DEB­BIE RO­DRIGUEZ

Dressage Today - - Ask The Experts -

You are not alone. Get­ting the cor­rect bal­ance and me­chan­ics for a good post­ing trot can take some time and ef­fort. The longer you have been post­ing bump­ing into your horse’s back, the more you will need to con­sciously re­train your mind and body to rec­og­nize the cor­rect bal­ance.

The first place to start will be to look at your sad­dle fit and bal­ance. When the sad­dle is on your horse’s back, the low­est place of the seat should be cen­tered. Of­ten the sad­dle has the low­est part of the seat in the back half of the sad­dle. When the sad­dle is out of bal­ance like that, it is hard for any rider to post eas­ily. Have your in­struc­tor stand next to you in your sad­dle at a halt. With you sit­ting in the cen­ter of the

sad­dle, your body should be in ver­ti­cal align­ment with your shoul­ders over your hips and your hips over your heels. If your feet are in front of the ver­ti­cal line, it is quite dif­fi­cult to con­trol your bal­ance while post­ing. If it looks like your sad­dle may be a lit­tle low in back, try putting a folded towel un­der the can­tle to raise the back. Then try post­ing. If this makes post­ing eas­ier, you might need to have your sad­dle ad­justed or re­flocked.

Once your sad­dle is in cor­rect bal­ance, there are sev­eral mounted ex­er­cises to help you gain con­trol of your post­ing.

1. Go into a half-seat po­si­tion while at the walk. To do this, put more weight into your stir­rups and heels, keep­ing your knees soft, and take your seat slightly out of the sad­dle.

Walk, hold­ing this po­si­tion, us­ing mane or a neck strap to help you bal­ance. Con­cen­trate on keep­ing your bal­ance as the horse moves. Your body stretches down (from be­low the waist) and up (from above the waist) at the same time, much like the bal­ance a ten­nis player has when serv­ing a ball. You should work up to be­ing able to hold this po­si­tion around the arena.

2. Prac­tice post­ing at the walk. This will help you en­gage your core to help lift and sta­bi­lize your up­per body be­cause at the walk there is no push up from the horse’s im­pul­sion. Take this ex­er­cise to the next level by post­ing at the walk with your hands on your hips.

3. Get your in­struc­tor or a friend to longe you on a re­li­able horse. At the trot, prac­tice post­ing with your hands on your hips, then with your hands on your shoul­ders and then with your hands on your head. Al­ter­nate th­ese arm po­si­tions while you stay in post­ing trot.

Re­peat th­ese sim­ple ex­er­cises daily un­til you have con­firmed the cor­rect bal­ance and in­de­pen­dent seat for post­ing.

In ad­di­tion to th­ese ex­er­cises, it is help­ful to have some men­tal images to help you find this bal­ance and have an en­gaged core dur­ing your ride. Here are some men­tal images to help you find your self-car­riage:

1. Stay out of the hole. Imag­ine that the cen­ter of the sad­dle is a hole rather than a plat­form and you want to touch down but not al­low your­self to fall in.

2. Post qui­etly. If you hear your seat hit­ting the sad­dle at each down beat, you are fall­ing down. En­gage your core and bal­ance your­self to touch down qui­etly.

3. Imag­ine a string at­tached to the top of your hel­met, lift­ing you up.

4. Find a phrase or im­age that helps you stay en­gaged and bal­anced and say it to your­self of­ten.

Off the horse, strength­en­ing your core will help with your phys­i­cal abil­ity to carry your­self while you ride. You have many choices, such as Pi­lates and yoga, to en­hance core fit­ness. How­ever, even a few sim­ple ex­er­cises at home or in the barn, when done reg­u­larly and cor­rectly, will make a sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment.

The plank ex­er­cise is an easy way to de­velop your core strength and sta­bil­ity. Start out on the floor on your fore­arms and feet. Have your body and hips in align­ment be­tween your shoul­ders and heels. Chal­lenge your­self to hold this po­si­tion for a minute at first and work up to sev­eral min­utes. If the full plank is dif­fi­cult at first, mod­ify the ex­er­cise by go­ing to your knees, keep­ing your shoul­ders, hips and knees in align­ment. Maybe you can have a barn chal­lenge, adding a minute a week to the time that ev­ery­one can hold the plank. Look at YouTube, where you can find many vari­a­tions of plank ex­er­cises, which can keep this ex­er­cise fresh and chal­leng­ing.

Once you have the cor­rect bal­ance with your sad­dle, the cor­rect me­chan­ics of the post, a good men­tal im­age and a strong, sta­ble core, you will be ac­ing the post­ing trot.

“The plank ex­er­cise is an easy way to de­velop your core strength and sta­bil­ity. Maybe you can have a barn chal­lenge, adding a minute a week to the time that ev­ery­one can hold the plank,” says Deb­bie Ro­driguez.

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