Wednesday, August 3, 2016

What Do Wednesday: Fixing Flaws

This week's post stems from me repeatedly raking through old pictures to remind myself, that yes, I am an equestrian and that yes, I did actually ride once in a blue moon ago. Prepare yourself for an onslaught of photos.

Love me some throwbacks

I actually spend far more time doing this than I care to admit, but it got me thinking about things..and trends. Specifically equitation trends. Not specifically worldwide trends, but personal trends.

Since I tend to admittedly focus on the negative (I'm working on this, okay), I notice right away my giant obvious flaws throughout years. My wayward, drifting inside hand. My tendency to jump ahead. My other tendency to look down. My stupid thumbs pointing inwards on occasion. And the big one, closed hip angles.

Looking down, per usual

Generally this might be good thing, over fences specifically. But I'm talking about closed hip angles on the flat. As in, a dressage saddle. It is seemingly impossible for me to open my hip angle and keep my damn knee and leg back where it belongs. It just wants to live up front with the breastplate. this also leads to slumping forward and looking like a literal sack of potatoes on the saddle.

Oh look, every single flaw in one picture!
This post will also be extra relevant when I come back finally and re-live the feeling of muscles atrophy and uselessness as a rider from weeks of non-use.

For real though, I feel like sack of useless muscles and bones at the moment, and miss the gym and riding more than I can describe. Actual torture.

The point being, I know my riding won't be up to par for a while, but I hope to focus on my strength and get back to tip-top shape soon enough.

Back to my main point.

Yes, I have tiny flaws that are easily fixed with practice (looking up, thumbs, inside hand) and constant self reminders, but my lifelong and biggest struggle has been feeling comfortable in a dressage saddle. Really, having a wide hip angle at all. Even in a jump saddle, I tend to close in on myself more than I should. I really work hard on things like my hands (since they like to live in my lap), and generally those self reminding sessions stick.

The best period of time we ever looked on the flat. Winter 2013

Coming from hunterland at an early age, the perch and pray/& or jump massively ahead position was engrained in my muscle memory for, apparently, forever. The single most difficult thing of my riding career has been transitioning from hunter crouch to a dressage seat. Thats like 40* of hip angle and my body wasn't (and still isn't half the time) ready, 11 years later.

hip angle, WYD?
Even though I know this issue exists, its still difficult to combat in saddle. Muscle memory is a bitch. I'm sure you all know what I'm talking about.

Monica, WYD
I'll be riding, thinking I'm driving with my seat, shoulders up, effectively using my body to ride...when actually I'm curled up like a baby, flopping around, surely giving my poor horse mixed signals.

Literally, what is this? What is this position??
I used to blame it on Bacardi, since he is massive and all his gaits/jump kinda throw you around.

Classic getting thrown about by exuberance
I don't even want to talk about my jump position on him *eyeroll*...but now I am aware that its an actual weakness within my own body and not entirely B's fault. Even on Yankee, who is much smoother to ride than Bacardi, I still do it.

Therefore, for the sake of my horse and my riding, I began looking elsewhere to try and correct my hip angle.

Literally the worst. I can't believe I'm positing this.

This adventure led me to crossfit. Yes, yes, the cult. I won't spew my koolaid on you all again, but if you're interested, I detail my crossfit journey up top in the tabs on my blog.

Crossfit not only works with gymnastic movements, but also entails learning how to weightlift. Weightlifting is an integral part of crossfit, and learning how to lift properly is a lot like learning to ride. It requires exceptional body awareness (check), tenacity (check) and the desire to succeed (check). You don't necessarily have to be strong to weightlift, you just have to want it! Crossfit lifting combines Olympic lifting with strength training and promotes speed, power, coordination, agility, accuracy, and balance.

Bangor demonstrating strong hips= strong lifts

a few days pre back injury (cause: horses) . I can assure you those abs are now gone
Sounds a lot like what you need for riding right? ;)

Learning to weightlift was incredible for my hips. A lot of lifts (literally almost all of them) focus on the hips and use them to generate power for the lifts. My absolute favorite lift, the clean, focuses almost entirely on hip power.

Practicing close grip overhead squat; a modification for my elbow/shoulder injury (cause; horses)

In other words, opening that hip angle to generate lift to get that bar moving!

1 week ago, practicing a  clean with a PVC & on power opening my hip angle.  Notice my feet are off the ground. Its all I'm allowed to do *sobs*

Crossfit and weightlifting have done incredible things for my body, and I will never stop. I could go on and on about the positive affects its had on  my riding.

My position gets pretty good...

....right up until it doesn't get better and gets worse again, lulz. Story of my life.

HAHAH, what?

