Thursday, August 20, 2020

resistance bands for riding?

A couple days ago a friend reached out about a clinic she was hosting featuring Molly Kinnamon and the Equiformance Posture Sling system. Apparently she'd had some last minute cancellations, and did I want to come?

I did a quick gut check (and a little googling haha), and decided, why yes! I would like to come!

strapped in and handcuffed haha
The clinic venue was super close to where Charlie lives, the gadget seemed interesting, and Molly is a pretty legit rider who I wouldn't mind emulating haha. So, off we went!!

I figured there was maybe a small chance it'd be like a pyramid scheme type thing where the whole purpose of the clinic was to sell riders this gadget.... But I trust the friend who invited me and knew a lot of the other folks who were doing lessons too. And luckily that was not at all the case anyway haha.

preparing the torture devices
So. The clinic was billed as being a lesson predominantly for the rider -- but actually Charlie ended up getting a bit of a run for his money too. In a good way, tho, I think.


Molly started by watching us do an unguided warm up for a few minutes, where we trotted and cantered around for her to get a sense of how we go. Which.... Well, you all already know how we go haha.

Charlie was a little sluggish and I did all manner of contortions and interpretive dance moves to get him going.

charlie was an absolute pro chillin at the trailer while i watched the earlier lesson
Then, out came the bands! Basically, the idea is that the gadget - the Equiformance Posture Sling system (essentially giant rubber bands) - operate by squaring and stabilizing the rider's position in the saddle, from shoulders through hips to heels.

this flashy young thang was a hard act to follow lol
It kinda holds you in a position where your hip angle is more open with shoulders open and upright stacked on top of your torso, if that makes sense. It also felt like it really sat me in the saddle, vs the sorta tipping forward half seat thing I like to do.
 
but we tried! 
Molly wanted to see me loosen my entire leg from hip to heel, and push down on the bands. She said I've essentially trained Charlie to lean on my leg, to push into it, when in reality I need to take it all the way off.

She said the tight closed leg is actually what's blocking Charlie from stepping up and under, and that I need to "open the channel," and bump him up when he needs to go, rather than nag.

This is... obviously not new information haha. In fact, it's reflective of basically every lesson with dressage trainer C ever. The difference tho, is that the band helped me feel what my legs were doing. It gave me something different to push against instead of Charlie's side, and also gave a different feeling when I let the leg get curled up again.

Obvi the bands aren't a silver bullet, they didn't just majikally eradicate this lifelong habit... But possibly they helped my muscles get started on learning a new way?

lol emma... these things that you do, don't
Moving up from the legs, we get to the torso. Which... well, it's all related. I want to grip with my legs, which pops my seat out of the saddle and tips my torso forward. Esp in canter transitions, I reeeeeeally feel like I have to make big moves in the saddle to get Charlie to go.

When... In reality, those big moves are specifically blocking his forward. Again, this is not new information (haha, who remembers my last lesson with Isabel and Stephen Birchall where we worked on nearly this exact same thing??).

And again, the bands didn't fix it or entirely prevent my dance moves. But I could feel what was happening in a new way -- and maybe develop more awareness?

d'aww charles, good boy
Then naturally, from the torso we get to the shoulders and arms. Molly observed how I try to do all the work of the connection with my hands and fingers, including all manner of wiggling around and breaking my wrists and various other shenanigans.

She wanted me to really surrender to the bands and let my shoulders be pulled down and back, with my elbows hanging down and back too. She said to imagine I was holding a ball between my wrists. Then actually put another resistance band around my wrists, such that I was holding my hands maybe close to 12" apart, against the band, but with the side effect of bringing my elbows back closer to my body.

still trying to break my wrist even with the handcuffs
My forearm and hands were essentially supposed to be neutral conduits to the elbows, which hung down from the shoulders (rather than carried floating forward like I want), and here was where my connection to the bridle should live.

Again, say it with me here: not new information. Basically a pretty solid flashback to my first dressage lesson at Hilltop, actually. Just a new way to help me actually achieve the correct feeling, so that hopefully I can reproduce it again on my own.

Because we allllll know that *knowing* a thing is not the same as *doing* a thing. And doing the things is hard, it turns out, haha.

it's not a silver bullet by any means, but it helped me "feel" 
The most interesting feeling came in the canter. Molly described how you would jump on a trampoline -- you wouldn't hunch forward with feet together to jump up and down. No, you'd have legs set apart with body upright to jump up and down on the trampoline. You can see her demonstrating these positions in the first few moments of the video, actually.

Thinking about that while wearing the bands in canter really helped me get a different feeling in how I sit the canter -- something that's been a struggle for... hm, oh, ya know... forever lol. So it was really cool to maybe finally feel what it's like when I'm closer to where I should be.

"are we there yet?" - charlie, probably
So essentially, the rider takeaways match exactly with what every other trainer ever has told me lol. I have bad hands and clingy legs, whoops! But maybe now I also have a feeling for improving.

Thinking about "holding a ball between my wrists" while keeping my elbows back and down is really helpful. Rather than trying to wiggle my hands all around and take the contact to Charlie, I need to just set myself and let him come to me there. Likewise, creating the channel for his body with a loose leg pushing down is another sensation we hopefully made progress on.


