|Let’s focus on legs!|
Off we went at a posting trot. We hadn’t gone far when the dreaded words came from the announcer, “drop your irons” (that’s the stirrups on an English saddle). Ugh! Posting trot with no irons. Yes, I had done it before and practiced it but I was not good at it. My competitive spirit drove me on. I gripped the saddle with my legs with all I had in me and attempted to rise as high as my pathetic legs would take me, This particular exercise usually didn’t last long in a class like this so when I finished one lap around the large rodeo style arena I was sure we were nearly done.
The announcer came over the loud speaker, “Extend the trot”. Oh please no! Keeping JR at an acceptable English trot was proving difficult already and now I had to extend? I glanced across the arena and noticed a girl on a little white Arabian. She and her horse were usually one of my close competitors. She was gracefully rising and falling in the saddle as if she had never left her stirrups and her little mare stretched out and extended beautifully at her rider’s cue. Oh help me! My effort to extend my devoted western horse’s trot felt, to me, pathetic. After a second time around the arena the announcer called for us to return to a regular trot, but still we continued iron-less. My legs were burning; screaming at me.
Shall I remind you that I am not athletic? I counted our third lap around the arena. Its funny how just when your pride has swelled in you so that your hat is getting a little tight on your expanding head, something comes along to remind your pride that your hat size doesn’t need to grow. Four times around the arena. I didn’t recall having signed up for a stirrup-less endurance class. At four and a half times around that huge arena the announcer finally said the words I was desperate to hear; “walk your horses”. Sweet walk. Wonderful walk. Glorious walk! We lined up again in the middle of the arena.
|Image 1- Too relaxed. No leg and seat contact.|
6. Don’t scrunch your legs up as this will cause you to pinch your horse’s sides causing you to miscommunication to your horse that you want more forward motion. Scrunching your legs up may also cause your heals to come up and your upper body to be thrown forward out of balance (images 3 and 4).
|Image -3 Too much bend in the knee.
Heal is coming up and pinching horse’s side.
|Image 4- Way too much bend in the knee.
Heals are up and pinching. This is survival mode.
7. The purpose of this exercise is to develop balance. Stretch your legs down and around your horse’s barrel and balance with your seat not your hands or knees (image 5). Engage those core muscles.
|Image 5- Stretch your legs down and
around your horse’s barrel.
8. Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. Ride correctly. Don’t ride in survival mode and expect your seat and balance to improve.
If this winter arena exercise sounds just a little too scary and you would like to keep those stirrups thank you very much, start slow at a walk or jog. If this sounds super easy and somewhat pointless, I am guessing you were somewhere closer to the front of that athleticism line than I was. For those of you like me, just think of the great leg muscles we will be building!
The oh so fluffy horse that is featured in the pictures above is Little Horse, my POA mare. I don’t really have long legs, just a small horse.