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Conformation issues.. of the human variety.

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  • #21
    I am small (curvy, but small), with short legs. And what I do have in legs is all in my femur.

    A few things that make a big difference for me are saddles that fit. I am very particular about saddles for me, and while I can get the job done in just about anything, I ride my best in my two saddles. Seats that are the right size (so I'm not swimming in them), flaps that are short (so my legs connect with the horse), and a jump saddle flap that is forward so I can be in the best balance possible over the fence. I also need narrow twists (sometimes hard to find in dressage saddles), and I think part of my abhorrence for big blocks and rolls is because they limit my connection with the horse even more. Less fluff on a saddle means my sparse amount of legs connects more with the horse.

    Something I've recently re-discovered is spurs that are long enough so I don't have to contort my leg oddly to make contact. It DOES make a huge difference for me, especially when jumping, if I don't feel like I have to turn my heel up or turn my toes out massively to engage my spur (having your horse sharp off your leg helps, too, though!). (Just an aside, think about putting your crotch in your pommel in the dressage saddle. You're sitting too far back in the cantle. That'll bring you more in line).

    And, yes, I get that "If I put my arms out, my elbows don't bend" feeling. I ride where I need to. Instead of meeting some criteria that doesn't work for my body type, I ride where my hands and arms are most effective for that ride. The picture is actually better, and, really, the difference is very subtle. But if you try and force your body into a position that works for some long, willowy rider, you'll look stiff and be less effective.

    Riding horses that FIT also helps, though sometimes is easier said than done! I prefer and feel best on 16hh and under. I CAN ride big horses, and well, but I am most at ease and feel less like I'm pushing myself out of a good position on little horses. And when I do ride big horses, I get them sharp of my leg and do LOTS of reinstalling of half halts so that I DON'T have to feel like I'm wrestling an elephant (I successfully rode a 17.2hh cruise ship of a horse for a season with this method. I may have looked like a flea riding a twinky, but he knew when I squeezed, he WENT, and when I sat up, he went whoa).

    You're HARDLY funny looking in the saddle. Don't fret about it. Remember the basics that apply to us all, but don't feel like you HAVE to ride like someone who has a completely different body type. It won't work and it will make you more uncomfortable and stiff. We get so fixated on equitation in this country, and while a lot of it IS just the basics of good riding, a lot of it is just about posing and/or only works for the willowy riders. Relax, sit up, keep a line from shoulder to hip to heel, and then just do what works for you.
    Amanda

    Comment


    • #22
      We ALL have things we fight against! I have Hulk Shoulders that are in a naturally hunchy position, and my Weenie Adult Riding Habits accentuate the hunch. I have short legs too, and have what's essentially lupus, so my joints fight me every steo of the way, and particularly in my knees and hips.

      But as long as we are all trying to improve and put in good effort- well who cares what we look like or sound like? We do this for fun, right? I'm like a sack of jello with Tourette's when I'm riding, and I am the stuff George Morris's nightmares are made of, but BY GOLLY, I am having fun
      Blog chronicling our new eventing adventures: Riding With Scissors

      Comment


      • #23
        I don't know, I think riding is just difficult in general. Aside from my lack of height (5'4"), I'm built the way I guess a rider "should" be: short torso, long legs with more of the length from the knee down, and long monkey arms that makes buying long sleeve shirts a pain. Riding is still tough and takes a lot of strength and skill to stay balanced correctly. I think you look lovely and well balanced in the saddle. From your description, I expected you to look like the kids in the Thelwell cartoons.
        "Last time I picked your feet, you broke my toe!"

        Comment


        • #24
          I think 98% of us struggle with something physical related to our build.

          I think you look lovely in your photos - well balanced and soft. Follow what has already been said - work on getting the best you can out of the "changeable" things and have the wisdom to not stress about the things you cannot change.

          Comment


          • #25
            The tyranosaur without a tail comment made the cats scramble with how loud I guffawed!

            I have to say I had a very very large chest. You know two states of Florida, that two children and gaining and losing over 130 lbs (really I did, I have pics to prove it) left me with it almost impossible to ride without 2-3 bras and tape. So I bit the bullet and had a reduction. OMG best decison of my entire life. I'm honestly not sure if the losing 130lbs or the breast reduction was the most amazing thing, but it has really been life altering.

            So if you are large chested, I really really really (can't say it enough) recommend a reduction. It's amazing.

            Comment


            • #26
              I was expecting something much different from your pictures!! I agree w/others -- you look elegant in the saddle, despite any conformational challenges you might have.

