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I'm making my horses crooked! HALP!

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  • I'm making my horses crooked! HALP!

    This realization hit me like a ton of bricks at about 5:30 this afternoon and I am absolutely horrified that it hasn't struck me sooner! The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, right? Well, I'm Punkie, and I make all of my horses crooked! The hard part is I have NO idea how to fix myself so that they can travel in a straight line.

    So here's the deal. All of my horses are "left-handed" so to speak. All track left better than right (none are TBs who raced), all are more supple left than right, all are softer off the left leg than off the right, and all bend better left than right. They all require significantly more right leg than left leg and all get stuck through the left shoulder. We're talking 3 different horses here. Each have a custom saddle that was VERY recently fitted (as in less than a month ago), all go in appropriate bridles, all see a chiropractor, all see the masseuse, everyone is well-lubed and well-supplemented and well-floated. So the only variable in this equation is me!

    Now, my right leg has a tendency to "drift" forward, perhaps an inch and a half ahead of the left. I also don't have the best proprioception, so I may be twisting way more than I think I am. I do have a nasty habit of putting more weight in my right stirrup than in my left, but it's because I have more flexibility in that ankle. I compensate for that by shifting my hips left. Bad idea.

    My trainers haven't been a ton of help because apparently it's not super obvious from the ground, but boy can I feel it! And they feel the effects it has on my horses when they get on to school. But the problem is, once they get the horses going well, I send them back to the square one within a few rides.

    This issue affects each of my horses differently. My hunter will try to swap to the counter canter (a complete clean change, but an inappropriate response none the less) going right, my eq. horse gets really strong and strung out going right and shifts hard for the right to left change, and my ex-jumper (who is a squirrily SOB lol!) gets so crooked and falls so hard against my right leg that he jigs instead of walks and gets incredibly strong and tries to bolt at the canter. As soon as you put a TON of right leg on and support with the left hand, he calms right down. Take the leg away and you're in deep doodoo.

    I can keep the problem in check with each horse and with my hunter and my eq horse I can get around a course of 8 or 10 jumps with no issues and hack or flat with relative ease, but it's on a day-to-day basis where I'm having the problem.

    I'm doing something very wrong, and I'm having the damnedest time figuring out what it is! Has anyone else had this problem? Any good exercises or tips?
    Nine out of ten times, you'll get it wrong...but it's that tenth time that you get it right that makes all the difference.

  • #2
    Would you explain what you meant by:
    "I can keep the problem in check with each horse and with my hunter and my eq horse I can get around a course of 8 or 10 jumps with no issues and hack or flat with relative ease, but it's on a day-to-day basis where I'm having the problem."

    Are you saying that you are ok when you walk into the show ring for a short period of time? but are not ok when working at home? I was a bit confused because it sounds like you are describing a situation where you can't keep the problem in check but then later you say that you can...I'm not being judgemental, just trying to understand what you are getting at.

    Here are a couple of things I've been doing to work on my seat and position:
    1) periodic "position checks" during warm-up and scattered throughout my practice rides. I look to see that my reins are even in both hands, that I am sitting straight and am even in both seat bones and not slouched one way or the other.

    2) I do position checks when I'm in the car too. Just in the last week I've noticed that I've not been sitting straight when I'm driving. Today when I adjusted how I was sitting, I had to adjust the read view mirror just by the inch or so I gained from sitting properly!!!

    3) I have my trainer do seat and position lessons where we work primarily on the types of things you described: making sure I am sitting straight, turning my body properly and not collapsing, making sure my feet are weighted like they should be and that I'm not throwing one stirrup or the other away. Ditto with the reins.


    It sounds like you may benefit greatly from some dressage lessons from someone who teaches in the Mary Wanless style. She is really great for balance and position. Even though it's dressage based you could easily apply it to your flatwork.

