Monday, October 27, 2014

bio-mechanics lesson - balance balance balance

More to come on the horse trial soon - but wanted to get this in before I forget the salient details. 

I had a half hour private with a bio-mechanics trainer who flies in once a month from Florida. I've missed her last few visits due to scheduling conflicts (mostly shows, actually), so was super excited to finally ride with her again. 


'wiggle worm is my middle name' - isabel

A half hour is never really enough, because her long-slow-steady approach really benefits from longer rides. Izzy was actually starting to really loosen up and stretch (and even had the faintest hint of foam around the bit - an extremely rare occurrence) right when we wrapped up. 

But... these lessons ain't cheap, and I can only afford the hour when there's another rider in the lesson. And that just wasn't in the scheduling cards this time around. So. One half hour. Must make the most of it!!

Kirsten asked if there was anything in particular on my mind. In fact, yes there is!! I told her about the recent chiro visit, and how Isabel was out in all the same places despite our intensified focus on improving her way of going. This led to a discussion on the difficulty I have in getting Isabel off her forehand. 


'but forehand is the BEST hand' - isabel

So Kirsten spent some time explaining *how* horses balance, both right-to-left and front-to-back. She said the right-to-left balance is a critical component of straightness, and without straightness it's incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to get the front-to-back balance (itself a critical component of engagement). 

Isabel is most definitely NOT balanced right-to-left. She favors her right hind, meaning that her pelvis is almost always tipped with the right side slightly higher. 

The strategy for achieving side to side balance (and ultimately straightness), is to think of the tail as the rudder, and getting the horse straight from poll to tail. I've heard it said that the horse's head should be in the middle of their chest, but what if their chest isn't in line with the rest of their spine? Kirsten's suggestion was to get the nose in line with the tail. Sounds like 'duh' but was a useful visual. 


'eh, straightness is for suckers'

She also recommended that I watched Isabel's head (see - there ARE trainers who advocate looking down lol). When Isabel's head is moving up and back - ie, when she's going hollow - that's an indication of imbalance from right-to-left. When she goes low and round, that's when you can work on front-to-back balance. To focus on straightness, she wanted me to get the poll right in front of me (ideally, right in front of the tail) in such a way that I can see the bridle equally from both sides, but not the eyes or nostrils. 

We worked on a small circle, clearly demarcated with cones. She wanted Isabel's tail to hit each point of the circle, and keep her hind legs on the narrow path of the circle - and not worry so much about her front end. She said that when the horse is truly straight, going around a circle almost seems like a series of very small turns on the haunches, and that the front end will always seem to be a little outside the circle. .


like this straight blue horse, according to ms paint
(and then there's Isabel, doin her thang in red)

These lessons are always so interesting because we'll just be walking around absorbing the rapid fire philosophies and explanations coming from the trainer, and before I know it Isabel is stretching down and releasing through her neck. 

I guess a secondary takeaway is that maybe Isabel really does need 30 minutes of walk where I'm just focusing on these small adjustments and the nearly imperceptible shifts in her balance before we try anything else. 

But mainly, my homework: keep on chipping away at Isabel's right-to-left balance and ultimately straightness. Only when we can get consistent here will I be able to truly shift her weight backwards and achieve engagement. 

10 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing your lesson. Knowing the left-right vs front-back is a great tip, and that drawing is helpful too! Looking forward to reading about the horse trial!

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    1. thanks! this trainer is always full of mind blowing insights - and in a few short lessons she completely changed how i sit on the horse. it's kinda crazy actually!

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  2. Pretzel pony, sounds like the lesson was well worth it and you learned quite a bit!

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    1. absolutely! now actually putting the lesson into practice should be interesting...

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  3. That trainer is worth every penny! For some additional info on the same thing, look up the videos of Dr. Deb Bennett's unmounted lectures from the George Morris Horsemastership 2014 series. It is a couple of hours of the exact same info you have there, only expanded. She's amazing.

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    1. ooh thanks for that advice - we definitely need all the help we can get! our imbalance isn't super obvious right now at the lowest of the low levels, but it does not make for a safe horse over the bigger stuff

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  4. Ha ha. I hear you about having the horse that is the "red line". Wiggle worms are difficult to ride!!

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    1. haha seriously!!! at least this trainer is an arab person, so she knows what i'm working with. the struggle is real!! lol

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  5. How cool! I would love to do a lesson like that. :) Apollo is a bit wiggly himself!

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    1. i highly recommend it - just getting a better understanding of how and why the horse moves the way it does (and how my own body affects that) has revolutionized my position

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