Many Texas horse people are feeling frustrated now due to all the rain we’ve been having. To help, here are some fun exercises to make progress with your riding and horsemanship goals. Even if you can’t visit your horse.
“Release is the solution for holding patterns, resulting in easy primary control. It is easier to lengthen your legs down horse’s sides by releasing muscles around your hips, knees or ankles so that your weight drops into the stirrups than it is to shove on the stirrups or to reach for them with your toes.”The Seamless Seat (by Kathleen Schmitt)
Here’s a cool exercise to experiment with (also from The Seamless Seat by Kathleen Schmitt):
“Lift out of the saddle, up on your toes ballerina-style. Notice which muscles in your lower leg push you up and hold you up. Don’t aim to sit in the saddle yet, but slowly, gently, taking all the time in the world, let you lower leg muscles relax, especially around your ankle and in your calves. Let your body weigh slide down the horse’s sides. Let your knees slide down the saddle too. The stirrups are there to catch your weight, just like the ground catches your weight when you are standing. Hang there in the stirrups awhile. Some arrangement will let your weight drop into the stirrups the most. Don’t push, just hang. After you let your weight hang into your heels, this, that and the other muscle will release, and you will slip closer to the saddle thread by thread, if you give it time.”
If you aren’t able to do this on your horse (due to quarantine), you can practice an improvised version at home. Make it silly and fun! See if you do a version while straddling a couch or a big chair or a porch railing. If you can sit on a saddle (on rack or something sturdy that can hold your weight), try that too. You can also stand on a stair with your heels hanging over the edge — and slowly see if you can release muscles and drop your weight into your heels without pushing them down. Be sure to have a wall or something to hold on to (in case you lose your balance).
Wendy Murdoch is known for her creative “hacks” for improving your body awareness and position. In this short video clip, she explains the interaction of the hip joint — and points out where riders often misunderstand where the hip actually is.
After you’ve watched the video a few times, sit in the saddle and see if you can identify where your hip joint is located. Find the ball and socket – and experiment with the rotation of your femur. Do it on both sides and see if one hip is tighter than the other. If you can’t sit in the saddle due to quarantine, try mimicking sitting in the saddle using a fence or a big couch or even a bench (just something you can sit astride on).
Still looking for more ideas? Check out Horse Wise podcast episode #32. It will cheer you up and give you a different perspective.