              I am another that struggles with T-rex arms. I keep trying to keep my hands where they need to be and my elbows where they need to be, but I simply do not have enough arm to do it. My upper body from the waist up is short, but my pelvis is long, which makes core stability extra challenging for me. I also have big boobs, and my legs are normal for my height but my height is short and my horse is built like a mack truck (super wide), so altogether it just is an awkward and uncomfortable picture.

              This is more dressage-focused, but the best book I've read for helping rider conformation is Balance in Movement: How to Achieve the Perfect Seat
              by Susanne von Dietze.

              Comment


              • #27
                OP, I would kill to have your slender, willowy upper body. I have long legs (same inseam as my husband who is 6'. I am 5'5".) but the short upper body is all boobs and belly. Let me tell you, THAT makes a person top heavy!! I agree with the suggestion of trying a smaller jump saddle, the seat on yours looks quite large. (Again, a problem I would love to have!!)

                Comment


                • #28
                  One of the BEST riders I know is ABSOLUTELY the wrong shape to ride anything. Horses completely love her, they always go sweetly and softly, she rides anything and does all kinds of interesting things with horses.

                  Bit like a bumble bee being the incorrect shape to fly. No one told the bee.
                  "Good young horses are bred, but good advanced horses are trained" Sam Griffiths

                  Comment


                  • #29
                    I can read plenty of books that tell me I'm not built to be a rider, but rather, a corgi,
                    OK, Chobani Greek Yogurt on the keyboard is a b$% to get off!!! Just Monday my new instructor told me and her working student that we were similarly challenged by having "normal" torsos with chubby short legs. I never thought of myself as a Corgi, but there it is.

                    And the short arms, uh huh, I've got them too. I keep trying to explain to my instructor that I can't PHYSICALLY do that! There just isn't enough arm

                    So, I too struggle with top-heavyness and balance challenges. One exercise she gave me was to stand in my stirrups at a walk and then a trot while maintaining my balance. I found after a few minutes of [trying] each, my legs were longer (well, felt longer at least). My dressage instructor also has me do a lot of leg stretches and lengthening which usually enable me to lower my stirrup a hole. Maybe doing some yoga hip openers and leg stretches before riding could help... I'll have to try that too.

                    Good luck--you are not alone. Oh, and you do look lovely on a horse!
                    "A good man will take care of his horses and dogs, not only while they are young, but also when they are old and past service." Plutarch

                    Comment

                    • Original Poster

                      #30
                      This thread has been totally reinvigorating! I love reading all the light hearted commiserating. It is so refreshing to be reminded that everyone has their own challenges, and we get it done, anyhow. I also really appreciate all the very kind comments on my photos, I was a bit nervous to post them but thought.. what the heck. I'm glad I did!

                      Thank you thank you thank you to everyone that has shared their own challenges and some advice!

                      Re: my jump saddle.. I HATE IT! I bought it three years ago when I had my last OTTB, and I jumped at the first saddle that fit him that was in my price range. It happened to also fit my new guy, so we stuck with it. I do not think it fits me well at all, and I feel like I am fighting to maintain a good position OF that should be less of a challenge in a better fitting saddle. Ironically, it feels better on the flat. It is an Amerigo (not Vega - older model), 17.5, medium tree, monoflap, not like it would be hard to sell at all - it's a very nice saddle. Just not for me. I don't have the money to try other saddles, pay for a consult, and have a new one reflocked for him at this point in time. It is the first thing on my list to do when I save up enough, though!

                      Thank you again everyone!!!

                      Comment


                      • #31
                        Deltawave is right

                        You don't fall into any extremes...you just are not perfect...who is. I think you do have a more vulnerable conformation to get ahead of a jump but you are changing over time to manage that risk. The first jumping picture shows the vulnerability...if your horse stopped or stumbled you would be over commited and more likely to not be able to stay on or help recover but in the second photo jumping you are folding not standing. You might work on your release to keep a direct line...with the intent to keep your weight lower and not rely on possibly using the crest for support which for your conformation gets might have your weight too high. You have to be commited to being deep in your stirrup...sorry I can't think of a better term...the martial arts people talk about being centered in the earth...your weight is through your stirrup not on your stirrup or on the saddle. The point of that is true security...being around your horse not on your horse. It takes all the tippiness out of your seat and for your conformation tippiness has risks. However you have developed a solid base and look to have good core strength...you ARE limited by your saddle...and you event? I would want to raise the odds of surviving a stumble or mistake and a saddle will help. Also your arm is not short though you do tend to have too long a rein...that is maybe more a function of not keeping your hand closed on the rein than the length of your arm. You are doing very nice work. Like Deltawave said its more about doing the same thing we all need to do to improve not so much anything unique to you. It could be way worse... look at what Becky Holder has accomplished with both a short AND round thigh. PatO

                        Comment


                        • #32
                          Amy- It's a shame our horses have different backs and we can't just switch saddles. My vega is SO SMALL for me. With my stirrups jacked up where I like them, my knees are over the flap and my butt sticks out past the back of the saddle. I'm seriously considering asking Anne to keep an eye out for a cheap jump saddle with a forward flap
                          .

