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Poor equitation...

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  • Poor equitation...

    I just started riding again (i'm almost 40!) and feel as if my equitation is awful. I am in lessons, but just really going over fences and not working on my position as much as I would like. (I have addressed this lightly with my current instructor and she doesn't seem to get what I'm getting at since nothing has changed.) I am wondering if you think that my position will just come from this or if I should maybe work with another instructor that may concentrate more on my equitation. I want to look good just trotting and cantering around the ring. Right now, I am embarrassed to be riding when others are out there...some of which is my own insecurities, but really, most is that I'm just not a natural and don't look good!!! I'm not sure how my current instructor would feel about this though, KWIM?

  • #2
    I would be looking for another instructor, period, especially since you have expressed concern about your position.

    Good positioning, equitation, is far too often glossed over these days, and riders (and their horses!) end up suffering as a result more often than not.

    You're right to be concerned, so yeah, I'd be looking for a new trainer.
    The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


    • #3
      Your post rings so many bells for me, starting back after over 20 years. Looking back on it I may have been impossible to please. I felt the same way and had many frustrations but after 2 years my riding had substantially improved, and this in the face of my very hectic workload. Hacking or practice rides were very beneficial - even trail riding.

      I would not worry about "looking good". For me that was 40 pounds ago. For me the issues are - are you out of control? Losing your balance and becoming fearful? Riding sloppily, banging on the reins, swinging legs? Then yes, you need to regroup and start back from the beginning. If this trainer can't get it then time to move on. Successful training of the re-rider can be hard for a trainer as we can remember some stuff and look OK from the ground, but our balance may have changed dramatically (that 40 pounds? A lot of it high up, big change since youth).

      Good luck, I know it is hard trainer shopping.
      Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
      Incredible Invisible


      • #4
        I feel like I'm a much better rider after switching from a "hunter" trainer (we were "trained how to train") to an equitation trainer. While before I knew how you were supposed to collect etc I couldn't consistently produce it because my position was too loose. I could do rollbacks and bending lines but I kicked the horse in the air and threw my body at him. Now I'm at the point where I don't have to think about keeping my leg still and my seat quiet and I'm a much more secure, confident rider.

        My advice is let your current trainer know what you want out of a lesson and if she doesn't improve in a few lessons, move.
        "Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out." ~John Wooden

        Phoenix Animal Rescue


        • #5
          Can you get some video or at least pictures of yourself riding? Sometimes you just feel bad because you're comparing yourself to your last skill level and expecting that level of ease and one-ness again right away. Perhaps your instructor has a much more realistic expectation for you. In other words, it may FEEL bad because you're out of practice, but look less bad than you think. Have you really seen yourself already to know that it's that bad? Trust me, you can't go by feel. I've been on the flip side of that problem (blushes) But this could be why your instructor is not "getting you."

          If on the other hand, you see grim, actual flaws that your instructor has never made any mention of during the whole time you've been working together, it's time to cut bait. Just MHO.
          Last edited by mortebella; Apr. 12, 2009, 01:10 PM. Reason: clarity
          Blog: The Continuing Adventures of an (ahem) Mature Re-Rider without a Trust Fund...but, finally, A Farm of Her Own!!


          • #6
            unfortunately, you can't expect too much too quickly from yourself. Even when I don't ride for a few weeks (medical reasons, or if i'm out of town, etc) and I come back, my eq is REALLY off. It's embaressing, because i KNOW what i'm supposed to do and how to do it, i just CANT do it right away. I can't manage. But being a re-rider after 40 years is obviously a bit more than a few weeks. You have to remember that even though you have all the knowledge that a beginner lacks, your ability to put the skills at hand will be almost on par to that of a beginner. Chances are, you will progress much quicker than a beginner would because you already have all the knowledge, you just need to get back into riding shape and practice more. However, you should still want a trainer who wil help with equitation. Ive seen plenty of beginners with nice positions, and it is possible (not putting a perfect course together, but the real basics, a straight back, straight line from ears to shoulder to hip to heel, heels down, elbows bent, thumbs on top and fingers closed, etc. all the basics to put together a good picture) but those kids didn't get like that in one day, is what you have to remember. It will take time. But i DO think you should switch trainers. I had a trainer once who was good for hunters, but holy heck my equitation went right down the drain. i looked awful. she wouldn't say much, other than what's wrong, but provided no means of how i can fix my position. she might say YOURE OVERJUMPING! YOUR LEG IS TOO LOOSE! well, yes, i AM overjumping because this pony pops me right out of the tack AND because my leg is loose. My leg is loose because you can't put leg on this pony at all or he'll take off. I'd ask how can i keep my leg still and in place when i cant really touch the pony, but this brought no answer. I left that trainer. One of my friends wins all the hunter classes in children's hunter horse, and does okay in the medals too, but if you saw a picture you'd never know she has a chance in the medal classes. She has a great horse and is a great rider, finds all the right distances and stuff, but she is literally WAY up the horses neck o/f and her feet are nearly at the flank. I don't have the heart to tell her, but I know she must see this and is aware, btu doesn't know what to do. She's not as willing to communicate with a trainer, just listens and doesnt ask questions really, and she's been with that trainer for years, so i'ts not like she'll leave any time soon. Oh well. Don't get too attached to the trainer, just move on and find someone who WILL help you improve in ALL areas of riding.

