There has been a time that we were being bombarded with blogs, videos, workshops, and training programs about straightening your horse.
Of course, straightening your horse is an important theme in the training of your horse. But how about your own straightness?
A condition to be able to train your horse in the right way is that you…
have an independent seat
and you don’t block the movement of your horse.
If you don’t have an independent seat and you interfere your horse’s movement, you can be the cause of your horse’s crookedness. And what is then the purpose of straightening your horse when you’re causing the problem?
Rider posture specialist Roos Dyson and equine movement therapist Maartje Auceps have written two interesting articles about how the different positions of our pelvis can influence our horse. The theme of both articles is: “how you sit is how you influence your horse.”
The articles are in Dutch, so I will briefly give a summary of 5 pelvis positions below.
How useful is it to focus on your horse’s straightness when you’re the cause of the problem?
1. Rotation of the pelvis
Most riders have a preference to rotate the pelvis towards one side. One hip/seat bone is then positioned more forward than the other one. You’re basically then giving your horse the signal to make a turn.
Roos Dyson: “Problems will most likely occur in turns, circles and when doing lateral work. On one hand your horse will bend more easily, but will also fall out through the shoulder.”
“On the other hand, getting the right bend will be more difficult for your horse since you’re blocking him with your rotated pelvis. Your horse will want to lean on the inside shoulder and will most likely want to bend to the other side. Riders often get the feeling that their horse is hard in the mouth on one side.”
2. Lateral tilt of the pelvis
In this position a rider will have an uneven distribution of the pressure of the seat bones. This uneven weight distribution is both uncomfortable and confusing for a horse.
Maarthe Auceps: “When you sit like this, you will push more into one side of your horse’s back. This can obviously be painful for your horse. Due to cramping the blood circulation will decrease and the freedom of movement in the back will become less.”
3. Parallel movement to the right or left: ‘sitting next to the center’
Some rider’s center of gravity isn’t exactly above the center of gravity of their horse, but are sitting to the left or the right of the center.
Because of an uneven weight distribution of the seat bones you will push more onto one side of your horse’s back. Due to cramping the blood circulation will decrease and the freedom of movement in the back will become less.
This posture can be developed because of an incorrect sense of what’s straight or, and this is more likely, because the horse has a preference to bend more towards one side.
A horse always has a hollow and a stiff side, just like we are right-handed or left-handed. A horse that is hollow to the right will always push the rider to the left side of his back and vice versa.
The consequences of this posture can be problems like swinging out of the haunches, problems with bending or not picking up the right canter lead.
4. Forward pelvic tilt: hollow back
When your back is hollow, the muscles in the back are short and tight.
This prevents absorbing the movement and the use of the deeper muscles that are responsible for a good core stability.
Roos Dyson: “A rider with a hollow back sits on the front of his seat bones. When you’re sitting on a ball and you tilt your pelvis forwards, the ball will go backwards. This pelvic position will have a slowing down effect on your horse.”
“Besides, you will push the back of your horse downwards, creating a hollow back, while we want to accomplish the opposite.”
5. Backward pelvic tilt: rounded shoulders
When your back and shoulders are rounded, the superficial abdominal muscles are short and the back muscles are long.
Absorbing the movement is more or less possible, but the deep muscles that are responsible for following the forward movement are blocked. This also leads to a negative chain reaction in which a good use of the top line is being prevented.
Roos Dyson: “A rider with rounded shoulders will sit on the backside of his seat bones. When you’re sitting on a ball and you tilt your pelvis backwards, the ball will move forwards. You’re basically constantly pushing your horse forwards. One of the results is that your horse will lean more onto the forehand and in your hand.”
“However, this posture can also slow down your horse. Your siting behind the center of your horse, which implies that your horse has to ‘drag’ you with him.”