                          Comment


                          • #33
                            Originally posted by ake987 View Post
                            YES, YES, YESSSSSSSS!


                            One minute: Shorten your reins!
                            Next minute: Bend your elbows!
                            Me: PICK ONE!
                            Join the crowd. While I have the long legs, my arms are short. As in when I buy the jacket to fit my linebacker shoulders, thin or fat, the sleeves end around the tips of my fingers.

                            Agree with others, you have an elegant look about you. Build on that strength working without stirrups to allow your hips to open so you sit more deeply and your legs relax around the horse.
                            As for jumping, jack up the stirrups to improve your leg strength, which improves your overall balance. Watch people like Margie Engle and McLain Ward, neither has what we would call a rider's body but each has an impressive leg position. Doug Payne and Boyd Martin both have very quiet hands BECAUSE their legs are effective and quiet.

                            It always starts at the top, the brain, to teach the bottom, the legs, be a solid platform for the rest of the body. Once you get your legs in control, to the best of your ability, the rest will follow.
                            "Never do anything that you have to explain twice to the paramedics."
                            Courtesy my cousin Tim

                            Comment


                            • #34
                              Originally posted by fooler View Post
                              As in when I buy the jacket to fit my linebacker shoulders, thin or fat, the sleeves end around the tips of my fingers. .

                              I have been threatening to start a Hulk Shoulders clique. I think it is high time.
                              Blog chronicling our new eventing adventures: Riding With Scissors

                              Comment


                              • #35
                                Postural Awareness

                                Hi there, your original post cracked me up - especially the part about being a Corgi!

                                Almost all of our tendencies in the tack (and on the ground) are directly related to the position of our pelvis and, to a lesser extent, the anatomy of the shoulder girdle. From the picture you posted (cute horse and cute you, btw!) it appears your pelvis is in a pretty pronounced posterior tilt (your lumbar spine is concave to the horse's withers). You probably find it much easier to stay slightly behind the horse's movement, and to actually put your stirrups on the dashboard.

                                I am built exactly the opposite, my pelvis is convex to the withers, in a typical anterior pelvic tilt (it tilts toward the front of my body). When I try to stay behind or put my leg in front of me, I am prone to lose my balance in the tack. I work to correct this each time I ride! I suspect this is why you lose your balance when you sit deeper with your legs perpendicular to the ground ... the cantilever effect that compensates for your pelvic position is out front; mine is behind.

                                You will fix this, ultimately, at the hip. You should practice riding with a "duck butt." Come up onto your sit bones and think about pronouncing the natural lordosis (small curve) in your lower back. If that sounds too anatomical, think "I'm about to twerk in this saddle" and you'll probably be good. (Just make sure you maintain your abdominal engagement to support your spine in this position.)

                                I don't like working without stirrups as a first step - mostly because the horse suffers the rider's imbalance until the rider gets strong enough. And, also, some of the tendencies are exacerbated during this process, making it even more painful to the rider (for me, it's tight hip flexors). In an ideal world, someone would hang heavy weights from our ankles as we ride stirrupless, as additional weight will enhance gravitational pull, ultimately finding a plumb line from hip to ground. Try this on a stability/physio ball in front of a mirror. Pretend like you're riding - I swear it helps!

                                Those of us with long femurs will also maximize the knee's limited ability to slightly rotate. Make sure you know how to rotate laterally ("out") from your hip so that your hip/knee/ankle are aligned on the same plane. Most of us will feel a lot more of a challenge to engage the muscles of the inner thigh (hip adductor) to maintain this alignment and subsequent connection to the horse's body.

                                Good luck!
                                When blood is the beverage of choice, the sharpest fangs feed first.

                                Comment

                                • Original Poster

                                  #36
                                  I have long been suspect of my pelvis.. because I see the same thing in photos, particularly photo #1; I should note - that is not my horse, nor my saddle in that photo. My current horse is the bay in photos 3 & 4 (and those are my jump and dressage saddles).

                                  I think I have gone from one extreme: coming from hunters four years ago, with a duck butt and overly exaggerated arch in my lower back that gave me the forward hunter perch, to the other: rotating my pelvis to where I tuck my butt underneath me - but too much; sitting properly on my seat bones so that they point straight down is somewhere in between! I will admit, for some reason in physio, the postural language (anterior, posterior, dorsal, ventral, etc..) was tough for me! Neural pathways, no problem.

