Common Mistakes: Rider's Position
Mistakes are only a good thing if we work to learn from them and to fix them. This is the second post in the
series that will talk about the basic rider position. These are three things that most of us do whether we know it or not. Once we are able to fix them, it makes a huge difference in the way we ride.
I don't know how many times I have heard an instructor say "keep your heels down" to me and to many other riders. For some reason, we rather point our toes down or have our foot sitting parallel with the ground instead of having our heels down for more stability and balance. There are some ways to cheat around this, like the flex and jointed stirrups I mentioned in my stirrups blog post, but the best way is to put your heels down without any additional help.
For some people, doing stretching exercises can really help. Find a set of stairs and stand on the edge of a step. Let the balls of your feet be at the edge, have your heels hang off it and stretch your heels down. You may want to hold onto the railing while doing this. Be careful not to stretch too much that you might hurt yourself, but do it on a regular basis until you can keep your heels down without even thinking about it while you are riding.
Sometimes it's not about stretching your heels down as much as reminding yourself to keep them down. Ideally, you would like it do be second nature for you to keep the right position, but this might take some time. Try to remind yourself of your heel position as you ride around the ring. You may find it helpful to imagine heavy weights tied at your heels that are pulling them down.
Another problem that some riders have is rounded shoulders which can also lead to a rounded back. I was corrected of this at an early age as my whole riding class had the same problem and the instructor finally had enough. One day she brought in extra riding crops into the ring. She told us to put them behind our back and hold them with the bend in our arms as we rode. Though it may not have helped our arm position, it really helped open up our shoulders and straighten our backs. After a few minutes for a couple of lessons, we got the idea of how we should hold ourselves and it became a comfortable position.
The final common mistake I'll be talking about today is dropped hands. This one kind of goes hand in hand with the previous one because once you drop your hands, you're more likely to have your shoulders and back follow. I haven't had a huge problem with this myself, but I've learnt a little trick that may be helpful for some of you out there. While you are riding around and you feel your hands starting to drop to your horse's neck, try to imagine that you are holding something. Since winter is coming, why not try to imagine that you are holding a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate? You wouldn't want your horse's bobbing head to knock over your drink so you'll keep your hands up where they need to be.
I hope that these tips will help you if you have some of these problems. If you have any more tricks or you would like to let me know if these worked for you, I'd love to hear from you. It's amazing how changing one little thing can completely change your position. Though fixing one problem may often lead to another, don't get discouraged. You're on your way to a better riding position!
Until next time, happy riding!