    Comment


    • #3
      Increase your body control by going to the gym! I noticed how crooked I was when I started going to the gym and watched my form in the mirrors. I do weights, cardio and core work. My overall posture has improved and my riding has gotten so much better.
      Dawn

      Patience and Consistency are Your Friends

      Comment


      • #4
        omg this is me too...try bareback. No lie. And have someone lunge you with no stirrups. Also, see if a dressage person can help you...I find they are really in tune to very subtle nuances of balance.
        Cornerstone Equestrian
        Home of Amazing (Balou du Rouet/Voltaire) 2005 KWPN Stallion
        RPSI, KWPN reg B, and IHF nominated
        www.cornerstonefarmpa.com

        Comment


        • #5
          oh and find a really good Pilates instructor to assess you...
          Cornerstone Equestrian
          Home of Amazing (Balou du Rouet/Voltaire) 2005 KWPN Stallion
          RPSI, KWPN reg B, and IHF nominated
          www.cornerstonefarmpa.com

          Comment


          • #6
            I used to ride crooked... I ride in a lot of clinics and my first one ever with Greg Best, he buckled my stirrups together and draped them over my saddle one part on the seat, and one in front of the pommel.. It's best to use a slippery old saddle and old stirrup leathers because newer saddles are too sticky.. one wrong lean and you end up tipping to the side.. I almost fell off numerous times.. but it definitely teaches you to ride straight!! You can fall off though, so definitely do it under supervision haha

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              Thanks guys!

              Snicklefritz, the best way to describe it is that I do a ton of lateral work before I go into the show ring, emphasizing a shoulder in going to the right and moving off my left leg. The "message" usually lasts long enough to keep both me and my horse straight (enough) to find 8-10 jumps or to present well in the hack without trying to swap leads or becoming a freight train in one direction.

              I had a trainer that used to do a lot of "position checks" with me and I've since applied the practice to every ride. The problem is that I think I'm out of whack and because I have such poor proprioception, I don't even know it! For example, I'll think that I'm standing ram-rod straight on a flat surface when I am really on an incline leaning to the right with my weight on my left foot. The Wii balance board made this blatantly obvious for me.

              Dressage has definitely helped me in the past, but even when I had a mid/upper level dressage horse, I made him one sided, too! And he was with a BNT who supervised every ride I haven't heard of the woman you mentioned, but I'll have to do some digging and see if I can find someone in my area

              Rizzodm, the gym is definitely my friend! But even when I was killing myself 4-6 hours a day (not an exaggeration), it did nothing to improve this issue. I've had two of these horses going on 5 and 6 years; this has been a long-standing issue. I had the same issue with my pony I've had for 13 years (now retired), he was just far better at self-correcting.

              Horsechick, good idea! I hadn't thought of that. Though the idea of riding my hunter or my eq. horse bareback for more than a little walk or trot is a bit...daunting LOL! Both are MASSIVE with withers that make my lady bits hurt just thinking about it! So the combination of sitting on a barrel and worrying about being impaled on Mt. Everest should anything go wrong? Eesh!

              Alter, the problem with that is that I'm tight as a tick; I actually have the opposite issue of being too tight through my calf and heel which becomes restrictive. I was taught to ride with extremely soft knees and hips, but an almost death grip with my calves. I've since learned to balance myself, but my natural inclination is to get very tight. I also do tons of work without stirrups, including jumping, so taking my stirrups away isn't going to do much to change my body position.

              The more I think about it, the more I wonder if I'm not perceiving the horse to be more crooked than it actually is. Yes, my trainers have felt it, but I don't think that it's to the degree that I feel it. When I'm up there, it actually feels like the horses haunches are a good 30 degrees to the right at all times, but if you watch a video, it's perhaps 5 or 10 degrees at absolute most. I overcorrect and then when they come back to what I feel is "straight", I wonder if they're not a few degrees or more shifted to the left. I might see if I can have someone do a video from behind so I can compare what I'm feeling to what really is happening. Because I think there are different solutions depending on the causality.

