Biomechanics of the Rider

“You’re never too old to learn.”

I can’t tell you how many times my grandmother told me that. But, I found it true once again this past week. You see, in the path to learning classical equitation there are many stages and each of these are places where the basic biomechanics of horse and of rider must reach an equilibrium. My own nemesis has been the very first stage – the shoulders-in exercise. Intellectually I have understood for some time that it is designed to put the horse in position to increase the ability of the inside hind leg to take weight, as a tool to developing “collection.” I even understood that a certain angle of 30° and a slight bend and a slow cadenced walk are the keys to this development. The problem was that every time I tried to sit on my right seat bone and turn my shoulders, my saddle went to the left. It’s downright creepy, sometimes, how our bodies sabotage us! So Manuel gets on my horse to show me what it looks like. He emphasizes that the rider’s outside foot can push against the stirrup, causing the rider’s weight to come to the inside. Then I tried it. It was better. He even said I needed to not be afraid to let my seat slide a little sideways over the saddle to get the right position. Better. Then on Monday, Donna says almost the same thing, but adds that she’d been instructed to put the outside seat bone in the middle of the saddle. Now, armed with these bits of information I’m finally “getting” right shoulder-in. I still don’t feel like my right side bone contacts the saddle like the left. Maybe I’m not symmetrical. But the horses are now actually doing shoulder-in right, right…sometimes. In the world of teaching and learning there is this mystery of how we learn. Often after hearing the same thing many times, someone new comes along and says the same thing a different way and…boom, the knowledge that has been sitting just outside our brain plops into our circuitry!

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