Tuesday, November 18, 2014

optimum balance

One reason I constantly beg innocent bystanders to please take video of my rides: I love grabbing zillions of video stills to over-analyze my position. You, uh, may have noticed this already lol. 

There was one photo from this weekend's lesson (below) that provided a perfect side view of our jumping effort. This is pretty much my standard current position. The blue dots are on my shoulder and ankle (the red line is vertical, for reference).


I am always slightly ahead of the horse. My upper body tips too far forward (with the help of some mane grabbing action), and my knees are pinched - causing my lower to leg slip back (with toe pointing straight out). If you removed the horse from this picture, would I still be standing or would I fall on my face??

This also means that I have no balance or support on the landing side of the fence and can't maintain my position long enough. 

C caught onto this in our lesson a few weeks back, and had me watch *her* on our approach to the jump instead of the actual jump. This way I couldn't anticipate and get ahead of Isabel. It helped, but has proven difficult to recreate on my own.  


William Fox Pitt & Cool Mountain
original photo by Beth Harpham / Equidigital.com (found here)

Now I obviously don't expect to reach William Fox Pitt levels of awesomeness, but he serves as a model for how I would like my position to be. 

(And yes - it is possible to find plenty of pics where WFP is ahead or behind too... this is just an example. And no - I don't think body type or any physical differences between men and women should make a difference. My focus here is whether the upper body is balanced over the lower leg.)

But I definitely have room for improvement. A few simple sounding things need to happen:
  • stabilize lower leg at the girth
  • close hip angles

If I can solidify my lower leg, it'll be easier to keep my upper body in balance. It isn't necessarily required that the shoulder be directly over the ankle, so long as that lower leg is doing it's job. Seems easy enough, right?

Dom Schramm from Evention recommended in one of their videos (can't remember which one) that riders think of facing the bottoms of their feet *at* the fence. It's been a useful mental image for me, and helps keep that heel down and my weight in the lower leg rather than the knee. I've also heard other riders suggest thinking of sticking your butt out.

But it's difficult to remember these things when I'm barreling towards big scary jumps and apparently not breathing lol.  

So I'm curious - what are the mental images or tips / tricks that you use to help keep your position in order while you're actually riding the course?

26 comments:

  1. I haven't jumped a fence in so long & to be honest my position has never been anything to write home about so i am afraid I am now help.
    But I had to comment to thank you for (as always) giving me food for thought and reminding me to be more aware of my position in the saddle.
    There is always so much to think about!!!!

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    1. haha right? just when i think i've got one piece of my position figured out, something else goes haywire... and this is just as true for riding on the flat as it is for jumping...

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  2. I find I can't think of much of anything unless I'm approaching a jump and can see from several strides out that it's going to be a good distance. If we get that sweet spot, I can just relax and sit and tell my legs to stay and everything just flows. Otherwise....I'm just surviving lol.

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    1. yea that's pretty much where i am now too lol... tho i'm hoping if i can get something else running through my mind other than our imminent demise, maybe it'll help me relax more?? haha

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  3. Good topic of discussion! What helps my husband when he rides is to think about "crouching" over the saddle, not leaning forward. Another tip from a friend of mine who trains a lot of beginning jumping riders is to think "Heels, hips, hands" - heels down, hips back, hands forward. Practicing two-point will help build muscle memory for the correct position, and jumping small fences or grids without reins will also help teach you to balance correctly over your leg!

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    1. thanks! yea i've practiced 2point a bit over the years, but find that what i'm practicing as we bop around the arena isn't what i revert to in the actual moment. but the idea of grids with no hands might work nicely!

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  4. My last trainer told me to squat over the fences. Now.. I squat regularly as a weight lifter. I'm a great squatter. I have great form. It's super duper natural for me to drop down, elbows to knees and butt out.

    Does that translate to fences? Absolutely not. I can't, for the life of me, eradicate those things that I was first taught: grip with my knees and grab mane. But I love this exercise because now I'm going go to through periodically and analyze myself to see if I'm making any sorts of progress. I've never seen the lines drawn and it's brilliant.

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    1. thanks! i drew the lines bc i always wish i could pull my shoulders back and heels forward in pics of myself... not sure if they're truly representative of solid technique or not, but perhaps it helps. in any case, i'm right there with you on understanding a concept and then struggling to put it into practice... will try to think of doing squats too haha!