                                  I actually did ride on Weds with no stirrups (I took them off the saddle so I didn't have the option to grab them, or the banging on my horse's sides/withers), in my dressage saddle, and had a fantastic ride. First thing I did when I got on was pull my knees up in front of the pommel to my hips to "place" my seat bones. This pushed me further forward into the deepest part of my saddle, as someone suggested earlier. Letting my legs then hang down, I almost felt as if I were tethered to the ground. I started with eyes closed and a hand on the pommel, which I find to be a huge help. Every so often I would halt and realign my seat via the lifting of my knees up. I also did some lifting of my ankles straight out laterally, as I am sure my hips could use the stretching. Wow - just looking in the mirror, I appeared to have a nice, long leg, and my hip/pelvis didn't have that awkward look to it (though I still think I am fairly long.. in the pelvis? If that makes sense?).

                                  Moreso than the trot, this REALLY helped my upward transition to the canter. My horse was much more relaxed from the depart, with a slower, more balanced gait. Very cool! I also felt 10x more secure WITHOUT my stirrups, which was quite surprising.

                                  This may be the worst idea for a reason I can't think of.. but has anybody actually done no-stirrups work with the ankle exercise weights?

                                  I think the other reason my ride felt so positive is because I stopped staring at my horse's head and neck the whole ride, and forbade myself from using my hand a) without applying leg first, and b) to control speed. If we sped up, I tried to regulate with my seat and by turning onto a smaller circle.

                                  I would really like to continue to work on my seat and pelvic positioning, as I definitely feel that when my butt is in the right place, the rest is easy to get done. When my seat is positioned incorrectly.. well, it's no surprise that I can't get anything else done!

                                  Thank you everyone for all the great advice, for taking the time to read and share your experiences and wisdom. It is definitely much appreciated!

                                  Comment


                                  • #37
                                    Originally posted by ake987 View Post
                                    I have long been suspect of my pelvis.. because I see the same thing in photos, particularly photo #1; I should note - that is not my horse, nor my saddle in that photo. My current horse is the bay in photos 3 & 4 (and those are my jump and dressage saddles).

                                    I think I have gone from one extreme: coming from hunters four years ago, with a duck butt and overly exaggerated arch in my lower back that gave me the forward hunter perch, to the other: rotating my pelvis to where I tuck my butt underneath me - but too much; sitting properly on my seat bones so that they point straight down is somewhere in between! I will admit, for some reason in physio, the postural language (anterior, posterior, dorsal, ventral, etc..) was tough for me! Neural pathways, no problem.

                                    I actually did ride on Weds with no stirrups (I took them off the saddle so I didn't have the option to grab them, or the banging on my horse's sides/withers), in my dressage saddle, and had a fantastic ride. First thing I did when I got on was pull my knees up in front of the pommel to my hips to "place" my seat bones. This pushed me further forward into the deepest part of my saddle, as someone suggested earlier. Letting my legs then hang down, I almost felt as if I were tethered to the ground. I started with eyes closed and a hand on the pommel, which I find to be a huge help. Every so often I would halt and realign my seat via the lifting of my knees up. I also did some lifting of my ankles straight out laterally, as I am sure my hips could use the stretching. Wow - just looking in the mirror, I appeared to have a nice, long leg, and my hip/pelvis didn't have that awkward look to it (though I still think I am fairly long.. in the pelvis? If that makes sense?).

                                    Moreso than the trot, this REALLY helped my upward transition to the canter. My horse was much more relaxed from the depart, with a slower, more balanced gait. Very cool! I also felt 10x more secure WITHOUT my stirrups, which was quite surprising.

                                    This may be the worst idea for a reason I can't think of.. but has anybody actually done no-stirrups work with the ankle exercise weights?

                                    I think the other reason my ride felt so positive is because I stopped staring at my horse's head and neck the whole ride, and forbade myself from using my hand a) without applying leg first, and b) to control speed. If we sped up, I tried to regulate with my seat and by turning onto a smaller circle.

                                    I would really like to continue to work on my seat and pelvic positioning, as I definitely feel that when my butt is in the right place, the rest is easy to get done. When my seat is positioned incorrectly.. well, it's no surprise that I can't get anything else done!

                                    Thank you everyone for all the great advice, for taking the time to read and share your experiences and wisdom. It is definitely much appreciated!
                                    I am such an anatomy nerd: I read your post twice! It is gleeful.

