Friday, January 31, 2014

Self Carriage (mine)

Since Prair continued to just be a peach, I'm being forced to crawl out from behind all the bad habits my previously more-defensive riding has created.

I suppose some of the bad habits aren't really attributable to being 'defensive,' they are just bad habits all on their own. But regardless of where they came from the fact of the matter is that the more correct Prair is, the more correct I have to be in order to elevate us to the next step.

Currently the two biggest issues that I'm trying to correct are 1) bringing my lower leg forward and 2) raising my hands.

I will say right now that when I first started focusing on these things I felt like I was riding a saddle seat horse. My leg felt waaaaayyyyyy out in front of me, and my hands felt like I could pick my nose without making much of an effort.

Of course, neither of those sensations at all reflect reality and apparently the adjustments were not that dramatic. (I disagree, but I digress).

The leg forward thing stems from a couple issues. The first is Prair is long, and I often move my leg back much farther than necessary to control her haunch. At some point I just decided that "too far back" felt just right and stayed there. It also is a result of my "brace for impact" position whereby I clamp with my thigh and deactivate the lower leg.

The Low Hands thing is hardly new. I have always (since the dawn of pony riding days) held my hands too low. Until recently this was accompanied by reins that were also way too long. I guess I always assumed that when I fixed my rein length my hands would automatically be higher.

Turns out this is not the case. They are still low. The low feels safe, so I think this is also part of my "brace for impact" position.

So, in short I need to unclamp my leg, and sink down and forward in my heel as well as unlock my hands a bit more and raise them.

I need to... carry myself?

I suppose it makes sense. We're spending so much time on Prair and her self carriage, I should probably work on mine as well.

The leg has been easy to adjust. My stirrups went down a hole again (didn't we just raise them???) which makes it much easier for me to relax my hip and sink forward (I shudder to think how many lessons it took to get my leg "back" when I was little..). Also, Prair's increased relaxation means that I'm able to be a ga-zillion times more subtle with my aids and feel effective. It's been a change that's reinforced by Prair's behavior.

The reins are more of a struggle. I understand that lifting them helps take the pressure off Prair's bars, and that it's a softer contact overall... I also recognize that with Prair's low back my hands look even lower than they do on other horses, but my hands feel silly up in front of me. They feel closer to normal when we are jumping - but on the flat I'm really having to establish a new normal.

I do feel more effective when my leg and hand are in a more correct position, but I can feel my bad habits surface when Prair loses her balance, we get a funny distance or I stop constantly thinking about it...

Continuous improvement... so challenging.


  1. I constantly have to remind myself to shorten my reins and pick up my hands. I'm always surprised when I actually do it and Mollie lifts just that much more through her neck. It's always a welcome reward though :)

  2. I was never, ever called out on anything to do with my hands, in my whole riding career, until I got in the ring with my last instructor. All of a sudden it was, "RAISE YOUR HANDS AND SHORTEN YOUR REINS!!!!" Whaaa??? Where did this come from? And since I was riding various lesson horses, it wasn't the horse... nope, all me. So I did as I was told and it felt st--range. As I'm sure you know.

    One thing that helped was a little saying I read on someone's blog (I think, don't exactly recall). She had been struggling with the same thing and her mantra became, "Long arms, short reins, long arms, short reins." I tried that on a loop in my head and it seemed to help. Good luck!

    P.S. Are we going to get to see video of you guys at Thermal??? I hope so!

  3. Low hands & thigh/knee clamping resulting in loose "swingy" leg - check & check.
    If you succeed in solving these issues please drop me comment on my blog with a blow-by-blow of what works for you as those are two things (of a much longer laundry list) I also need to fix.

  4. At least you're not the queen of piano hands. That would be me. ;-)

  5. LOL just started taking hunter lessons and get the SAME critique (legs forward, eyes up, hands up (esp my left one). I started as a WP rider and then moved onto you can imagine where my bad habits come from...


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