I was perusing the internet last week and read the following post:
thought – what was the moment in your riding career that you had a real light-bulb epiphany on something you had been doing wrong for years and never known? For me it was over twenty years ago when an instructor finally ground into my head that I’d been riding downward transitions wrong since I was 5 years old. I remember his exasperated words to this day. “Pelvis forward to hand, not hand back to pelvis!” I looked at him as if he was bonkers. Then tried it. It worked. Then experimented with it in half halts. It worked there too. Such a simple image, and a complete game changer. What was your moment?
I liked the phraseology used by the instructor, as it created a clear image so I stored it at the back of my mind to trial on some clients.
Firstly, I told one of my advanced clients about the theory and asked her to ride some transitions from walk to halt so that I could see if a) the explanation worked, and b) the effect it had on the horse. This rider is very aware of her seat and rides reasonable downwards transitions so I was more interested in her feedback than anything else.
It was really interesting. I`m often telling clients to think about positive hands, and lightening their seat in their transitions to allow the horse to lift through their back, but sometimes it seems to go over their heads, or they get the wrong end of the stick. My client experimented with some transitions, and she described the pelvic movement as more of a tilt as opposed to pushing it forwards. My analogy for this was to imagine you are on a swing in the playground and at the top of the, well, swing. As you are about to swing down towards earth you tilt your seat back slightly. This rider agreed with this analogy and progressed into trot to walk transitions. In terms of the horse, there was no tension in the neck, and the transition was uphill. The halt transition was akin to the horse standing with his front feet on a step, ready to move forwards instantly. I also noticed that the transitions were more instantaneous, and after riding a few my client didn`t need to use the reins at all.
I was pleased that the explanation seemed so successful, and ended up using it whilst teaching on the weekend. I had a client riding a lazy horse, so got her to think about tilting her pelvis in the downward transitions so that she stopped “with the engine revving at the traffic lights” and subsequently the upwards transition was easier to ride.
Over the last couple of days I`ve ridden a variety of horses and experimented with this technique myself. First of all I felt that it was much worse … and then I realised I already tilted my pelvis in the downwards transitions already, so I wasn`t helping the horse at all. I only realised whilst riding Llani, who requires seat aids more than rein or leg aids and responds well to the tilt of the pelvis that I noticed I was doing it automatically.
This is definitely a phrase that I need to remember and use with clients who aren`t aware of their seat, or who rely on their hands too much when riding a downwards transition. Hopefully it helps anybody reading this too!