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 Post subject: Doing what you can not do
PostPosted: Wed Mar 06, 2013 10:42 am 
White Lady
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Joined: Wed Apr 06, 2005 4:18 pm
Posts: 13964
Location: Eriksbråten, Skotterud
Pelle and Ares doing what they cannot do, cantering to the right.

I always say that if there is something you absolutely can't do, or are afraid to do, that is what you must try to do. Of course within safe and sensible limits.

I cannot do somersaults and jump. So I train to manage to do them, because the things that hinder me there are the exact same things that stop me from riding well. It's all in the hip joint.

I have also been much better at stabilizing the horse's back than to activate its hind legs. That means I have had to struggle to get my hips and legs right, so that I can use my seat better and get control over the horse's hindquarters.

This is why I so much like doing dressage tests, and to use them in my instruction. Even though the riders never plan to enter a competition. Dressage is meant as a test to see if your training has been good. It has never been meant as a way to force the horse to perform meaningless actions in the arena.

If you want to become really good, it is not a good idea to try to cover up all the things you cannot do, and concentrate on the things you are good at. You might look bad for a time, while you are struggling with your weak sides, but that time is well spent. Often, you will find that after the specific problem is fixed you will reap benefits in other areas as well. Making the horse stretch may give you better rythm, but also more sound front feet because the balance gets better. Loosening up in the hip joint may relieve you from pain and get better control over the horse's hind legs, but also quiet hands and less headache.

Do not ever try to cover up a weakness that you have. It will come back and bite you later.

So: What do you try to cover up? Is there something you are afraid to do? Is there something that makes you angry when others do it? Don't you want to do a certain test because there are exercises in them that you think are worthless and not good for the horse?

Could it be that you are avoiding this thing because you are doing it the wrong way? Does it seem painful, dangerous, frightening or useless because you have misunderstood something or don't get the balance of it?

I find that it is quite often so. I was very afraid of heights before I managed to learn to balance through my hips. Our hip joint is a very important tool in our balancing system, and when you block this joint in some way or another, your balance gets screwed up. But you are not consciously aware of it, you just freak out whenever you get into a situation that is potentially dangerous if you lose balance. Just as show jumping or trot extensions.

Good thing is: Your hip joint is central to almost all athletic activity, so getting the balances right through this joint will help you in almost everything else in life.

I have some tests I use on my students, that show me where the horse or the rider is stuck, and where I have to concentrate our efforts. Have a look at my tests and see of you can do them all. If you can't, that's where you might want to spend some time, regardless of what kind of riding style you are doing. You might get a valuable new tool.

- Can you stand in your stirrups leaning forwards with your upper body (two-point) without clinging onto the horse with your knees, falling back on your bum or feel unbalanced? Can you stand there for some time in all gaits without feeling pain in one specific place? If some part starts acheing, you are coordinating in the wrong way. This also has effect on your vertical seat, but it is easier to fool yourself when sitting on your bum. You get pain or lose your balance because your body is not coordinated entirely as it should. Try it! You can't argue with gravity.

- Can you stretch your horse's neck all the way to the point where the muzzle almost touches the ground without losing the soft contact to the bit? If you can't, the horse is stiff in the back or the neck, or you don't know how to ride the horse over the back. Can you bend the horse to both sides on a circle the same way? If you know how this should feel, you are also able to diagnose a horse with stiffnesses in the back and help the horse bet rid of them.

- Can you feel which hind leg the horse is moving first when going from halt to walk? Can you control this, so the horse always starts with a hind leg? If you can't, chances are that you are riding on the forehand. Care at the beginning is very important.

- Can you make the horse collect and sit more on its haunches just by using your seat and legs? On any horse, even a horse that is trained in a different way than you are used to, and you never sat on before? If not, learn more about using your seat and legs to influence the horse's natural responses.

- Can you sit to the trot in all gaits without losing the contact to the saddle with your seat bones? Also in extended gaits? Not many can, but it is possible. Find out why. If you can't find out, come to us on a clinic, we'll help you.

Can you do soft transitions from all gaits to all gaits? Or do you have to stop between them? Or you just feel as if you and the horse falls apart? Transitions are very revealling. If you can't do the transitions between the exercises and the gaits, it might be that your exercises are not as good as you thought. Do more transitions. Practice makes perfect!

Can you do a halt and feel if the horse stops in a square with his four legs? Without trick training the horse first? Can you correct one hind leg that is too far back without looking? Practise. You will manage if you try enough times.

Can you ride with a soft contact to the rein without moving the hand at all? Look at your hands. If they move at all, your seat or your aids are not good enough. Work on it.

Do you feel that you must move your hands in a rowing motion in time with the horse's head to keep a soft contact? Then you might benefit from learning how to ride the horse over the back from the hind legs and through your hips, so that your hands may stand still. You might get benefits in all parts of your riding from it.

Can you ride a circle that is circular? Can you do the transitions exactly where you want them? Which exercise is difficult for you? Is the horse spooky or can you concentrate together? Does the horse spook at new places?

Can you put a lot of exercises and transitions after one another and do them fluently and effortlessly at the exact point you wish to, without losing balance, pulling at the reins, stopping, or having to wait a little with the exercise you wanted? If you struggle: Know that this is crossfit, and it is dressage. The challence in both is to juxtapose different exercises and the transitions between them in order to get better coordination, agility, balance, preciscion, power, speed, flexibility, strength, stamina and cardiovacular/respiratory endurance.

Well, I have just mentioned things you need to do in a dressage test. As you can see, they are practical in all daily tasks as well. Did you get new ideas? Get out and try them out!

You are only as fit as your weakest link.


Paradox is a pointer telling you to look beyond it. If paradoxes bother you, that betrays your deep desire for absolutes. The relativist treats a paradox merely as interesting, perhaps amusing or even, dreadful thought, educational.

Frank Herbert.

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