            Blitz <3 & Leap of Faith <3


            • #7
              The equitation we really need is about function, not about "sitting pretty." Truly good equitation is functional--it gives you a more secure seat (not loose, bouncy or dangerous), quiet yet effective use of the aids, lets you ride without disturbing your horse or getting in his way, and unites you & your horse in balance. A good ride is a beautiful ride, not because of the rider's body type or picture-perfect pose, but because horse & rider are working together. That's most important for your safety& security and for good horsemanship, but as a bonus, it also makes you look better on a horse.

              To get there, you must develop a secure, independent seat & a good working position, and that takes good basics, time & practice (of the right things--if you practice the wrong stuff you get better at being wrong!). Any instructor who's worth your time & trust should have lots of exercises to improve your seat, your legs, your hands, your balance, etc, and a system for teaching the basics first & building up from there. S/he should also be patient enough to give you time to build skills & confidence at one level before you move up to the next level of work. When you do exercises that build a deeper seat, better balance, suppleness and security you can feel the difference, and they're much more effective than dozens of superficial instructions like "lower your hands an inch," "elbows in," "sit up," "toes in," "arch your back" --and now, "relax!"

              While you're developing those solid basic skills, you need to be on a "Steady Eddie" type of horse who'll work for you at your level & be patient with the inevitable mistakes you make while you're learning. If you're trying to learn on a horse that's too green or difficult or needs a more advanced ride than you can give, that might cause a trainer to spend more time working on fixing the horse than on your skills, but that's a bad situation for both you & the horse.

              Try having a talk with your instructor about your concerns, where you are right now in your riding & where you want to go. Most good instructors are delighted to have a student who asks for more foundation work (believe me, we get plenty who want to skip over the basics & do the high level fun stuff without first doing the work required!) But if in a couple of lessons it seems that your current instructor either doesn't know how to teach good basics or isn't interested in doing that, it's time to move on to a teacher who can & will.


              • #8
                I agree with all the posters that said you should change trainers. My trainer, who I have been with for 8+ years, does not do young horses, so when I got my then 5 year old racetrack broke OTTB two years ago, I sent him to a hunter trainer. (great trainer, BNR, hunters only, no eq) This horse was going to be my A/A hunter, great mover, etc.

                Well, my horse got SOO good over the two years he was there. total A circuit type, great hacker, fat and shiny, jumps great from the gap, perfect metronome canter, great expression. BUT every time I went for a lesson on him (once a week or so) my EQ got TERRIBLE! mostly because he jumps hard, but every time I thought "EQ" as he left the ground, the trainer would say I was not releasing enough, hindering his jump, etc. My horse drifts right, and I would think "right leg". but the trainer told me that that makes (esp OTTBs) hot on landing, and to just lean slightly left in the air (not ducking, but almost. think john french style.)

                My point is, the horse is now a great hunter, and I can "show ring HP ride" when it counts. This trainer was just not good for my EQ. SO i brought him home to my old trainer, and now we work on my EQ all the time. I feel much more secure. Although, horsie does not win as much with this trainer. but that's cause she's a stickler for EQ, and doesn't believe in all the theactrics to get a good hunter ribbon. (over-releasing, ducking, rediculous whooping, etc) But I am happier with him now, because I feel more secure in my EQ.

                hope this helps!
                you need good EQ!
                When the boogeyman goes to sleep, he checks the closet for George Morris. -mpsbarnmanager


                • #9
                  Some of your position will "just come" back after time off. You need to retrain those muscles and the only way to do it is to ride. That said, your trainer should be having you do exercises that will help speed the process. Good form IS good function. Heels down, chin up is good form for a reason and your trainer needs to focus on that.
                  Do you have somesome that can get video of you riding? When I started back, I was convinced that I looked horrible. I had had a baby, gained 35 pounds and gotten very out of shape. I felt like my leg was as loose as spaghetti and my posture was slouchy. I asked a friend to videotape me and found that I wasn't as bad as I felt. (Not where I had one been, but not as dreadful as I felt.) Because those muscles that control your riding position are often not used day in and day out, they need to get saddle time to shape up.

