Monday, May 16, 2011

Daffodil All Arabian Spring Horse Show.......A Little on Balance.......and Boots.......

Part 1

During the show, I had realized I was having an issue with my show boots. I know that my legs are in two different positions when I ride. It stems from an old injury. My right leg comes out of my hip at a slightly different angle than my left and therefore my right leg "hangs" in the saddle a little differently than my left.

Now, I know all the dressage riders must be having fits at this point. Sitting squarely and correctly is a big deal to getting the horse moving correctly. I get that but I have also learned that balance is really the key in how we affect the way the horse moves. I know that my balance is not compromised by the angle my leg comes out of my hip because I have lots of experiences riding with air between the horse and the cinch or girth and that can't be accomplished without perfect balance. I am notorious for having a saddle that sifts as I get off my horse because I ride with the cinch that loose yet I rarely have to adjust the saddle when I ride.

The dressage teacher I worked with all those years ago actually let me ride an entire lesson on Dandy with several inches of air between the girth and my horse. It was only when I went to dismount that he stopped me knowing the saddle would roll and I might get hurt. When I asked him why he'd let me ride that way, he told me he had enjoyed seeing how correct my balance was.

I know that my body is not going to be corrected on this point or the fact my shoulders are rolled slightly forward either. That too is the result of an old injury and the physical therapists could not get it fixed. I may be able to push the very tips of my shoulders back but my back is not affected. It may look better that way but it doesn't help my horse because it is not the real correction in posture that needs to be made.

It is frustrating to know that my body is my worst enemy when it comes to riding. In dealing with this I have to remind myself of a conversation I had with a very successful BNT many years ago. While his comments weren't particularly sympathetic to the horse, they did make a very important point. A horse can be taught to move correctly even without the rider being in a perfect position.

Considering the success and the posture of this particular trainer, I would tell you what he said was correct. Without perfect posture, we much find a way to compensate that will help the horse to carry us. For me it has to do with how I place my feet in the stirrups or irons. When I get my feet right, I can get my balance right and with that I can get the horse right without causing a problem for my horse.

I have always been aware of my "compromised" position but I haven't been particularly aware of how I compensate to "fix" it. This only became obvious to me at the Daffodil All Arabian Spring Horse Show when I found myself having trouble with my balance but only for my classes.

Once I realized that I was not having an issue when I was schooling but only when I was showing, it didn't take much to realize that my show boots were causing the problem. My big clunky winter boot gives my foot no room to move out of the correct position while the narrower show boot leaves room for movement.

With my big clunky winter work boots, my foot takes up pretty much the whole area inside the stirrup and supports me quite well. I can maintain the angle I place my feet to affect how I carry my body weight on up through both legs. My show boots are much narrower and I can't really say that I have ever noticed it to be a problem before the show this spring. That doesn't mean it hasn't been a problem though, only that I didn't notice it until now.

I think the reason it was more obvious now probably stems from the fact, like my horse, I too am out of shape from lack of riding time this winter. The lack of strength made it harder for me to maintain the position of my foot inside the stirrup with the narrower show boot. The only way I could figure out how to fix this was to ride in my clunky winter boots.

I've made no bones about relaying the kind of conditions I school my horses in at the park. The footing there is sand and with this winter, that means very wet sand. My tack, my boots, my clothes and my horses all show the signs of these conditions. That means my winter boots are NOT pretty! and believe me when I say NOT pretty I mean it even with the thorough cleaning I did before taking them to the show.

I had begun to put the pieces of this dilemma together on Friday but it wasn't really until Saturday morning that I began to realize the correlation to the width of my show boots. I tried the leather cleaner I had to spruce up my winter boots but they still were not pretty but I convinced myself that only my toe was going to show so I showed with them anyway.

The result had been that open western pleasure class where my horse felt so nice and square underneath me. I had not struggled in that class to keep my saddle in the middle of my horse and if anyone notice d my ugly scuffed up toes on my work boots no one had mentioned it. Before riding championships on Sunday, I took those boots home to be polished by my husband. With years of military expertise, and many many payments for polishing others boots for inspection, Dave is an expert at making UGLY BOOT beautiful again. I knew he could fix it for me and Legs wouldn't have to deal with my being unbalanced in the saddle again.