                                    I never have ridden stirrupless with ankle weights but I think it might be the best idea in the world, as it will definitely offer some biofeedback to the hip. In my instructor training to become a certified pilates instructor, I learned many things - even a few tricks. The one that fascinates me the most is the marked difference in open vs. closed kinetic chains of movement. If I have a client lying supine who can't perform a roll-up (arms reach to ceiling, upper body flexes first to lift torso and continue flexing spine as arms reach forward and you wind up sitting, legs in front, with spine flexed), the first thing I notice is their feet/ankles. Usually they are lifting off the floor as they begin the exercise. (Reason: the abdominal muscles are not properly engaged to flex the spine.) I can, however, have them start over with their feet flat, then place my fingertips on their foot with no pressure, only contact between me and them, they can almost always roll up without engaging the hip first. I have to assume this is because I've closed the kinetic chain for them. Weighted ankles will approximate a more closed kinetic chain.

                                    Stirrupless riding results in an open kinetic chain. And I think it's an extreme ideal. If you conquer it, and successfully condition your body to support your pelvis independently, why even ride with stirrups ever again?
                                    When blood is the beverage of choice, the sharpest fangs feed first.

                                    Comment


                                    • #38
                                      p.s. Duck butt and anterior tilt are two different things. Returning your spine to a normal lordosis (S-shape) and stabilizing it in that position is not perching. Sticking your butt farther behind you and letting your abs stretch to stabilize the position is.
                                      When blood is the beverage of choice, the sharpest fangs feed first.

                                      Comment


                                      • #39
                                        Originally posted by ake987 View Post
                                        I actually did ride on Weds with no stirrups (I took them off the saddle so I didn't have the option to grab them, or the banging on my horse's sides/withers), in my dressage saddle, and had a fantastic ride. First thing I did when I got on was pull my knees up in front of the pommel to my hips to "place" my seat bones. This pushed me further forward into the deepest part of my saddle, as someone suggested earlier. Letting my legs then hang down, I almost felt as if I were tethered to the ground. I started with eyes closed and a hand on the pommel, which I find to be a huge help. Every so often I would halt and realign my seat via the lifting of my knees up. I also did some lifting of my ankles straight out laterally, as I am sure my hips could use the stretching. Wow - just looking in the mirror, I appeared to have a nice, long leg, and my hip/pelvis didn't have that awkward look to it (though I still think I am fairly long.. in the pelvis? If that makes sense?).

                                        Moreso than the trot, this REALLY helped my upward transition to the canter. My horse was much more relaxed from the depart, with a slower, more balanced gait. Very cool! I also felt 10x more secure WITHOUT my stirrups, which was quite surprising.
                                        I recently rode in a dressage clinic and the instructor immediately had me lift my legs the same way to put me on my seat bones. 2 weeks later I had a jump lesson with Clayton Fredericks and even though I've ridden with him before he started my lesson with the same position fix. I must really be "perching" lately I try to work on this at home, but it doesn't feel the same without someone harping at me! BTW, I'm in the 5'2" slightly more than stocky brigade.

                                        Out of the saddle I use an exercise ball (you know, the kind you sit on) a lot in my fitness program. I truly believe it helps ones balance!
                                        "Everyone will start to cheer, when you put on your sailin shoes"-Lowell George

                                        Comment


                                        • #40
                                          Toadie's Mom,

                                          Hi lover! Here's a great exercise for balance in the tack to add to your at-home warm-up:

                                          Get yourself pelvis positioned correctly on a good practice horse. Instead of returning both feet to stirrups and both hands to reins, put the reins in one hand (say right hand for purposes of this explanation) and keep the right hip lifted and out of the saddle. Bend the elbow of your left arm and put the back of your hand against your forehead (angle your elbow at about 45 degrees so your scapula is as neutral/flat to the ribcage as possible). Walk a few strides, then switch. That's a contra-lateral (opposite arm and leg) challenge. Also add the same side (ipsi-lateral) but instead of flexing the hip and elbow, extend them, so that your leg is reaching down and your arm is lifted as if you're asking a question.

                                          You can also switch the movement sequences (flex on ipsi-lateral and extend on contra-lateral) to continuously challenge your stability and balance in the tack.

                                          As you're doing this, always think of your navel being in the dead center of your horse's dorsal line, and your hips being at exactly the same height, so that from hip to shoulder your body is the same length on both sides.

                                          Once you've mastered that, add rotation of the upper torso, making sure you rotate through your ribs, and not your shoulders.

                                          It's a challenge but a great continuation of the strength you're building on the physio ball.
                                          When blood is the beverage of choice, the sharpest fangs feed first.

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