                  As far as your instructor, if she is really not pushing you in the way you need, try someone else. No harm there. If you have a particular goal (even if it's just cantering around the ring w/out stirrups, or jumping a course of X's) your instructor should be helping you get to it. If getting your EQ back is important to you, then find someone whose focus is proper EQ basics.

                  Good luck and welcome to the world of the "Re- Rider!"
                  F O.B
                  Resident racing historian ~~~ Re-riders Clique
                  Founder of the Mighty Thoroughbred Clique


                  • #10
                    I agree that it is important that your instructor share your focus on achieving a solid foundation.

                    The instructor I was working with when I began riding again sounds a bit like yours - focused on getting us going over fences and to horse shows (!!) but not as attentive to developing a correct position.

                    Fortunately, although I did not have many options when I first started back due to where I lived at the time, a year later I moved to a better area and was able to work with a different trainer who helped me with the basics So I would ask for suggestions for trainers with a focus on fundamentals. Part-leasing or being able to do hacks and practice rides in addition to lessons will also go a long way in creating muscle memory and strength.
                    Love my "Slow-T T B"
                    2010 OTTB, Dixie Union x Dash for Money


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by mom23monkeys View Post
                      I just started riding again (i'm almost 40!) and feel as if my equitation is awful. I am in lessons, but just really going over fences and not working on my position as much as I would like. (I have addressed this lightly with my current instructor and she doesn't seem to get what I'm getting at since nothing has changed.)
                      GET A NEW INSTRUCTOR. Equitation is not just about looking good, it's about being balanced so your horse (and you) have the best chance of getting over the fence! I stopped jumping this winter and took a few months of flat lessons in which my trainer re-worked my position literally from the heel up. Now that I am jumping again, I feel really secure (most of the time). Dressage lessons can also be fab.
                      "Go on, Bill — this is no place for a pony."


                      • #12
                        Sort of late to chime in here but...

                        At (or near) 40? Your "instructor person" is making a bad choice for you by sending you mostly over fences with a poor and insecure position after a long break in riding. And that is putting it very nicely.

                        That is true of any age rider but the middle aged adult re rider has a hell of alot more to lose if they get hurt compared to the still parentally supported and cared for kids that likely make up the majority of the client base.

                        Listen to your gut.

                        You can try to have a sit down talk with this "trainer" but, really, she should know better and obviously does not mind her client/students lack basics.

                        I'd move. Say thank you very much and find an instructor that does care and that deserves the title.
                        When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                        The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                        • #13
                          Agree with F8 ... no, it is not as much fun to spend months doing flatwork and crossrails, so many instructors pander to students by letting them jump higher than they should be without a solid foundation in place.

                          when I started back, after moving to an area with a selection of barns and instructors, I shopped around taking lessons at different barns until I found the right fit. Many barns just are not set up for training adults w/o their own horse, so it can take a while to get just the right combination Good luck!
                          Love my "Slow-T T B"
                          2010 OTTB, Dixie Union x Dash for Money


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by equest View Post
                            Agree with F8 ... no, it is not as much fun to spend months doing flatwork and crossrails, so many instructors pander to students by letting them jump higher than they should be without a solid foundation in place.
                            And many wannbe "trainers" lack basics themselves so can't teach them.

                            You have to be able to understand the basics of good flatwork as it relates to a solid position over a fence and, preferably, do them yourself in order to teach them properly. Not to mention the effect of proper flatwork basics on the performance of the horse over fences as it relates to balance, pace and SAFETY.

                            Understanding these things eludes alot of JAWS and creates alot of bad and unsafe riders out there...that don't know how unsafe they really are. Until it's too late.
                            When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                            The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                            • #15
                              you most definately need an instructor with a solid understanding of equitation, and the ability to teach it to you every lesson. heck that's all riding is is equitation!!!
                              chaque pas est fait ensemble


                              • #16
                                To play a little devil's advocate here...

                                Sometimes as a trainer or instructor you need to work a bit on function over form at first and spend time doing little things to help cement a rider's position before you can "pretty it up."

                                The OP didn't state precisely what sorts of exercises she's working on at the moment, but keep in mind that no one really looks pretty when they're just starting to ride. It takes awhile to get a solid and secure position, and sometimes you just have to let a student go around and around posting and two-pointing and cantering to get their muscles working.

                                If you don't feel the trainer is working on your position enough, point out some specific things you'd like to work on.

                                "I feel like my lower leg is swinging more than I'd like. Can we focus on some exercises to help tighten them up?"

