Make it make sense!!

Ambers Echo

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Had a lesson yesterday and was given an instruction that I just don't know how to follow! I did ask at the time but despite my RI's best efforts to explain, I just didn't get it.

She asked me to press down into my left hip when I was cantering circles on the right rein, to keep the horse more under me and out on the circle, not falling in. (Did not need to do this with right hip on the other rein). First I was weighting the left seat bone but apparently that was leaning and not right. Then I was visualising squishing a fly under my left boot but that was just making me come off the saddle more and making my seat less secure. So I just don't know what movement she is after. She used the word 'press' but what against what? Is it more a weighting thing than a pressing thing?

I went back into the arena today to try and understand just in walk or halt. I could stand in my stirrups and take all the weight down through the ankles. Then gradually lower and take more and more weight through seat and thighs till almost all the weight is seat/things and feet are just lightly resting in the stirrups. And everything in between. But I could not see how to 'press' the left hip without pressing the foot against the stirrup. Which isn't what she wants,

What am I missing?
 

Ambers Echo

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Possibly! Just trying it on a chair now and I can sit on both hands and then shift weight from one to the other without moving too much else. Is that what she wants?
 

Roxylola

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See, this is where video helps.
I often either video people as I teach to show them the "lean back" I want them to feel is actually not them lying down on the horse its them sitting straight (sub left, right, or forward as appropriate)
Sometimes I'll send a link to a video to them that shows something they aren't quite getting as well.
Is it one of the instructors I know? I ask because my translation of something from Jo might be different to something from Maddy or Vicki. If it's one I don't know I might be less help though 🙈
Not that I've been any help so far.
Translation at this point is that you _might_ have been collapsing your right hip and pushing out to the left so maybe to get you to sort of centre your hips by pushing your left more under you - so you wouldn't want to sit deeper or more in to left stirrup, but that's very much a best guess.
 

milliepops

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Not sure, i think there's possibly a few things going on but without seeing it's kind of hard to guess.

there's a thing about not sliding or leaning to the inside when on a circle or turn, because your horse will follow your weight and step to the inside.
there's a need to sit equally on your seatbones to stay connected to the saddle with both legs draping down softly, quite often people hitch one leg up, or hitch a hip, or come off their seat in general - that's why i was wondering if you had done similar in trying to follow her instructions
there may be some asymmetries in your own body that she's commenting on

if you disconnect your outside seatbone you're more likely to twist to the inside in general. i think the word connection is more useful from my own POV than trying to weight it - weighting does tend to lead to an exaggerated leaning kind of reaction. I have to connect my right seatbone when riding left half pass, i find that hard naturally but the difference it makes is that my position stays centred on the horse and my aids are more effective, plus I don't shove the poor horse's left shoulder down.

if she asked you to press your seatbone that suggests to me that she thought it was coming off the saddle slightly?
 

Ambers Echo

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Ok I will try thinking about connecting not weighting or pressing. See if that makes a difference. Lost in translation issues. I was coming off the seat more when I was trying to press into the stirrup.

RL it was Vicky.
 

CanteringCarrot

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I understand what you instructor is saying, but I'm crap at explaining.

So, you don't want to tip in, or have your weight to the inside of the circle, because then the horse is likely to fall in in an effort to support your weight/stay under you.

This is weird but sometimes when it comes to hip stuff or weight distribution, I have to imagine that I have no legs. Just take them out of the equation. Or take your feet out of the stirrups. Often when we are told to put more weight on the outside we step into the outside stirrup harder and/or brace, which isn't correct.

It's not that you have to lean to the outside, but your connection has to be secure. This doesn't mean completely abandon the inside though. I am trying to come up with a better explanation because I can feel what I want to say. I'll have to think on it. Interested to read other explanations.
 

Roxylola

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Hmm, I know her least so less helpful. I'd be tempted to ask if she can send a link to a video- and maybe get someone to video you cantering "normally" ie not pressing anything on a circle to see if you can see anything
 

milliepops

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This is weird but sometimes when it comes to hip stuff or weight distribution, I have to imagine that I have no legs. Just take them out of the equation. Or take your feet out of the stirrups. Often when we are told to put more weight on the outside we step into the outside stirrup harder and/or brace, which isn't correct.
imagining you have no legs is a genius visualisation.
Have watched some para riders without legs, they can't push themselves weirdly with their stirrups can they!
 

TPO

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I have no idea if this is what your RI means but this is my (hot?!) take on what might be happening...

