Thursday, 28 April 2011

As promised in my last post, here is the antidote to too much slingshot. If you need to, look back at that post so you understand which good thing I am saying you can have too much of! But if the slingshot idea is too complicated for you, worry not. You will also find this correction very effective for the kind of 'dud leg' that we discuss below.
If someone has over-done the slingshot, she will be too far back in the saddle, with the thigh too horizontally out in front of her, and the knee too up. Most people have a leg that behaves like this, even though they have never heard of the sling shot idea! Either way, the rider needs a correction that enables her to bring herself forward in the saddle, and to kneel more down through that thigh. At the same time she also needs to make more push forward from her back, and to direct that push into the thigh and the kneeling posture.
I recently used the idea I am advocating with a relatively novice rider in the USA, who had one leg that looked just like a rider's leg should, and one that looked weak and 'unstuffed', with her knee too up, her foot too forward, and her pelvis too tucked under on that side. You can't exactly say that she was' over-slingshoted' as she had never learnt to do this (and her posture was an aberration of the sling shot idea). But her asymmetry gave her one leg that stayed easily in the shoulder/hip /heel line, and one that wobbled about in front of her. She could barely influence it at all. Whilst hers was an extreme example, most riders can recognise this scenario.
Historically, our fixes for the 'dud leg' have been hard for people to do and maintain, and they have required the slow, progressive 'drip water on the rock' kind of change that can be pretty tedious and painful (in an emotional 'here we go again....' kind of a way). But this rider changed it profoundly in one session, and could maintain it well. Here's how.
I suggested that she imagined we could make a vertical cut in her thigh beginning from her 'front tendon' (where the big muscle of the front of the thigh inserts into the pelvis) and going vertically downwards. Since we do not want it to bleed to much, we put a metal plate on it, and her task was to push the whole of her torso, pelvis and thigh 'up to the plate'. This is rather as if someone put their lower arm against her back on that side and pushed it forwards, towards her thigh.
She could immediately do this, and it changed the entire look of her thigh and pelvis, giving her more 'kneel', and a shoulder/hip/heel vertical line that she could maintain. It was hard work, and it felt like defying gravity, and the position that her body so wanted to fall back into. But it was possible, and highly effective.
I also suggested that she felt the resulting difference in the positioning of that seat bone, and thought of her balance over it being like that of a ballerina on point. Her pelvis would have so loved to have fallen backwards, away from the plate, as if on to demi-point, so that her seat bone pointed forwards. This was probably in fact the bottom line: on that side of her torso she was round backed, falling back to sit 'on her jean's pocket', which inevitably bought her thigh forwards and up. On the other side she she could sit in neutral, with her seat bone pointing down, and a good 'kneel' down through her thigh.
The rewards for this change were huge. Her original feeling that she could not control the 'dud leg' was not great, but along with this she lost so much ability to control her horse, especially when that leg was on the inside. As she 'pushed up to the plate' and got into a kneeing posture, her centre of gravity was no longer falling backwards, and she was able to match the forces that the horse's movement exerted on her body. This meant that her horse no longer felt as if he was dragging her along on that side, and he became lighter in her hand as his back came up, bringing him into carriage underneath her. It was a win-win for both of them.
As riders, we need to be able to draw our centre of gravity back, and also to be able to bring it forward. Leaning forward and leaning back are not the answers to this. To think of the pelvis moving back away from the thigh (as in lengthening the sling shot) and forward towards the thigh (as in pushing up to the plate) are very different, and very effective tactics. It is highly likely that one side of the body naturally tends towards one option, whilst the other side tends towards the other. But knowing what to do about this gives you a huge advantage!


SeaHorse said...

I am so sorry Mary, but I can't visualize this fix! When I rode with Heather Blitz she told me I had to bend at the knee more to bring my balance back to underneath me. In a sense I had a "water skiing" position. Is that the same fault that your sling-shot corrects?
I hope you respond...

swill said...

The metal plate visualization has worked for me. Thinking about it while doing my off horse exercises has helped too.
The difference in my 17.2 draft cross gelding is incredible.
Thank you