Anything that helps strengthen your core will help a ton, so that you can have a more independent upper body and can stay balanced even if your back rounds a bit…I have some exercises I like in particular in the FAQ. When you ride, think about breathing in from your belly button to your spine and imagine an invisible rope pulling you up from your head through your core, these are both nice visuals that automatically make you sit a little taller. Roll your shoulders a few times when you get on to loosen up, and then think about drawing your shoulder blades together so your chest opens up. Also, it’s easy to want to focus solely on your upper body, but your leg is super important for balance as well (especially if your upper body will, for the time being, be a bit weaker). Really elongate your leg by stretching through your calf and letting the weight sink your heels down. Be flexible with your ankle and try to absorb most of the impact of riding with your seat and heel. Good luck! :)
I know, it feels a little strange to use your voice when working with a horse on the lunge! That said, you just have to keep reminding yourself that everyone is doing the exact same thing and probably feeling the exact same way. It might seem silly on the surface, but honestly it’s such a normal part of being an equestrian that I promise no one is going to bat an eye…you’re your own worst enemy, you just have to give yourself a break. Confidence will also primarily come with practice, so it’s normal to be nervous. To prepare for your assessment, try watching some videos on proper lunging technique so you can learn visually— if you can, even try watching a barn manager or another rider lunge, and don’t be afraid to ask questions…everyone’s been in your position before, and you have the best excuse for asking questions: you want to be prepared for the assessment! Don’t stress, remember that you’re in control and you know all the basics. And however well you do on the assessment will help clarify what you need to work on, which is a good thing— it’s as much for your knowledge/comfort as it is your trainer’s. Good luck! :)
I’m feeling a little sick, so apologies for the brief sentences— if you need more of an explanation just ask. She’s probably very dominant to one side, so this way is harder for her and she doesn’t want to work as hard haha. Make sure you stay by her hip at all times. Work under the model of “ask, tell, insist”, so always reinforce whatever you’re asking her to do so that she doesn’t get used to getting away with it. It takes time and consistency, but don’t give up on what you want. What’s best is if you encourage the horse to stay forward before she tries to stop, so when you change direction and see her start to suck back, flick the whip a little bit in the air and cluck as you move her forward. Is it just a matter of her not moving, or does she try to turn into face you/put up a fight? And of course, check for soreness/pain as a factor as well.
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Try to pinpoint where the tension in your upper body is coming from— neck, shoulders, back, etc. Then you can tailor some exercises to your “problem areas” (if you know, feel free to message me again). But overall, in order to have a relaxed upper body you need to have a flexible ankle and be weighted in your seat bones. Don’t clamp with your thighs, and don’t jam any part of your body into place. You want to feel like a jellyfish, soft and spongey, and rely on your lower leg to balance you. Of course, this doesn’t mean sit like a sack of potatoes— still keep your core engaged for this reason, any exercises out of the saddle that target your core will be helpful), and think “tall and open”. Open up your chest by rolling your shoulders back, and your posture will be fine. Sometimes it’s easier to get the “feel” first, i.e. work on being soft and relaxed, and then once you have that you can tweak your posture. Remember to keep your hips open so you’re moving with the horse’s bounce, this will stop your upper body from being too stiff (exaggerate the motion at first if you have to, play around with bouncing on your outside or inside seat bone, etc). Try doing some stretches before you get on to loosen up your neck and shoulders, and when you ride if you find you carry tension in those areas try doing some one-armed riding exercises. Good luck! :)
Followers, any advice for this anon? :)
woooow my inbox blew up haha, I have a ton of questions to get to! Unfortunately I’m kind of crunched for time this week (PSAT prep/HQC prep/riding/regular school/life haha) so I’ll get to as many as I can but it might take a tiny bit longer than usual :( sorry, thanks for being patient!
What’s your budget like? Assuming you want to stick to economical prices, check out Pessoa, Collegiate, Bates, Ovation, Thornhill, Crosby, and M. Toulouse. I’d also really recommend you check out used/consignment saddles, you can find great saddles for lower prices.
Try working on strengthening your core and back muscles, so that your balance improves along with it and you can have control over your body placement. I have some exercises that I like that you can message me for, or you can just google some. Yoga is great as well, as it focuses on your core and balance. And going to a chiropractor might be helpful as well, just to realign you to help with any crookedness.
When you ride, try only dropping one stirrup. Drop each stirrup separately in both directions, just to keep things even. Though since you know you’re right-side dominated, you might find it especially helpful to drop your right stirrup, so that you’re not so heavy on that side and can work on evening out your balance. Also, focus on keeping your shoulders even and open, rather than curling up or slanting to one side. Rather than thinking about leaning into one stirrup or the other, think about shifting your weight to your left seat bone— this will help straighten you out in a more effective manner. Good luck! :)