Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Heels, Hips and Hands

What do you struggle with when you ride and what are you doing to get better? When I was younger I just used to ride for the sheer joy of it. My sister and I spent the vast majority of our riding time out on the trails and riding in an arena was "boring." But now that I'm older and have gotten hit with this whole eventing bug thing I have this overwhelming desire to improve my riding. To put it in the most basic way possible I want to go from looking like this:
to looking like this. (I borrowed this photo from one of my previous trainers):
I'm seriously not sure how her from could be better.
Needless to say I don't want to just improve my equitation over fences I also want to improve my equitation on the flat. This is not just so I can look "pretty" but mostly so I can be safe and my horse can be happier. In order to work towards this goal I've identified the three things that need the most work. (I'm sure there are more but these are the ones that stand out to me.)

HEELS: I have a huge problem with turning my toe out and using my heel to grip and also as a means to make my horse go forward. The lesson horse that I am riding right now has a real problem with this. He lets me know right away if I use my heel for forward instead of my whole calf/leg. He lets me know by pinning his ears and making as though he is going to buck. So far we haven't had any bucking but it has helped me tremendously to be aware of what my foot is doing and I think if I can keep riding Sky I might actually be able to break this bad habit.

HIPS: I already mentioned briefly in the previous post the problem I'm having with relaxing my hips to follow my horse's motion at the canter. My instructor is helping me to see how this is carrying over to the jumping. I'm getting so far ahead of my horse when we jump because I am not following my horse at the canter. I'm relying on strength more than balance. If I can improve my canter work by allowing my hips to relax and simply follow the motion I should see improvements in my form over jumps. I'm sure there is a much more technical way to say all this but it totally makes sense in my mind.

HANDS: I don't think my hands are terrible I would just like them to be more consistent. At my last lesson my instructor was reiterating the fact that your reins are like phone lines. If you don't keep a consistent contact it can be like static in the lines. I would like to have soft hands that are also effective.

Of course the biggest key to any improvements is just time in that saddle and practice and lots and lots of lessons. I'm super excited because as long as the weather holds for tomorrow I'm going to get an extra lesson in this week. Yay!


  1. I am happy in my glass house and should probably not give advice -- but for whatever it's worth, I have had a lot of luck ironing out heel/leg/hip issues during conditioning sets. If you're spending all that time in two-point anyway, you might as well spend it thinking about where to put your weight and body parts so that they'll work better (and hurt less!)...

  2. If you are stiff in the hips it might be you have tight hip flexors. Foam rollers are great for "ironing" them out, as well as getting a massage :).

    Also I gave you a blog award :)

  3. Hannah, thanks so much for reading and for the comment. I completely agree that 2 point work would be beneficial and I believe we are working back up to that. Right now we're really just working on making me WAIT! for my horse's motion to push me out of the saddle something that I should be able to do in 2 point of course and we'll get there, it's just difficult when I'm limited to riding only 1 or 2 days a week right now. (And I can't help but add the caveat that that picture is definitely me at my worst. I'm not always that bad I swear! :) I just need consistency.)

  4. L. Williams, thank you so much for the award!! I really appreciate the shout out.

    And you are right I am super tight in my hip flexors which is why I have a tendency to simply stand up in the stirrups instead of getting into a true 2 point. I'll have to check out some foam rollers. Thanks again!