Friday, October 21, 2011

Fight for your seat

In my last lesson with Phil, my trainer said many times that I needed to make sure I was not leaning forward (as I have a tendency to do). She said I should think of keeping my shoulders over my hips instead of in front of them, and I noticed a big difference in the effectiveness of my seat when I did this. The reason for this, for me personally, is that when I lean forward a little bit I put less weight down on my seat-bones, therefore less weight in my seat. It's harder to use your seat if you don't have your weight settled there.

My rides since my lesson have been a constant battle for me. Phil is just starting to establish a steady contact, which is good, but at times he makes a really firm contact. I know he's just trying to figure out what contact I want, and what is comfortable for him, so he's experimenting with different levels of contact. But that firm contact can sometimes pull me forward, causing me to have less weight in my seat. Sometimes he takes me by surprise and will take a big step and push hard into my hand and pull my butt right out of the saddle.

I was getting a little frustrated that I couldn't stay solidly put in the saddle. On the way home one night I got to thinking about something I had heard years ago - in of all places, karate class.

I took karate for a period of time in grad school (my ex is a black belt...) and I remember once we went to his home dojo to train. We took a class from his sensei (who was really badass in my opinion). He had us doing some stretching and balancing exercises, and I remember the class trying to stand on one foot for something. People would lose their balance and just put the other foot down. So the sensei said something like this - "Don't just give up! Fight for your balance! I don't care what it looks like... wave your arms around, do whatever you can, just fight for it. Eventually it will get easier to recover once you lose your balance."

I thought about what he said, and so I tried to apply it to my riding. It was HARD! It's so much easier to ride incorrectly, leaning forward, not using my core, and letting my seat come up. But this wasn't as good for Phil. He really needs the support of my seat, so I started to fight for my seat. I really sat back, and forced myself to keep my weight down in the saddle. I didn't care how many times I lost my balance, or if I got pitched forward, I just kept fighting for it, and trying to do it right.

The difference was obvious. With a strong seat at the trot, when Phil would make the strong contact into my hand I was able to push him more forward and into a bigger trot, which allowed him to drive more from behind and, after a few strides, lighten the contact on his own. At the canter it made the difference between Phil having a quick, short, choppy canter and having a slow, rolling canter that was free and rhythmic. He is less likely to take the strong contact at the canter for some reason, but he does tend to get quick, especially going to the right. Fighting for my seat is helping me balance him at the canter because I'm able to slow him down with my seat instead of my hands, which is always better.

So, every time I ride I'm now fighting for my seat. And every time I drive home, I can tell I'm doing it right because my abs are sore!


Kate said...

That's a fantastic way of thinking of it... fight for your seat. As a recovering hunter rider, the whole "sit back" thing sort of dies when I post... Next time I ride you bet I'll be fighting hard for that seat ;)

p.s. When do we get more pictures/ videos?

TheHorseTalker said...

I have been trying to improve my seat by riding without stirrups and the next day I can really feel it in my muscles! Shows you are working hard though!

Kerri said...

I found this very inspirational and was able to apply this in my lesson today. I like having simple little mantras like that - so much easier than over-thinking every little muscle.

Urbancowgrrl said...

I struggle with that too. The irony is, I feel discombobulated and less confident when I'm sitting correctly because I'm not used to it. My trainer has me try to remember to tip my pelvis ever so slightly up and then I try to imagine not letting any soup spill out of it - not a big tip, just enough to engage my core. She also has me try take deep breaths into my butt and imagine it being pulled to the ground - which then ends up with me sitting more straight. I've been trying to sit like that when not riding too and to walk like that- I'm sure in my exaggerated attempts as I get used to better posture I look pretty weird doing that in public :)

Val said...

I think that I know exactly what you mean. Thanks for the story and tip!

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