I think that when we try to go to a show, it will be impossible to ride him until I can start to figure this out at home.
            You know the answer to this
            you need to start taking him off property at every opportunity, & really, as wonderful as this forum is, there is no substitute for a real life trainer who can watch you & your horse & offer specific timed commentary: find that coach & book those weekly lessons!
            (a clinic might also be just the thing, but only after some preliminary travel/lessons)

            Comment


            • #7
              Is there a good dressage instructor near you? Some skilled eyes on the ground will help you and maybe some lessons on the lunge line to nail down you muscle memory for riding your guy.
              Dawn

              Patience and Consistency are Your Friends

              Comment


              • #8
                This: "Big movers may be less jarring as training advances, but they don't become "easy" to sit."

                I have a very big moving 17H Hanoverian. The best advice I got from a trainer (and R judge) is to try to absorb the bounce with your shoulders, i.e., let your shoulders (not head, not hips, etc.) bounce with the big strides. It works for me.

                If you look at videos of, e.g., Carl Hester [ http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xw2...8-79-900_sport ], that's how many top riders appear to absorb the big bounce also.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by kmmoran View Post
                  Situps, pilates, and more core work! As much core work as you can get! Something involving your hip flexors would be beneficial, too. Arm and leg strength doesn't mean much in dressage, it's really all in your abs/back.

                  Really think about going with him. Sometimes when I struggle with a big mover I actually hold the front of the saddle and pull myself into it (sitting obviously). As in, when sitting the trot or canter, actually pull he front of the saddle upward and into your seat. This lets me feel what muscles I need to key into, and it stabilizes me to an extent while I work the rest out. Not a long-term fix, but if gives and idea of what you need to ideally do by yourself.

                  Other than that, just being used to it and trusting him! I feel your pain, though, as I am 5'2" and one Dutch WB I rode was 17.3... It took a long time to get used to those strides, but once I did it was the most fun I've ever had riding
                  This. I do a lot of barn work also (I have 11 horses) but discovered I needed work on my hip flexors. People often think core means abs but it is really from your shoulders to your knees.
                  You can use ankle weights and march, bringing your upper leg above the horizontal or simply sit on a balance ball with your feet on the floor and BOUNCE. It seems silly but you will discover your hip flexors in a mater of minutes
                  I wasn't always a Smurf
                  Penmerryl's Sophie RIDSH
                  "I ain't as good as I once was but I'm as good once as I ever was"
                  The ignore list is my friend. It takes 2 to argue.

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                  • #10
                    No where in the Carl Hester video show he is using shoulders to absorb the movement. He is using his HIPS.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      We don't know you, your horse, or riding style (being a H/J defectee). A But a tense horse will not relax its back. If he is at all tense, even at home, he will be harder to sit - you will have to work at a very soft seat and not go to the hand to fight him.

                      A lot of us are not as fit as we should be after a long winter, esp. in the core area, but I am with you in the area of finding my own horse harder to sit as she is fairly big moving. We often go to the had when we should be using our core. The air cushion ride may never come; we are not all GP riders able to go with the horse as well as they do.
                      Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique

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                      • #12
                        Reading your post I feel like I wrote it! My horse is a little shorter and I am a little taller, but movement, right canter struggles, YUP I am right there with ya sister! What I can add is while you are strong, that may be actually working against you right now. You need to have strength in terms of endurance but you have to get your core muscle memory conditioned to follow your horse's big movement. As a HJ girl too, it helped me the most to take some lessons with a dressage instructor who mostly just yelled "Sit Back"! I knew I didn't need to be leaning back, but I needed to open up my hips and be following a LOT more with my seat than I was. It made a HUGE difference and I feel much more secure even on the days when I can feel that explosive energy. I also downloaded a Yoga app for my phone and started doing beginners yoga, and I think that has helped with body awareness. Good luck and have fun!
                        Me: In a long-winded explanation of who GM is and why he is Important to the Sport
                        Mr EmJ: So what you're saying is GM is so Important he could get Chik-Fil-A on Sunday?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Gloria View Post
                          No where in the Carl Hester video show he is using shoulders to absorb the movement. He is using his HIPS.
                          I certainly didn't mean to imply that the other parts of one's body should be rigid or immovable. But, if one tries to absorb all the bounce from a big trot in one's hips and also tries to keep one's head and shoulders still, one is likey to over stress or injure one's back. If you look at the video of Carl Hester, his shoulders are moving up/down fairly significantly. His movement is not like that of Latin dancers, who dance with very still heads and shoulders while their legs and hips move. Rather, he's also using his shoulders (but not "bobble-head") to absorb the motion of that big trot.
                          As I said, my dressage coach's advice to try to absorb the motion in my shoulders worked wonders for riding my Hanoverian's big trot.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            His shoulders are moving up and down because his horse was moving up and down and his whole body is fluid, meaning, no blockage anywhere and he remains relaxed shoulders. If you watch carefully the relationship between his shoulders and his chest, you will see that they remain the same distance throughout. If the shoulders were used to absorb motions, the distance between shoulders and chest would change constantly. Riders who use shoulders as shock absorption will have the unstable rein contact where you see the reins move up and down along with shoulders at each stride. These riders normally have tight hips and/or insufficient core as well. His shock absorption comes mainly from his hips with the remaining force traveling up to chest and down to knees.