              It's amazing how writing something down can make you think of something in a completely different way!
              Nine out of ten times, you'll get it wrong...but it's that tenth time that you get it right that makes all the difference.

              Comment


              • #8
                Punkie, I know you are sick of doctors but go see an osteopath. Get straightened out
                "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
                ---
                The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by rizzodm View Post
                  Increase your body control by going to the gym! I noticed how crooked I was when I started going to the gym and watched my form in the mirrors. I do weights, cardio and core work. My overall posture has improved and my riding has gotten so much better.
                  Agree...but do some work with free weights, so you can't use the other side of your body to compensate for the weak side. I'd also look into yoga or Pilates to loosen up your hips, which can cause the weight differences in your stirrups/leg drifting rorward.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    A chiropracter helped me get straight which helped me ride my horses straighter. I do extra core work on my weak side as my maintenance. Then being mindful of where my horses' four feet fall helps me change my perception so I know how straight feels.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Has nothing to do with how "tight" you are in the saddle.. You say you have a tendency to place more weight in one stirrup than the other.. you do that with your stirrups tied together, you're coming off.. You can hold on to the horse with your calves as tight as you want, hanging off the side, but if you're not completely balanced with your weight EVEN in both stirrups, you're going to tip regardless of how your calf is on the horse.

                      Comment

                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        Originally posted by AlterHalter123 View Post
                        Has nothing to do with how "tight" you are in the saddle.. You say you have a tendency to place more weight in one stirrup than the other.. you do that with your stirrups tied together, you're coming off.. You can hold on to the horse with your calves as tight as you want, hanging off the side, but if you're not completely balanced with your weight EVEN in both stirrups, you're going to tip regardless of how your calf is on the horse.
                        I re-read what you wrote, and I understand better now! I thought you meant crossing your stirrups over your saddle and riding without them. Basically, it was like child's stirrups on a western saddle sans the horn. That could be an interesting exercise, but because my tendency is to get tight, I'm more apt to put no weight in my stirrups than I am to overweight in a case like that. Natural instincts and all. But it's a good idea and I'll certainly give it a try, thank you!
                        Nine out of ten times, you'll get it wrong...but it's that tenth time that you get it right that makes all the difference.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I put bits of tape on my shoulders and back. Then when I look in the mirror, I can see if they are off. Otherwise, I can ride around all day wondering why things feel weird.
                          Forward momentum!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Punkie View Post
                            I'm doing something very wrong, and I'm having the damnedest time figuring out what it is! Has anyone else had this problem? Any good exercises or tips?
                            I have the exact same problem. I sit harder in my left seat bone. I put more weight in my left stirrup. My right leg sucks up and swings forward.

                            Yoga and Pilates helps a lot. Also, keep a sharp eye on your stirrup leathers as they stretch over time. You need to switch them often so they stretch equally, and you may need half holes to compensate.

                            On the days when I just.can.not.control my right leg, I find that turning my toe out will stop the swing long enough for me to warm up and get my weight centered back where it belongs. Mine swings worse when my toe is forward. Turning my toe out seems to lock my leg around the horse's barrel better, besides making me more aware of my leg. You may also need to stop, re-center your saddle (as mounting can pull it in the direction that emphasizes your near sided ness) and stretch your right leg a bit from the saddle before you proceed.

                            I will stop, take my right foot out of the stirrup, and swing my leg a bit getting my right seat bone situated better, and the back of my thigh "longer". Also, if you breeches don't fit well and your crotch droops it can also encourage this lop sided perching. Get your britches pulled up and yanked around while you're stretching.
                            ::Sometimes you have to burn a few bridges to keep the crazies from following you::

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              What about taking a few ballet classes (they are not all for little kids, many studios have classes for adult beginners)? I am no longer dancing, but found that I was most aware of my body and weight distribution when I was taking ballet classes several days a week. It was really nice to have the chance to focus on my own balance and alignment without having to worry what a horse might or might not be doing underneath me.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Didn't read all replies so sorry if this is redundant. Do you have a section of mirror in your arena? I find this invaluable for checking straightness and position of horse and or rider. I like to ride toward the mirror for lateral work so I can see if my horse is moving as a unit, tracking correctly for the movement and to check my own position. It can be amazingly challenging to canter straight when off the rail. I like to canter down the centerline toward the mirror and I can instantly see all my sins!