                                "I find myself fighting my upper body tipping forward. Can we spend some time working on me sitting up and back?"

                                "I feel like my core isn't very strong. What can we work on the help tighten it up faster? Is there something I can do outside of riding to help this?"

                                It really could be that for now she's just letting you get back into the swing of riding and get your rhythm and feel for it back before she gets to picking at you too much.

                                Does she at least give you little pointers? "Eyes up! You're not riding the ears!" "Thumbs on top!" "A little more weight in your heels!"


                                • #17
                                  I dunno...OP is a 40 y/o rerider just back and feels she is not getting enough work on position, just getting sent over fences.

                                  Without any details, wondering why she is even being sent over the fences with an insecure position and this lack of confidence. Not knowing how long she has been at this, in most programs she'd be a year riding twice a week staying on the flat and just doing itty bitty stuff and poles.

                                  Plus she says she has mentioned it to no avail.

                                  Say this again, it's different when you work for a living and are midlife...things like "pushing the envelope" need to be well supported by ability and confidence, not just somebody saying do it. The consequences are far greater if the instructor is wrong and gets the client hurt.

                                  The fact this instructor has changed nothing even after a chat tells me it's time to move along.
                                  When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                                  The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                                  • #18
                                    F8, as someone who works directly with a person who will say, "Well I talked with them and told them X, Y, Z," when what really happened was that they sort of half mentioned something in passing that may have been related to what they wanted to say but wasn't actually what they wanted to say.... I am simply asking for a bit more detail here.

                                    Also, I feel that it is important that students be direct with their trainers/instructors and be very clear when discussing their goals. There's a difference between, "I just want to get back in the saddle and ride" and "I want to become an equitation superstar."

                                    Personally, I teach all my students the same things regardless of whether or not they want to be show riders or just weekend hobbyists. I'm a firm beleiver in effective and appropriate equitation, and solidifying the basics before a person gets to do other things. I have a student, a young girl, who rides so inconsistently that she mostly just gets to walk, trot and (FINALLY) canter, and on the right horse she gets to do some pole work- mostly just walking. I've explained to the dad, and thankfully he's understanding enough, that since she's unable to come mroe often she is not going to progress as much as quickly, and if it stays the same she'll likely be a trot pole rider for many years.

                                    In any case, she doesn't have any goals beyond riding and having fun, so for her it's not a big deal. She also never complains when I torture her with two point and stirrupless work.

                                    Last summer I lost a student because they thought I worked them too hard, was too picky, and basically "taught them too much." They just wanted to pay to sit on my school horse and have me say "Walk. Trot. Canter. Change direction. Circle. Walk. Trot. Canter." That's not what i'm in the business for and I told them they could look elsewhere for that. In my opinion, my school horses are precious and their riders need to want to be an equal partner.

                                    So, I am asking for more information from the OP to see what exactly has been said to the instructor and exactly how clearly she has expressed her desires. I am not trying to insinuate that the OP isn't being truthful, just that I need more detail. And maybe so does her instructor. They may not have a good communication level yet.

                                    I also have this question for the OP: Are you in group lessons or private?


                                    • #19
                                      OP... I can't tell if what you describe is you truly feeling insecure -- like you're going to fall off... OR if you just don't like "how you look."

                                      Without seeing a pic or video, I don't think ANY of us can give you any real advice.

                                      Aca-Believe it!!


                                      • #20
                                        OP- I'm in the same boat. It's been about 5 years since I rode regularly and it just isn't feeling 'right' at the moment. My instructor, and others, when pressed, say my position is good and I'm riding well. I'll admit to being lucky in that I'm athletic, so I'm apparently ok at 'faking' it and painting a pretty picture, but of course it really just feels awkward, and much harder than it should be. I dont feel unsafe or insecure...but I also dont feel I'm doing my horse any justice at the moment. My tension is reflected in my horse too, I can feel the resistance there, even though my regular trainer doesnt seem to see it. There's no way I feel ready to tackle jumps yet, yet I'm getting a hard time from others and being basically told its all in my head...
                                        The good news is it's getting easier all the time...AND we took a clinic a couple of weeks back that was awesome. The clinician watched us for a bit and was able to totally see through our pretty picture to what I was talking about and challenge us with some bending and pattern exercises that totally exposed our weak points and gave us plenty to work on.
                                        So yes, to sum it up, find another instructor who will address your concerns. In my case, it was a reining clinician who totally understood and helped me. I filled in for someone just to make up numbers (in my english saddle, naturally )and was totally blown away with her insight.
                                        Also, more time in the saddle! I'm finding the more time I spend there, the more natural its starting to feel again. Good luck!