When I first started out riding, I didn't have an instructor. I had my mothers cantankerous pony named Fritz who would send me flying if I did something wrong. I rode around with him as my only instructor for about 7 years until my first horse show. That morning in the warm up ring my mother started yelling: "You're on the wrong diagonal!" What's a diagonal? Fritz doesn't care about them. As it turned out I got 2nd in the class, and horses don't really care about them at all. When it comes to equitation, yes I always try to be on the correct diagonal in a class, but in dressage you can't be marked down for it (Thanks for that tidbit of info Colleen!).
|Showing on Kestrel. Credit: Denlore Photography|
So from there I had multiple instructors with many differing opinions:
- All of your weight should be in your seat, heels level, lower leg moves with the horse.
- Put all your weight in your legs and your heels should be almost perpendicular to the ground, toes out.
- The longer the leg, the more secure you are.
- You should always sit forward, if you lean back you'll fall off that way.
Whenever I questioned these instructors on why I should do what they recommended, I usually got incredulous looks and "because". Nothing more, nothing less. It was difficult sifting through differing opinions of my instructors, and also those of judges. So who am I to believe when it comes to an authority on riding? Something I've believed in the power of all my life: Science.
In this DVD, Colleen Kelly explains the components for a proper position and WHY. She backs it up with scientific information and demonstrations. For instance, I have a problem with "piano hands". This is when your hands are horizontal rather than vertical. Many jumping riders do this, and I also adapted this from always having a crop on me when I was younger, as it is easier to hold it this way. In "Dressage with Kyra", Kyra Kyrklund tells you to imagine you have a glass of water in your hands while riding. This is helpful, but doesn't explain WHY!!! Colleen explains how piano hands actually put weight on your horses forehand because she measured this by putting horse and rider on a scale. My poor horse! She then demonstrates how piano hands make you unstable in the saddle by pulling Linda's hands when they are horizontal vs perpendicular.
I also love how Colleen emphasizes that so many riders are putting their stirrups too long. I noticed after I started riding dressage that I was getting sacroiliac pain because my stirrups were too long. I had always ridden with a short stirrup because this made me feel more secure. I have short legs to begin with, as most of my height is in my torso, and was usually hassled for my stirrup length. They kept telling my to lengthen my stirrups for dressage and so that I was constantly reaching for them. This also caused a position nightmare because when I would sit back my leg would go forward into a chair position, and when I would put my leg back, my body would pitch forward and I had no brakes. Thankfully Colleen has let me off the hook and left me feeling justified!
Those are just a couple examples of things I learned. If you've ever been frustrated by differing opinions from instructors who can't back their own methods up I would highly suggest this DVD. She breaks things down and makes it so easy for riders to understand, when many instructors make it so much more difficult than it has to be. It's simple, straightforward and scientific. I can't wait to order the Advanced Rider Biomechanics DVD.