I've picked up some more freelance teaching hours at a truly delightful little yard, locally to me. How lucky am I to have found not one, but two, lovely yards to freelance at! The 'new' yard has invested in a riding simulator, and I went along to a staff practice session the other day. I absolutely adore simulators, and have become very accustomed to them (the yard where I learned to ride had one; Hartpury university has 2 - a standard one, and a very rare Eventing one; and now this new yard has one as well!). I had a play with some Franklin balls to fix a few things. I was throwing my hip out to the left, and collapsing over my right hip which you can see a little in the video (more side planks needed, unfortunately - I hate doing them!).
The weight sensor shows-up on the screen as a dot that moves around side to side and forwards & backwards with your weight, I was able to keep the dot centred and very steady and still, so was obviously much more balanced than I felt, which was nice!
Fixing your light-seat or jump position is easy 9/10. So here are my go-to's and quick fixes that help most jump position/light-seat problems.
1. Shorten your stirrups, and then shorten them again. SHORTER!! When I jump, I shorten my stirrups so that my knee is bent to a 90 degree angle. My thigh is at a right angle to my lower leg.
2. Heels down. Press forward and down with your heels to stop your leg sliding back over fences. If your leg slides back, you'll be less secure and might struggle to keep your hands independent. So heels DOWN.
3. Push your seat back towards the cantle - usually this happens quite naturally, the horse's movement normally does it for you. If your seat normally ends up over the pommel when you're in mid-air, you need to push your seat back.
4. Get out of your own way. If you keep your hands at the base of the horse's neck, they will end up in your way and you won't be able to fold properly. Think about pushing your hand towards the horse's ears a little bit, so they don't get stuck in your stomach.
5. LOOK UP, with soft eyes. Breathe, and allow your vision to include what's happening to either side of you. If you can only see a 1m square section of the wall in-front of you, you're too focussed, and tense.
Why do we school horses? To make them more enjoyable to ride? For competition success? To reduce injuries? Yes, all true. But if you believe that your horse doesn't use what they learn at other times, you are wrong!
What you teach them, stays with them.
I schooled a horse not long ago. One of his main 'problems', if you can call it that, was that he was particularly heavy on his outside shoulder. He fell out, he was on-the-forehand etc. Shoulder-in was designed for horses in exactly this stage of his training, so that was the focus of our session. As he had only done it a few times, if at all, I introduced it from the beginning. He was very wobbly at first, as it to be expected. By the end he was finding it much easier, and really understood what I needed from him. To cool off, I gave him a trot around on a really long rein and just left him to do his thing. He lost balance and dropped onto his shoulder about 2/3 of the way up the long side and put himself into shoulder in for a few steps until the balance was better, and then straightened up again. I didn'd do anything, it was all him. I highly doubt this horse had been having visions of competing at the next Olympics. Horses, like water, take the path of least resistance. They usually do whatever they find the easiest, and the thing that is in their best interests. He is using what he has learned because being more balanced, by being less downhill and less on the shoulder, is easier and more comfortable for him. They are also creatures of habbit, so will keep repeating the same things over and over - now he's used it once by himself, and been rewarded by a more comfortable feeling, he will keep doing so. So he will continue to use this in future schooling sessions, out hacking, and when hooning around the field. He will be balancing himself, strengthening his own hindend, learning about taking more weight on his hind quarters, and suppling his own body even when there's nobody around.
It's often mentioned that you only ride for one hour a day, so how they spend the other 23 hours counts. Usually this is brought up in discussions of haynets vs feeding from the floor, or turnout vs stabling. It is, however, very much true, By schooling, you are giving your horse the skills to make those 23 hours count. Now, I'm not suggesting that you will see your horse practicing his leg yields from one side of the field to other, It won't be that obvious! But what you might see, is a few small steps across if they take a corner too tightly when having a canter round. You might see them use their hindlegs to stop themselves, rather than just dumping onto their shoulders. Everything in a dressage test is based on natural movements that horses can and will perform on their own. In schooling sessions, you are helping them to understand it a bit better, and get better at it with some guidance from their rider.
I am a dressage trainer and general equestrian coach in Surrey, Sussex, and Berkshire. I teach dressage lessons, and hold a range of riding and equestrian clinics around the UK, and use my blog to share horse training tips, advice, and resources.