Obviously I've never seen you ride in the flesh and the picture that I have built up (from my perspective and that 100% could be very wrong) is mainly from the videos and pictures with Amber.

So, I think you are similar to me in that you have one weaker side that collapses and then "fall out" through the other side. I can't remember what side I thought it was with you but I collapse the left and fall out to the right (my mucking out position).

That made feel like I was reaching for my right stirrup more and even although I'm right handed and that's my stronger side I had a stronger hold on the horse's left side. I would lose rein contact on right side and would grip up with right leg and kept making that stirrup shorter to feel more secure.

Going back a while now but aaages ago you posted a thread for opinions on your riding. I can't remember exact details so please don't think I'm having a go. It was on the pro photos on that thread that I noticed a difference in your stirrup lengths between pictures taken from left side or right side. I can't remember seeing a lean in your body though.

I find with having that subconscious imbalance messes with my perception. So my right stirrup would be in my armpit and still feel too long because my collapse made it feel like I was reaching. I really struggled to use my right inside leg for proper bend. To show you how bad it was one time I was riding a friends horse. I'm so steky that I had to drop the left stirrup practically to the floor to get on from the mountain block. We went on a hack and I felt fine, a wee bit of the right feeling a bit long but nothing drastic. It wasn't until a while after the friend asked me what was going on with her saddle/stirrups. I hadn't put the left stirrup back up and ridden with it at least 4 holes longer and still felt like the normal length right was too long - that's how broken I was!

So with that I'd have instructors trying to fix me and straighten me up. When they would tell me to sit up straight, keep hands level and sit square to stop gripping up or reaching I would feel like I was and that I couldn't adjust more. When they physically put me in the right position it felt so alien and weird and like I was just going to topple off. I have always had <touches wood frantically> fairly good balance and a decent independent seat because I spent my childhood (and probably too far into adulthood) bombing about bareback and doing stupid things but as I got older and more broken (mucking out/water buckets/bales) I must have compensated and developed my balance for my twisted position.

My point is trying to be that even when I thought I was straightening up, pushing down evenly etc I wasn't. I was so squint that I physically couldn't be straight even although I felt like I was over compensating and was squint the other way.

As an aside when I went for physio I was asked to take big breathes when sitting up and then lying down. My rib cage pulled to the right, something I'd never been aware of. Physio did the (very painful!!) adjustments and suddenly I could breathe straight in and out and take bigger breaths. No amount of at home pilates/yoga/conscious breathing would have fixed that. I know (or think I know!) that you've been having biomechanic lessons and did you see Andy TTest? it might worth a follow up with a physio for yourself because sometimes there is a disconnect between brain and body?

Finally getting to what I think is my point.... I *think* the instructor "just" wants you to sit evenly in the saddle and she is trying to suggest perhaps a visual way (picture your hip pushing down?) to make it easier rather that simply saying "sit evenly". You might feel that you are even and applying even pressure because that is what your brain is telling you but that isn't actually what's happening? I've just tried what you've described as I'm sitting on my chair and I feel even in my seat bones and on my hands but I know that I am squint and I can feel the collapse in my left side even sitting here.

Again with the visual thing but what works for me (sometimes!) is visualizing my hip bones - the pointy bits that stick out the front (although in full honestly I've not seen them since lockdown and can barely feel them right now!) - are level and that there is an elastic band looped around them that I am trying to gently stretch. That helps me keep my knees loose and the weight down through my body/seat/legs into my heels.

If you could get RI, or anyone, to film you that might help give you a visual. It might be that you physically can't be even and need some physical therapy input. If you have one of those big gym balls it might be worth sitting on it and doing exercises like lifting one foot off the ground at a time while engaging your core - the ball will soon scoot if you're squint!

Edited - I am soooooooooo slow at typing that everyone else has already said it better! ha ha
 

DressageCob

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I have no idea, but isn't it amazing how forensic a decent riding instructor is? The fact they can pinpoint your issue to a slight movement of a hip is incredible. I always think that with my instructor too. She changes one tiny thing and the entire experience improves. I wish I had their eye for detail.
 

teapot

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Getting you to sit on your outside seatbone will straighten you up and stop the weight shift to the inside.

Sounds like you might collapse to the right. Agree with CC though, forget about your legs and stirrups, it's about your arse and remaining straight on the circle.
 

Ambers Echo

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Thanks for all the replies. I think I'm a lost cause to be honest. I just don't get it. Despite all the lessons and clinics and books and master classes and biomechanics and equipilates and physio sessions, I am no nearer developing feel or a decent seat than I was 1, 5 and 15 years ago.