To be continued................

Out of Balance......and Thoughts on Showmanship....

I think this is Scandalous Chase not too long after he was born.

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  1. It is very good to be centered and riding balanced. I believe you don't need a girth if you can do it. I took the big monster out (Quinn) being such a squirrel. I got a few miles out, got down to open a gate and realized his girth was hanging there. With a good 3 inches between it and his body. GAAAHHH!! A bit looser than I prefer :) But I didn't even know.

    Sounds like you've got riding centered down pat. Sure helps to ride those spooks though!

  2. I wish I knew how to compensate for my imbalances in my body. I only seem to make matters worse ;) Glad you figured out that the boots made a difference.

  3. It's good that you figured the boot/balance thing out. Now you might just have to find wider show boots for next time. Or if Dave polished them up good enough that should solve the problem. Hard to have to compensate for our bodies and past injuries though.

  4. Your totally right about discovering our own body's limitations when riding - I certainly have been! But your reason has more credit then mine, I dont have an old injury holding me back. That gives me better reason to really work on my own, because I am physically capable. Good motivator post! LOL

  5. Oh and wanted to add about the girth too - I tend to keep mine about one or two holes looser than "normal" - everyone always comments on it (especially when they try and get on from the ground). Personally, I like having more "movement". Its a good test on my part to keep my saddle centered and somehow I just feel better knowing its not super duper tight on my horse.

  6. boots Dont you hate it when you get a good pair and then they get old and worn. My favourites aren't any good for the show ring either and my flash new ones hurt my feet. Glad you got the military shine though

  7. I'm going to be doing some riding bareback to improve my balance. It's been a long time.

    I need to send my boots to Dave. They're a mess.

  8. The foal in the blanket is sooo cute!
    I'm impressed with your balanced riding and agree that your riding shouldn't be affected by your old injury. Balance from the core is essential and you have it down. Although I do a lot of bareback and I think I use my core for balance, I wouldn't want to losen my girth :)
    Good story re the boots. My husband has a similar issue. I'll have to mention the boots to him.

  9. Hmm I have horrible balance! I tried a few years ago to ride english and it sure made me realize how dependant I am on my stirrups, but after using that saddle for a few months I could really see an improvement. I should try that again.

  10. Centered Riding is an excellent book that speaks of exactly that topic. How our bodies fit with the horses body and it all works together for the good rides we have experienced.

    Funny how a simple thing like the width of a boot can upset the apple cart for us. We all compensate for something. For me it's my chest and my right shoulder. Knowing the source of our issues opens the door to correcting the problems.

  11. That’s a neat post! Glad you found something…we can all use a bit of help now and then! I had a knee replacement 2 and a ½ years ago and still have extreme pain…hard to ride with left leg on horse at all!

  12. I wore my new paddock boots for the first time last week and received several comments on how shiny they were. Not anymore...

  13. Mikey, 3 inches is looser than I prefer too but it shows how good your balance is. It's always nice to have that perspective as long as things go smoothly.

    You're so right about the spooks being much easier to ride when you're centered in the first place.

    wilsonc, for me it comes with listening to my body. I am accutely aware of how my body feels so that helps me know when I am right on the horse or not. Becoming that aware of your body is something you can practice all the time, not just when you are on a horse. that will help you get where you want to be on the horse.

    Arlene, I keep saying that getting old sucks and this would be one of the reasons. What I wouldn't give for that twenty year old body again. My posture was perfect and all my muscles in shape.....

    PHM, you may not know why you're out of square but there is some reason behind it. Give yourself credit for working on it. Many are oblivious and wouldn't bother to fix it if they knew.

    I like to ride with my cinch about that loose too and for the same reason. I feel for the horse having that thing cinched up tight. UCK!

    sally, yes, I do. I hang onto good fitting boots until long after they are dead. LOL

    Leah, Dave's military shine is a miracle for me. He's definitely my go to man in that department.
    He used to make big bucks shining boots for inspections.