                            Your coach's comment, I imagine, is to help you to relax your shoulders. If you had stiff shoulders, the image of absorbing force through shoulders would help you to loosen them up. It does not mean to absorb motions through shoulders in the literal sense though.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Gloria View Post
                              His shoulders are moving up and down because his horse was moving up and down and his whole body is fluid, meaning, no blockage anywhere and he remains relaxed shoulders. If you watch carefully the relationship between his shoulders and his chest, you will see that they remain the same distance throughout. If the shoulders were used to absorb motions, the distance between shoulders and chest would change constantly. Riders who use shoulders as shock absorption will have the unstable rein contact where you see the reins move up and down along with shoulders at each stride. These riders normally have tight hips and/or insufficient core as well. His shock absorption comes mainly from his hips with the remaining force traveling up to chest and down to knees.

                              Your coach's comment, I imagine, is to help you to relax your shoulders. If you had stiff shoulders, the image of absorbing force through shoulders would help you to loosen them up. It does not mean to absorb motions through shoulders in the literal sense though.
                              Ya know, Gloria, I think we're saying pretty much the same thing. I say absorb; you say relax; we're both saying it's OK to let your shoulders bounce along with the movement of a big trot (as do Mr. Hester's).

                              When advice is given to try to absorb all the bounce from a big moving horse in just one's hips and back (like the Latin dancer image I mentioned), that just isn't enough and is likely (in my view) to lead to back injuries.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by DennisM View Post
                                Ya know, Gloria, I think we're saying pretty much the same thing. I say absorb; you say relax; we're both saying it's OK to let your shoulders bounce along with the movement of a big trot (as do Mr. Hester's).

                                When advice is given to try to absorb all the bounce from a big moving horse in just one's hips and back (like the Latin dancer image I mentioned), that just isn't enough and is likely (in my view) to lead to back injuries.
                                Absorbing the horse's movement in one's back would also most definitely be the wrong thing to try to do.
                                Originally posted by Silverbridge
                                If you get anything on your Facebook feed about who is going to the Olympics in 2012 or guessing the outcome of Bush v Gore please start threads about those, too.

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                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  The great thing about forum's such as this one, and why I sek the advice of other rider's on here, is to be able to gather different ideas, philosophies, and theories to decide which best makes sense to me, for me, and for my particular situation. Everyone has the right to express their views, and I just want everyone to know that every bit of advice posted here will be considered.

                                  Thank you everyone who takes their time and effort to respnd to my post! Please keep ideas coming.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by DennisM View Post
                                    Ya know, Gloria, I think we're saying pretty much the same thing. I say absorb; you say relax; we're both saying it's OK to let your shoulders bounce along with the movement of a big trot (as do Mr. Hester's).

                                    When advice is given to try to absorb all the bounce from a big moving horse in just one's hips and back (like the Latin dancer image I mentioned), that just isn't enough and is likely (in my view) to lead to back injuries.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      You may need to look at how flexible your hips are. Core strength is not the whole equation. With a bigger moving horse your hips need to move more.

                                      Good in saddle exercises include lifting knees towards the withers, right x2, left x2, both x2. Kick your heel towards his hock. Lift your legs out and up, while walking around the arena.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        To improve ones seat nothing beats hours in the saddle except hours in the saddle on the longe with no stirrups.
                                        Groom to trainer: "Where's the glamour? You promised me glamour!"

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