Not even AndyT made any difference to how I looked, felt or rode which was a bit gutting. I think I can continue to slowly improve but I'm never going to be any good. Just like I'm never going to write neatly and will always be clumsy. There must be some sort of brain-body disconnect. I can't dance either. I'm so bad at it that I was once accused of dancing deliberately badly to disrupt a class!

Perhaps I should make my peace with that and just enjoy it a bit more and try a bit less hard. Not in a 'relax and suddenly I'll improve' way but literally in an 'accept I'm just average and have fun anyway' way. Plenty of worse riders than me are out having a whale of a time! I can get horses to more or less do what I want and I can stick on ok. Perhaps that's good enough.

Quick question though. If I'm pretending I have no legs, does that mean I am taking all the weight through my seat and thighs? I have no idea how weight should be distributed between feet and seat!
 

milliepops

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for flatwork, my stirrups mainly support the weight of my lower legs and feet. I don't press into them. I find riding without them fairly painful from a personal POV because I am hypermobile in my legs and feet so it takes too much effort to maintain a correct angle in my legs, but the stirrups really aren't doing anything except giving me a place to put my feet. I sit on my seat and thighs, mainly, yes.

if you're propped on your stirrups then you won't really sink your seatbones into the saddle and you can't use your weight aids effectively because you will be braced off the horse.
 

shortstuff99

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I wouldn't worry too much about being the 'perfect' rider. Horses can learn any sort of aids for the movements. I do not ride conventionally at all due to injuries and EDS, my horse has learnt most dressage moves from how I can ride it not how I should ride it. Makes it a bit harder for others to ride her but it works for me.
 

Ambers Echo

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My brain isn't wired quite right in lots of little ways, mainly having absolutely no sense of direction. I needed a guide to find the canteen each day in a place I worked for 20 years! Poor spatial awareness too. I keep breaking mugs putting them into cupboards but bashing them on the edges. It's frustrating but perhaps the effort to overcome the limitations is even more frustrating than just shrugging and letting it be what it is.
 

TPO

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Do you think you are maybe doing too much at once (conflicting methods with so many different trainers/assessors?) / overthinking it / putting too much pressure on yourself ?

I do think your plan to relax and just enjoy it, because you love horse and riding them, is a good one. It won't be overnight but letting go of expectations can be quite freeing.

I can remember getting a b#llocking from my dad when I was a teenager. I was riding my pony and for some reason he was there with me. I was doing my usual does it look ok? Are my hands level? Are my reins too wrong? His patience quickly ran out and I got shouted at to just shut up and ride the bl00dy horse 😬 I mean he wasn't wrong. Once I huffed off to the other side of the field I had fun pretending to be Mary King and careering around.

Paralysis by over analysis is a thing!

You've only got this mare for a relatively short length of time so just have fun and make the most of her.

Once I lowered my expectations for life and horses to counting not dying as a win I started winning every day! That definitely makes things easier.

Honestly I'd say to have fun and do daft things like PC games with anyone that wants to join in, whip your saddle off and have fun improving your balance etc dont worry about where the horses head is or the outline.

Taking the pressure off might not transform you into your idol overnight but you might find your body responds naturally to relaxing once your brain quietens down a little.
 

Roxylola

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Oof, there's a lot to unpack here. You're not very good at being "ok" at things are you? I get that, and I very much want to be better and do better - riding is addictive like that, there's always a bit more you can do, another improvement you can make.
You can learn "feel" but its hard because you learn by feeling and developing from there. It's very hard to quantify and teach though - you're just sort of helping people find their way by giving vague directions and trying to mark the good moments and asking them to analyse/describe how that felt.
So while you can learn and improve you also do this for fun and there's nothing wrong with learning and improving while you're being "good enough" to enjoy what you're doing.
If any of that makes any sense at all
 

DirectorFury

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My brain isn't wired quite right in lots of little ways, mainly having absolutely no sense of direction. I needed a guide to find the canteen each day in a place I worked for 20 years! Poor spatial awareness too. I keep breaking mugs putting them into cupboards but bashing them on the edges. It's frustrating but perhaps the effort to overcome the limitations is even more frustrating than just shrugging and letting it be what it is.
This plus the riding issues sounds like dyspraxia - welcome to the club!

Sometimes "good enough" is all you need. If you keep putting the next 'step' off until you're perfect at something then you'll either never take the next step, or you'll be too old/broken/poor/wrong horse/etc so won't be able to take the step anyway. You're not riding as a pro and don't need to make a living out of it, so cut yourself some slack! It's meant to be fun.

