Thursday, March 14, 2013

May I put my hand on your bum?

Probably the single strangest moment I have ever had in a lesson was this week when the instructor asked me this question.  "do you care if I put my hand on your butt?"  It was not those exact words but it was the question.  But it proceeded to an aha! moment.  I love basics.  I love breaking things down to their smallest most simple form.  I think it is the best, most effective and most impacting form of learning.  You could get caught up in the, "but we are past learning how to post" or "this is just too simple".  And yes that can be hard not to do.  But in the long run it will lay a foundation that is solid and based upon good basic principles.  I have been wanting to focus more attention on dressage.  I have felt I have just begun to scratch the surface of it and don't desire that my education on the discipline to be superficial.  I really want to understand it from the most basic level then build on.  It can be hard because I have ridden for so many years and changing learned habits that are necessary in jumping (my most learned discipline) and have been ingrained for decades.  Then to change or alter them for this new education can feel like I am going backwards. But I understand it is just the process and I need to embrace it and then keep reminding myself.  So I found an instructor that is local and lined up for a series of lessons.  One of my favorite things about the lesson and now I think every instructor should own some are head sets.  I don't know the cost on them but I imagine you can find them for a decent price.  They are essentially glorified walkey talkies.  But taking a lesson that I, not even one time had to strain to hear the teacher or say "what?" was glorious and unheard of.  Either I am concentrating too hard on what is being asked and couldn't quite hear what they say or it is too windy or I am too far away that I can't hear clearly.  But when the trainer is right in your ear, you hear every word loud and clear.  Then the same goes with me I can ask a question at a normal level of talking and not have to turn my head or stop to ensure they are hearing me.  And surprisingly they were not at all intrusive or obstructive.  It really is amazing!

Essentially my whole lesson was getting my position correct and setting the rhythm for my horse.  I have a habit of just going with the horses rhythm and though I know that is completely incorrect I still fail in that area.  It doesn't help with a rushy horse.  She uses many terms like "bear down" and hold the bean bag between your legs"  or "keep the medicine ball in the center".  She is all about visual and mental concepts to help with correcting my aids.  I was really struggling to really feel like I was sitting correctly.  This is where the butt touching came into play.  She literally placed her hand under my butt between my seat bone and the saddle and asked me to sit how I would normally.  Then to arch my back then to find where by seat bones where pointing straight down(where she wanted them pointing.  What I found is that I 'point' my seat bones forward in my 'normal' seat.  Not correct and just having her hand there made me realize it.  I could really feel the bones moving each direction.  I had now idea nor would I have been able to tell you before which way they were facing.  I mean I would have thought I did but I was wrong.  It was really quite cool.  She also said that I sit much heavier in my right seat bone.  So interesting!  Those few minutes right there were worth the whole lesson cost.

One thing that is so opposite than anything I have ever done was she told me to not put my heals down so far.  To think of keep me feet level.  ???  That was a completely new concept and will definitely take some getting used to.  Then I wonder if that will confuse my poor little brain and uncoordinated self when I jump?  Her purpose was to not let me weight so much in my feet and to ride and hold my position with my legs.  Keeping more weight in my thighs and more of a wrapping leg.  These little things are slightly mind boggling to me.  You know how I can think I have been riding my entire life just fine without such minuscule attention to every single detail of my leg, weight, heals, butt bones, shoulders, forearms, wrists, hands, biceps, triceps.  But then again those are the reasons that dressage fascinates me so much.  When you watch it, when you watch someone really good and the almost unnoticeable movement on their part yet it controls each step, every ounce of energy in an animal 10 times the size it makes me want to know how.  Because I could just stay satisfied with 'this works and thus is good enough' or I can go deeper, work harder and be ever learning to, no never get 'that' good, but to have yet a deeper connection and understanding of these captivating creatures.


  1. The wrappy leg will really help you stay more solid in your jumping -- what happens is that when people push their heel way way down and put a ton of weight in the stirrup is they end up braced, which travels up the leg, hip, and back. You can't be as effective with your aids that way, because you will not be able to achieve the subtle differences you observed when paying attention to all those different muscles.

    It is probably better to not think of trying to keep your feet in a certain position -- it really all comes from the hip, from whence your leg drapes around the horse. Once you are able to mobilize that and get your thigh, knee, and calf working properly, your foot will be naturally correct. If you think about it too much, it will just lead to stiffness.

    1. She actually said that I will feel stiff at first because she is trying to get me to over exagerate each movement so that I can try and correct incorrect movement. And that I will feel stiff and rigid but through the 'process' it will become less and less stiff and we will even it out.

  2. Cool lesson! I wonder if I could get a similar one from Boyd Martin or William Fox-Pitt? They can touch my bum all they want!!! HAHA!!!!

  3. What a great lesson! I had a similar experience a few years ago when I did a two-day clinic with Heather Blitz. It boggled my mind but taught me so much!

  4. Sounds like you found a great instructor!

  5. Hmm I've never had a trainer have me sit on their hand... my trainer tells me to sit on the triangle between the seat bones and pubic bone. I'm glad the lesson was so awesome and that you learned so much. I think I enjoy dressage for all of the reasons you do too. :)

  6. Ive heard that heels down thing AND bum touch thing before...were they Austrian?? LOL


Steady and I love your feedback, so don't be shy!