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  5. WFP is my role model too and I made sure to watch all of his rides at Rolex this year- his position is immoveable!

    Thank you for posts like these, I'm learning so much from reading along and applaud your diligence to the sport (:

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    1. that's awesome that you got to watch him go! he's definitely impressive. and thanks - one of my favorite things about this horsey blogging community is the absolute depth of combined knowledge - so i love picking everybody's brains :)

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  6. I always volunteer to take pics of ppl cuz I know how hard it is to get!
    But I think its great you are always analyzing.
    A "trick" I was taught was before the jump, try it out on poles, push your heels in front of you. Is kinda chairseatesque. But is kinda useful in b/w step to get your legs a bit more independent.

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    1. interesting, thanks - i will have to try that! it's funny how just using different words to describe the same thing can help concepts 'stick' better in practice :)

      and yea, i always volunteer to take pics/video too bc it's just so so so helpful to have the reference material

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  7. WFP is actually behind in that picture, and you are also in the photo above. What you think is ahead - is actually behind. Your shoulders are behind your horses shoulders, and your hips further back. Not critiquing you, I think you look good! Just clarifying the positions :)

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    1. interesting! i was thinking i was ahead bc of where my upper body was in relation to my lower body - but perhaps my own balance is a separate issue from being ahead or behind the horse?

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  8. I think finding the perfect seat/posture/position is difficult enough on flatwork, never mind when jumping! But you look good to me and my dressage eye :)

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    1. thanks! and i agree - position on the flat is just as hard, and mine is a complete mess... why on earth is it so difficult to just sit still?

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  9. I now want to draw lines on all of my jumping pictures ever. Great food for thought :)

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    1. haha it's addictive - esp if you have any interest in geometry :)

      not sure i have all the right lines figured out, but i'm always trying to look for relationships between all the moving parts...

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  10. Ooo I like the idea of facing the bottom of your foot at the fence. I also tend to get ahead and lose my leg, especially when things go wrong (and lots of them are going wrong now that I'm two jump schools back to jumping when I haven't jumped regularly in 2 years and haven't had a lesson in longer).

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    1. yea... time off from jumping really hurt my stability (and confidence) too... so any little tips and tricks help!! hopefully this one image will help both of us!

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  11. I love the bottom of the foot facing the fence idea! I always remind myself to keep my eyes and hands up while approaching the jump - that reminder seems to break the cycle of me burying my hands in the withers and tilting forward/jumping ahead.

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    1. interesting - i've gotten pretty solid at keeping my eye up, but am terrible at pushing my hands forward. maybe that's the trick to keeping my upper body more in balance - get the hands moving instead??

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  12. Don't forget, try not to be too hard on yourself! :)

    I found this interesting little trick in college, tie your leathers loosely to your girth, it forces your leg to stay in position and retrains your muscles some...

    (word of advice use yarn NOT bailing twine, a girl got in a bad wreck with twine, yarn breaks when things get scary)

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    1. thanks! my old lesson barn did the stirrup tying trick frequently in lessons... and it made me pretty nervous. my worst wreck involved getting tangled in the stirrups, so i'm pretty wary of any added risk there - even if it does work...

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  13. I just saw this post. You are so not alone! I am a tipper too... Even on the flat I have a tendency to top forwards slightly. It's my "happy place". Surprisingly, taking Saddle Seat lessons has helped a lot, since they sit back a little further (or it feels like it, anyways).

    I love the idea of Dom's (but I'm sort of in love with him and Jimmy). I actually think her position is more solid than his, but his advice is good. I'm so going to try it. Another good one to creep is Denny. He posts A LOT of good pictures of solid riders and it's helpful to study their form.

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    1. good to know i'm not alone!! i refer to it as my 'hunter perch' - but that's perhaps unfair to the hunters lol. i'm not surprised at all that saddle seat helps tho - that's a WHOLE different perspective on eq, and very interesting at that.

      and yea... i kinda love Dom and Jimmy too - and have my fingers crossed that Jimmy starts getting some better luck soon!! Denny is def on my love list too... but idk how to follow him outside fb - does he have a blog??

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