It's like the old saying - the only thing better than a perfect thesis is a finished thesis.
 

Ambers Echo

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I have always tended to chuck myself in at the deep end and give things a go. But twice now I've booked jumping lessons and not actually jumped because the instructors start pulling apart the riding in the warm up and then we just do that! That happened yesterday for the 2nd time.

I think anyone who teaches me for a while gets to a point where they feel I should be better than I am by now and starts saying things like 'you need to ride correctly now' or 'it's not far from coming together so let's just work on a few tweaks and it will help in the long run' etc. I think that's added to my frustration.

It's not a safety issue - I am not wobbly over fences. I just think they get fed up and think 'right time to sort this'. But I'm not sortable! :p

I definitely think I'm dyspraxic. (I can't plait either :rolleyes:) but it wasnt recognised when I was growing up

I'm also very conscious I am riding someone else's fairly well schooled horse and feeling anxious about that.
 

paddi22

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I had the exact same issue. I have no power on one side of my body after an accident so I really struggle with pressing one seat bone down. I spent a year trying to do it and I was having the same stirrup/collapsing one side issue.

The key is to take your stirrups away. then think of pressing an imaginary button on the saddle with your left seat bone. but think think of raising your left shoulder and raising your right seat bone.
 

paddi22

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don't go too hard on yourself. all this stuff is just muscle memory, and when you change something like weight distribution then your brain has to relearn how your balance is working. so it feels terrible and awkward and clumsy.

people judge themselves so harshly over their riding and mistakes they makes, or things they struggle with. but it's exactly like learning to drive.. remember trying to learn the clutch and how awkward it was. you try something new, your brain tries to understand it, your muscles try to establish the motion. then it feels totally horrible and awkward until it becomes something unconscious and natural to you.

it's a great sign that you feel awkward and your whole floor of understanding is changed. that means you will make a breakthrough shortly. it will be messy, you'll fail at it for a bit, it will feel clumsy, but then some day you will get on and it will just be established into how you ride and become totally natural
 

Lois Lame

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My brain isn't wired quite right in lots of little ways, mainly having absolutely no sense of direction. I needed a guide to find the canteen each day in a place I worked for 20 years! Poor spatial awareness too. I keep breaking mugs putting them into cupboards but bashing them on the edges. It's frustrating but perhaps the effort to overcome the limitations is even more frustrating than just shrugging and letting it be what it is.
My partner is a bit like that. I turn a blind eye when he's washing up, but let's face it, our crockery is nothing to write home about. (Especially now.) He's got a good brain which he uses, which is more than I can say for me.

What I'm wondering is if you can ask your instructor what it is you do that she's trying to get you not to do. Then maybe you'll understand what she wants of you. Just a thought.

And don't worry about not having a great natural balance. I have good balance and quick reflexes but my consistancy is inconsistant and my bravery is non existent.
 

scats

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I think you were on the right lines with weighting your right seat bone, but sounds like you might have collapsed/leaned a bit too much. As you weight it, try and imagine your left side is being stretched up slightly.
 

McGrools

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Paralysis by over analysis is a thing!

[/QUOTE

Lovve this!
For me i am happy if i can school to the point of performing a decent prelim/ novice dressage test and have very little interest in the tiny attention to detail of schooling much beyond that level. My horses and i are happiest cantering around the countryside, farm rides, fun rides, fitness work, hacking, xc schooling, i guess i’m saying there are loads of fun things to do, so dont get too bogged down in the dressage arena over analysing the minute detail.
My dr instructor absolutely thrives off the teeny tiny detail. I dont. We are all different. Ride to your strengths 😊
 

JGC

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I'll offer my penny's worth here for what it's worth!

Firstly, I would encourage you to think about getting a diagnosis for dysphraxia. I was diagnosed mid 30s with ADHD and ASD and I was very much on the fence about pursuing it, as what would it change, but it has been amazing for me in accepting that is how I am and me being the way I am is not my fault and it's not about me trying harder so I can "get it" or "be like everyone else". The recognition has honestly been life-changing.

Secondly, if you haven't read Sally Swift's Centred Riding and Mary Wanless's Ride with Your Mind, they both might give you some helpful imagery.

Thirdly, for your actual question (!), sit straight but try looking over your opposite shoulder. So to connect your left hip bone, look over your right shoulder. Imagine it like a plug - the right and the top prongs (right seatbone and, ahem, front bit) are in the holes but the plug is still squiffy as you need to push the left prong in properly.
 
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