    Carol, you're so right about good balance coming from the core. I must admit, however, that my core strength is not as good as it needs to be. That's something I am working on. It really affects me riding through sideways spooks and since I ride young horses, I need that strength to be much better than it is now if I am to stay safe.

    Crystal, I do think that riding different disciplines helps improve our balance. Sounds like it definitely worked for you.

    CNJ, I sure didn't realize it was the boots until this show. Now I find myself thinking back to other shows trying to recall if I've had this problem all along or it's just a strength issue now. Either way, I'll be working on it.

    You're so right that knowing what the issue is really makes it easire to resolve.

    Pat, I thought a knee replacement was supposed to make things better. Being in pain all the time would make riding difficult.

    For me I have knee pain when I don't ride all the time. Somehow having strength in my legs makes me pain free. I can always tell when I'm not riding for a while because the pain begins returning. Like now, with this bad winter. I have knee pain just sitting.

  14. "What I wouldn't give for that twenty year old body again."

    My best friend gave me a birthday card once. It said on the front

    You can still have the body of a 21 year old...

    Inside it read-

    Just be sure to buy him a few drinks first!

  15. I totaly know where you are coming from! It really does help that once your horses know whats up they really do try to adapt to everyones differences. Poor Lucas has to ajust just about every day just it keeps things intresting!

  16. Couple of things - the girth issue (ability to ride with a loose one) only works if the saddle fits well - if it doesn't then you're hosed. So it sounds like you're doing well at least from that regard.

    Second, you're correct - balance is more important than symetry - but I think by riding in a western saddle, the "unsymetrical seat" you have is less noticable to the horse - again, with that much leather between you and his back, you're back to Balance being the bigger influence.

    And Third - your horses are all uneven, unsymetrical too. Just like people, they will have legs that are a little different from side to side and shoulders that aren't perfectly aligned. But we still manage to make them move evenly. Its one of the coolest thing. Its the magnitude of the difference in symetry that, in my opinion, has a significant influence on the speed at which they "break down" with age - meaning stressing joints preferentially, etc...

  17. CNJ, sounds like my kind of Bday card. LOL I know there's no hope of every seeing a twenty year old body again but I can dream.

    Justplainsam, They adapt to us, we adapt to them and somehow it works. That's one of the cool things about horses.

    Enginerd, I'm always struggling to find a saddle that fits my horses so I don't know if I'd say I ride in a saddle that fits good, not terrible would be more like it. Although I do know that saddle fit can screw up the rider's balance. I had an all purpose saddle that put my legs in a postion that made it impossible to use them correctly.

    I know there's more leather between an english saddle and a western but when my horse can feel me twitch my thigh for a cue in the western saddle, I think he's pretty sensitive. He's either gotten used to my leg position and tunes it out, or it's not a big deal because of how I position myself to compensate. Either way, it doesn't interfere with our work and that's what's most important.

    I might also add that because there is less leather in the english saddle, the angle of my hip is not as compromised. When I'm standing on the ground with my legs straight, you wouldn't notice it at all. It is when I am straddling something that is shows up and the wider the something, the more dramatic the difference.

    You're so right about horses being as different as people and being quadrapeds they can go out of square(for lack of a better term) much easier than we do. It really is amazing that this whole thing every works out for any of us considering our difference.

  18. I know knee replacement is supposed to help…usually. My ortho thought 2 and a half years ago after years of knee scopes, steroid injections and pain meds that a replacement was the final option but that he thought based on all xrays and my releatively young age for this surgery (50 at the time) that’s a partial replacement was the way to go…my outside knee was fine but the inside was bone on bone and causing insane amount of pain. We did the partial, I was riding in a few weeks against his wishes, and walking, doing normal activities pain free, for about 9 mo…then pain returned and has gotten so bad but this time on the OUTSIDE knee…a new set of xrays and MRIs and it is now discovered probably he should have done a full replacement originally, as now the outside knee has collapsed based on me using the good inside portion more…so since they do not do 2 partials, the original partial has to come out and a total knee put in its place. I have great insurance, they will cover it all including short term disability pay, but I have my sights on regionals and even Nationals this year select rider so I am putting it off till Nov. Till then I ride with Ibuprofen on board and trying glucosamine.