                                Comment

                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  Originally posted by Ponyclubrocks View Post
                                  Didn't read all replies so sorry if this is redundant. Do you have a section of mirror in your arena? I find this invaluable for checking straightness and position of horse and or rider. I like to ride toward the mirror for lateral work so I can see if my horse is moving as a unit, tracking correctly for the movement and to check my own position. It can be amazingly challenging to canter straight when off the rail. I like to canter down the centerline toward the mirror and I can instantly see all my sins!
                                  I wish! But this is where I ride unless I'm at a horse show: http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b1..._1582412_o.jpg

                                  It definitely has it's benefits, but not in the mirror department!

                                  I'll have to up my yoga and pilates; I've cut back to 3 days a week on each in favor of swimming and elliptical training. Though I can't say I saw any difference when I was doing 6 classes a week in each.

                                  Ballet sounds interesting, but I don't know if they'll even let me in a studio...I make people with two left feet look like they belong at Juilliard :P
                                  Nine out of ten times, you'll get it wrong...but it's that tenth time that you get it right that makes all the difference.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by SnicklefritzG View Post
                                    Would you explain what you meant by:
                                    It sounds like you may benefit greatly from some dressage lessons from someone who teaches in the Mary Wanless style. She is really great for balance and position. Even though it's dressage based you could easily apply it to your flatwork.
                                    I will second this suggestion. She and her student teachers are one of the few who really pick apart the causes for asymmetries. Plus she is really down to earth and the most effective teacher -- it's amazing!

                                    I so wish I had mirrors...

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Punkie View Post
                                      I'll have to up my yoga and pilates; I've cut back to 3 days a week on each in favor of swimming and elliptical training. Though I can't say I saw any difference when I was doing 6 classes a week in each.
                                      The biggest benefit I got from Yoga and Pilates was in tuning my awareness of where my weight was in my seat bones. Because honestly, if you can get your seat bones equally weighted, and keep that awareness, your leg will follow. You cannot sit square with your right leg wonky.
                                      ::Sometimes you have to burn a few bridges to keep the crazies from following you::

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Ideally, you'd get unfit first and then start over. That makes these deep asymmetry issues easier to fix because right now, you have conditioned all sorts of muscles, even ones you don't know about, to get the job done while your body is crooked.

                                        I'd guess that the problem is that you are stronger in your right leg and putting more weight in that stirrup. But! You are are also not strong in your core, hence the riding "scissors style" with your right leg ahead of your left. That's a way to cheat with the problem of maintaining front to back balance.

                                        It's hard (but doable) mental work to change a position that involves proprioception. A physically-hard, mentally easy way? Tie your stirrup leathers to the girth with something breakable. Those bad boys will force you to nix the scissors ride and you'll fix the rest out of pure desperation. Your balance and strength will get corrected. You will get more symmetrical and "honest" with how you use your leg. Carry a whip on the side that is more dull to your leg.

                                        Ask my crooked body how I know. I'm much better now.

                                        ETA: You can fix this riding where ever, whenever and alone. Besides the stirrup thing, you need to ride 60% or more of the time in your bad direction. Do lots of figure eights, comparing the good way to the bad way. Notice any difference you feel in your body *anywhere* while you have what you want in the horse going the good way and focus on recreating that feeling in your body going the other way. This exercise alone will do a great deal of work to increase your body awareness.
                                        The armchair saddler
                                        Politically Pro-Cat

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