For Charlie, the lesson was actually a lot more work than I expected. Molly agreed with every dressage judge ever in saying he needed more activity behind. And thus proceeded to "be the activity" for Chuck, much to his immense dismay lol.

She spent a fair portion of the lesson tickling and teasing him with the dressage whip to create more energy while I worked on my position and not nagging. Charlie.... eh... he did not love this lol. In a way it was actually super reminiscent of his first ever ground work lesson after I got him, where we worked on applying pressure to get a forward response.

Then, once we were really going, we moved into a canter exercise that seemed specifically designed to bring Charlie's inner dinosaur-stuck-in-tar-pit back from extinction. We'd canter halfway down the long side, then halt, then half turn to the outside to reverse direction, and as he was just finishing the turn (with inside leg stepping under), cue immediately for canter again. Rinse, repeat, again and again (all in video).

Guys, this was a challenging exercise for Charlie (and me too obvi lol). It's got all the elements to really push his buttons, especially with someone hassling him from the ground with a whip haha.

would rather be trail riding <3
Bless him, tho, not only did he hold it together, but he really really tried. Even when I was blocking him or making mistakes, he just kept going and trusted that even tho this puzzle kinda sucked, there would probably be an answer in it somewhere. Which is 100% not a thing he could have done even just a couple years ago. So, good boy Charlie!!

I liked that exercise a lot too, but need to think a little bit about how to replicate it on my own sans band (or someone on the ground keeping me honest about my position).

All in all, actually, I'm really looking forward to my next ride to see how much of these feelings I can reproduce, or whether I feel a difference at all.

The resistance bands were a really interesting experience, possibly one I'll repeat again. Mostly tho, what I appreciated most about this lesson was how immediately it zeroed in on my core positional issues and how they relate to Charlie's ability to go forward. If the bands can help me make progress there, I'll call it a win lol!





32 comments:

  1. I saw this contraption online somewhere and was all "WTF is that?!" Sooo glad you tried this and wrote about it. I'd probably immediately fall off and die. HA!

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    1. lol i will never ever rule out just falling off and dying as a viable option haha... interesting tho that you'd seen these! i'd literally never heard of them before -- it's an interesting concept tho!

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  2. I'm so jealous of your proximity to opportunities like this. Thanks for posting!

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    1. dude we are so lucky around here, like.... to be able to just go and do completely random things just for the heck of it?? sign me up lol!

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  3. Very cool that you got to try these. It seemed like a great way to feel what it's supposed to feel like when your body is correct and when it is wrong. Awesome!

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    1. yesss that's exactly it -- like i get so inured to my and charlie's little imbalances and asymmetries, that i can't ever really feel it when we're totally crooked or regressing back to a bad habit. stuff like this really helps change the paradigm and make it much easier to feel what's what

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  4. That sounds like a great lesson/experience... Kinda cool when something that seems a bit gimmicky is actually helpful. The instructor/clinician sounds great as well. I have to admit that while I'd like to try something like that, I can't imagine doing it in a western saddle - I'd likely get tangled in the horn and fall and then snap the straps and chaos would ensue. LOL

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    1. lol ensuing chaos is what's it's all about, tho, right??/ maybe???? sorta?!? haha... for real tho, idk if it would or wouldn't work with a western saddle. probably it would tho -- it takes a second person to put the bands on anyway so that would help probably. and yea, Molly was great. like i'd 100% take more lessons with her, with or without the bands

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  5. Wow this all sounds like being held accountable for your own body which is very awful and hard. Thumbs down lol ;) I remember BM "encouraging" Bobby with a whip while we were working on the Third stuff and I think he would agree that team work does not make the dream work. Thumbs down for horse accountability too lol.

    (Also I'm glad I got to see the world's biggest sweet potato.)

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    1. gotta be honest, i really wasn't expecting to be so lucky to experience that masterpiece of garden produce in this ride, but there ya go. expect the unexpected haha.

      also. agreed 1,000%, and fairly safe that i speak for charlie here too, that any and all degrees of accountability are the absolute worst lol

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  6. Biomechanics is a hell of a drug lol - I use resistance bands at home a lot (especially now with the pandemic) I've been wanting to take them riding but I also don't want to get mine 'horsed' on

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    1. biomechanics is fascinating but just feels like i can never get it to stick.... like i'm constantly regressing haha. it's so distracting trying to concentrate on myself AND charlie, whereas i sorta (mistakenly) believe i can more or less get charlie to do what i want in my own pretzel-y ways....

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  7. T likes to remind me that I can't autonomously fix what I cannot feel, so the basis of all of our rides is what do I feel and then we dissect why it is happening. Sounds like this was a similar means to that end!

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    1. definitely! our bodies lie to us hahaha, takes good eyes on the ground to help sometimes!

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  8. Should have titled this post "The B stands for Bands" but that's just my opinion.

    The type of feel/position you're talking about is definitely one of the most positive outcomes I've had from riding with a Dressage trainer. I have exactly the same issue where I tip forward, get finnicky, and just block the horse. Personally, getting that feel has been much easier at the canter than the trot bc it's soooo much easier to pull the shoulders back and sink into a rhythm.

