Finding some balance
August 27, 2011 2 Comments
As soon as we caught our breath from the show, Christy and I started to zero in on the (myriad) problems in my ride. One glaring issue really popped out – my posture. In almost every moment, I was tipped forward, with a closed hip angle and my lower leg creeping back.
So we started working on my position, which isn’t fun. Fundamentally changing how you ride is tough. It feels awful. You feel out of whack and it’s tough to be effective. It’s no fun but having reaped the benefits of this sort of work last winter on Maddie I know that the payoff is worth it, even though it feels like you’re riding like total crap for a while.
The work started in my first lesson post-show. Christy had me work on finding my balance in my new saddle, starting with asking me to stand in my stirrups. I stood, briefly, then teetered and collapsed. Stood again, swayed, grabbed the bucking strap, and collapsed.
We played with my leg position, but it was clear that that I wasn’t going to be able to balance myself with my legs behind my knee blocks. With my legs wedged behind the blocks, I was pushing against them, and they were acting as a fulcrum, causing me to tip my upper body forward, and my lower leg aft.
So we started over. Christy had me lift my knees up – waaay up – to isolate my seatbones. Once I was sitting properly on my seatbones, she had me bring my legs softly down, draping them over the blocks, in order to keep my hip angle open. She asked me to stand again, and I was able to stand more steadily in my stirrups.
We picked up the trot, focusing still on finding and keeping my balance. It was a struggle but eventually I was able to find the ‘sweet spot’ and suddenly, it felt like I was floating above the horse. Derby responded, rounding his back and striding out. The value of riding in balance was undeniable. On subsequent rides, I worked through my mental checklist, starting with my seatbones, and working on finding my balance, which frankly didn’t get much easier. I was able to bring myself into alignment for brief moments, but I’d rapidly lose it and start over.
In my heart of hearts, I realized an ugly truth. The Albion’s balance isn’t great for me. It’s very comfortable, cushy even. But the balance is off, and the deep seat and grippy leather make it tough for me to move.
Today, when I was running errands, I wandered into the local tack shop and poked around amonst the used saddles, surfacing with an ancient Barnesby all-purpose similar to that pictured at the top of the page. It was in lovely shape despite its years, with a shallow seat and teeny-tiny blocks. The seat and flaps were hard and slick. In other words, it was the polar opposite from the Albion. After a quick consult with the saddler’s apprentice, who pulled Derby’s wither tracings and confirmed that the narrow Barnsby was potentially a decent fit, I tucked the saddle under my arm, doubled back to my house for a longer girth, and headed to the barn.
The saddle did indeed look like it fit Derby pretty well, so I tacked up and got on. It felt pretty good – hard and slippery – but balanced and solid. I stood in my stirrups to test that aspect of the balance. And I stood easily. This was a good sign.
I had a decent ride but this saddle will definitely take some getting used to. I do like how flat and non-restrictive it is, enabling me to move and find the right position, versus holding me in one spot.
I think the Barnsby will work well for now, as I re-build my position. Heck, I don’t mind showing in brown tack, either, so if the saddle ends up being more than a temporary thing, that’s fine too. (In fact, I found – and ordered – a brown bridle with a dropped noseband tonight.)
To be continued….clearly.