I watched a video recently where I witnessed a rider compensating in his position for the crookedness of his horse. This reminded me of how often through my years of exposure to other trainers and riders I have heard outrageous explanations and solutions regarding faults in rider position. I am reflecting on three of the most common:
Uneven Stirrups. How many times have I heard an instructor say to a student: “your stirrups are not even” and often without even bothering to check to see if a leather has actually stretched…..or not… they instruct the student to lengthen or shorten a stirrup.
Collapsed in the Hip. Often when a student cannot sit straight, the instructor informs them they are “collapsing” a hip or “dropping” a hip, with the instruction to “stretch” to straighten yourself. Here their solution is to ride with only one stirrup and “reach” to the sky.
Not Centered. The instructor says you are centered on the horse. “Sit Straight”.
So, what do all of these rider position faults have in common? Of course, a crooked horse. How often have I heard someone confirm that the horse is straight because his legs are traveling straight. There is a difference between a horse being straight in his body (not STIFF but STRAIGHT, which requires suppleness) and tracking straight. A stiff horse can appear to track straight, but the crookedness will be revealed on a turn or circle, where he will either shift out or fall in.
On the hollow side, the leg hangs longer than on the stiff side (of the body, not the neck), therefore the stirrups are uneven.
When the horse is crooked, one shoulder will bulge and the opposite hip will be more elevated and rounder. As a result, the rotation of the forehand will make the rider sink, resulting in the appearance of one hip higher than the other. To try to correct the position of the rider without straightening the horse will bring a relaxed rider into a forced position, resulting in stiffness.
The leaning of the horse to one side or the other, as described above, displaces the rider to one side. It is impossible to stay centered on a crooked horse without either stiffening your body, or putting too much weight into the stirrips.
The Solution? Learn to Straighten the Horse
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