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    1. lol for some reason sitting the canter has been one of my most frustrating bio mechanical flaws haha, possibly bc there are so many moving parts.... one day i'll figure it out. maybe. hopefully...haha

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  9. Interesting! I've been warming up at the walk with Franklin balls under my butt and feel a huge difference when I remove them. I want to get the peanut shaped one so that I can try it at a canter - not going to try it with two balls!
    I'd like to try this - could a person strap themselves into it? Or would they definitely need an assistant?

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    1. The clinician actually specifically said she doesn’t really recommend people go out and buy the bands bc they are pricey and, per her, take a second person to put on. Idk how true that is, like I can imagine ways of getting myself into it alone- tho perhaps maybe there are safety considerations? Tbh tho I’m not personally very tempted to buy the bands bc I think I’d just get used to the feeling and they’d lose benefit over time. But as an “every now and again” thing I like them

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  10. Sounds very useful. I know that although I know about my issues, fixing them on my own doesn't help because I can't feel when things a wrong, they feel right to me! Having a measurable way to determine when you are crooked is hugely helpful! Hopefully you can implement these learnings all the time!

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    1. Ugh my body lies constantly to me about what’s crooked and what isn’t haha. What’s wrong feels right and right feels wrong. It’s like the ultimate roadblock to good riding lol. So yea, hopefully this lesson will help a little bit at least lol

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  11. You know, I've seen this system in passing and never paid much attention. I'll admit I sort of dismissed it as a gadget, just like I do with gadgets for the horse. It's cool to read how it actually works and the ways in which it helped you gain some muscle awareness. Yoga has done similar for me (not a silver bullet, but a good way to at least observe how I'm crooked and which muscles are problematic). This sounds like something that a couple of my students would REALLY benefit from. I wonder if they do any clinics up this way...

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    1. For sure - this definitely classified as gimmicky gadgetry lol. I generally am mostly dismissive of gadgets, but not 100%. My feeling is that I will try something to see if it helps, then see what happens when I go without. If the improvement sticks after having used the gadget or training aid or whatever you want to call it, I consider it a helpful tool that I’d repeat going forward. If there’s no difference without the gadget, then maybe it’s just a bandaid and I’ll avoid it going forward. Jury is out on where these bands fall on that spectrum but just based on my own levels of soreness after the ride (high omg my ass...!) it definitely feels like some old muscles learned new tricks haha

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  12. It must be the season of stretchy bands! I did not get full-body stretchy bands at lesson last night (we do not have that kind), but I did get the stretchy-band-with-handles that goes from one hand, under the horse, to the other hand. You hold it with your reins and it rides on the horse more-or-less where the girth goes. Sit up straight, rely less on your hands and more on your seat. It was hard, took a bit of effort to keep hands where they belonged because I had to put tension on the stretchy band. It also fixed (like magic) the bit of tip-forward that I habitually ride with and got me doing more with my legs and seat. Kind of useful, and I think I got something out of it. Sometimes once you can feel the right thing, it makes it easier to replicate without the aid... maybe that's the takeaway for these sessions. (The "not nagging" is a continual struggle for me, too. I am working on it. I really am. Changing habits is HARD though.)

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    1. Dude I have been working on not nagging for as long as I’ve been writing this blog (and let’s be real, since before then too haha). Why oh WHY is it so hard?!? Your stretchy band exercise sounds really interesting too - I can totally see how that simpler configuration achieved some of the same aspects of the “sling” system above. Crazy the stuff we will try in our pursuit of even marginally improving our riding skills lol..... here’s hoping it works!!

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  13. Wow I've never heard of these bands, they sound fascinating! I've literally started tying a polo wrap around my elbows to hold them down X)

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    1. lol i love the polo wrap idea! i've tried so many various little gadgets and aids to help corral my wayward hands.... this little resistance band around my wrists was a fairly simple but effective helper too. it's hard to see in the photo but it was basically just a strip of stretchy elastic knotted into a loop that allowed my hands to be about 12" apart. i'll probably try to mock up something similar for myself to use at home

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  14. At first I was all WTAF Emma? But I can see how it can be helpful. In my clinic last weekend she had me sit on two small rubber balls for a bit to feel my seatbones. It really helped bring awareness. And that canter exercise is interesting. I’m going to steal it.

    THE WORLDS BIGGEST SWEET POTATO was awesome.

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    1. honestly whatever helps us get that connection to a feeling or awareness works, right? like it's interesting bc the couple times i've ridden since this ride, i definitely can "feel" exactly what we were working on. so i'm kinda excited to keep working on it!

      and omg, that sweet potato -- how friggin cute, right?

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  15. Oh, I have seen these lessons and would LOVE to try one!!!

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  16. My trainer has been using these with me and they really do make a huge difference in being able to feel your alignment and how you are distributing your weight and pressure. I'm struggling to continue to carry the feel to the next ride in between sessions but when I catch something and adjust the way my horse goes changes pretty dramatically! It's also a good workout from the saddle :)

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