Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony. ~ Thomas Merton

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Rider Biomechanics - Cool Stuff!

Over the past several months, I've come to realize that the next step in my horsemanship journey needs to be about me. I have also come to realize that Parelli does not hold the answers. I love what I've learned and I will continue to study and apply the program. But I need to find more correct resources for my riding.

One avenue is Centered Riding. I'll be taking my first lesson next Thursday and I'm really excited. I'll be sure to fill you in on the details.

Another is rider biomechanics. For over two years I've been taking training in Pilates. Through this experience I have a heightened awareness of my body, connecting to the correct muscles and becoming more conscious of how I move. While this has translated over to my riding, it's stalled just a little.

My friend Kathy has introduced me to the work of Colleen Kelly and the idea of rider biomechanics. Last Friday I had the opportunity to meet Colleen and hear her speak. I totally loved it!

Yesterday, after Cricket's follow-up with her equine chiropractor, Kathy came out and worked with me. It's one of the first times I've actually worked just on myself without having to worry about Cricket. It was enlightening and fun.

Rider biomechanics focuses on the correct alignment and use of the body to influence the horse. In correcting our balance, engagement and weight, we can move the horse without relying on leg, stick and rein.

The lesson was done saddled, with a bit and contact rein. At the halt, Kathy helped me find the right position for my thigh that would keep me engaged and stable in the saddle. What I found, after she corrected my leg, was how easy it was to maintain quiet stability in my lower leg and how easily my weight transferred to my stirrup. All this was achieved without tightening anything or jamming anything. It was weird but entirely too cool!

We started at the walk, doing some sitting and standing work for balance and stability. Kathy started introducing the idea of a weight aid. It's not a shift and it's not pressure - it's just sinking weight into one stirrup or the other to influence the bend of the horse.

Next we moved to rising trot. Wow! With my thighs engaged, my lower leg stayed square underneath me and posting was effortless. Of course it was a little harder to coordinate the weight aids but we just worked on it, playing with the cues to help Cricket find the response I was after.

The final thing Kathy introduced was bringing Cricket on the bit. It's hard to explain but it involved bringing my inside rein to the top of my half chap as we rounded the corner. Emphasizing the bend through the corner caused Cricket to step deep and forward with her inside hind, bringing her pelvis down and over her hock and lifting her shoulder. When I finally got it right, Cricket maintained the engagement about 2/3 of the way down the long side wall. I really felt the difference in her push from behind.

All in all it was a very cool exploration of how my body affects my balance and my horse's way of going. I loved the ease at which Cricket moved and turned with nothing but a subtle emphasis of weight in one stirrup or the other. I loved how easy it was to move with her rhythm, posting with little or no effort. I loved the feeling of her coming on the bit and powering more from the hindquarters.

Almost more than anything, I was so pleased with Cricket. I rode her on contact almost the entire lesson, doing little more than rail work. She handled it with such a soft steady attitude. I haven't used that much contact in ages and she was soft and relaxed to the feeling.

I'm doing another lesson with Kathy before I head off to my spring camp. I love this new adventure and cannot wait to see where it takes us!


Tina said...

Is the offer still open to move to TN? I SO need the same help!

Lisa said...

Absolutely! Come on down anytime!

I am so fortunate in my resources here. Kathy - who gave me the lesson - is also a L3 student so she gets the PNH as well. My Pilates trainer is a L3 graduate. My best friends - all of us exploring better riding dynamics - are all L3 students. The Centered Riding instructor who is coming on the 15th is PNH-friendly.