However, thats not all! I have more tools to help!

Yoga has also been a staple in my life for about a year now. You can thank Bangor for this.

I generally focus on Crossfit yoga, called ROMWOD, which is a quick, daily yoga session you can run through in about 15-25 minutes. I try to do this almost every day (well, except for right now, for obvious injury related reasons) and if I skip a day or two, I really do feel a difference in my body immediately.

I also really enjoy hot yoga.

Crazy, coming from someone who despises summer, but hot yoga is glorious.


A session leaves you feeling satisfyingly sweaty. Like all your negativity, french fries and shame have been sweat out through your pores. Its amazing. Not only that, but you feel so bendy and stretchy.. simply delightful.

 Seriously, if you ever feel this sick urge to feel your hip flexors almost snap, try yoga. It'll be amazing I promise.

Right now, I can't do any of it. But as soon as I have the go ahead, I will be diving back in...slowly and carefully, haha!

Now since I said I'm working on being more positive, I also want to take a second to praise myself on things I do well.

I am incredibly hard to toss off. Yay stickability! Over the years, my lower leg has maintained solidarity over fences. This pleases me, lots. Lastly, my hands are very forgiving and I'm quick to soften right when the horse needs it. This is good too.

leg still there, even if upper body has peaced out

Always working, right?

So what I want to know this week is your strengths and weakness as a rider. It can either be position, or mental things, like bravery. I want to hear both, you HAVE to praise yourself too! Also, what do you do to help your weaknesses? Tell me dear readers, what do? I must know. 


  1. I think this works well as a blog hop! Must take a look at some old pics and video of mine and think about this one!

  2. Strengths are my position. I have focused hard for a couple years to correct position issues and am happy to say I can't complain about my jump or flat position. My biggest fault is I hold /pull. I have too much take and not enough give. Looking at your pictures I'd like to get my hands on you lateral hip flexors and your peroneals. I think that would help your flat issues and your toe out in jump position.

  3. I used to have the WORST time keeping my right elbow in. Like, it would be in danger of hitting someone outside the ring in the face. But I worked really, really hard on changing my muscle memory to keeping it glued to my side on now it's not a problem anymore. Except then my right wrist decided it was going to look broken all the time so I put a brace on it to hold it straight, and then my elbow was all KBAI in retaliation. Damn right arm!!

  4. Great post! I love yoga and stupidly gave it up. My biggest flaw is keeping my damn fingers closed but a close second is my hips. I guess my strength is having giving hands, but they can be too giving.

  5. At least you have ponies to pet? I haven't seen a horse in yonks now.. other than photos

  6. Body weakness, ugh. I am super weak in my legs. I tend to go right to my spur and we're trying to fix that, but Cosmo requires so much squeeze and I just don't have much in me right now. This also go with pointing my toes forward, rather than out. Fixing this engrained bad habit is hard. I'm working on a lot of things with my position now: being still, sitting up, entire leg on, not nagging, sitting on my groin more, the list goes on.
    On the other hand, I do have good work ethic. With all the things we are working on at once, it's hard. And exhausting. But I keep trying and working on it. I am also getting quite good at finding my distances. Much more planned out now rather than just waiting to see what happens. Not all the time, but the good MADE distances are getting more frequent.

  7. I have piano hands. Also, that hunterland lean, but it works for my discipline so it doesn't bother me too much.

    I am usually pretty happy with my leg position over fences. When I practice yoga, it absolutely makes me a better rider, so I need to get back into that.

  8. Lol, not even sure what my strengths are anymore... and I've got more weaknesses than I care to admit 😐 I've convinced hubby that I need to get myself to a trainer... asap... sigh... I hope I can start listing and strengths soon!!!

  9. I have an intense desire to ride in chair seat no matter what trainers say or I think I'm doing. Most of that comes from playing polo and then never really going back to a good seat. I find sitting on a ball instead of a chair helps my core strength and I can sit trot and ride bareback, but just cannot get my leg to stay still not in front of me.

  10. Ugh my position is basically appalling at the best of times. But right now it's.... Well. Downright shabby. I was moderately mortified at the pics of me riding my friends horse Wick last week bc ughhhhh. But I'm choosing to let that go for now. I basically ride once or twice a week at present and am lacking strength and consistency. If I can at least get on a horse and get 'em going and enjoy the ride, that's sufficient for now. At least for a little while lol. Damn tho I relate about that hip angle nonsense!!!

  11. My physical strength and stamina are appalling. But, I never, ever give up!

  12. I literally stand straight up in the saddle over fences unless I am thinking very, VERY hard to close my hips and shift my body backwards rather than upwards. Which happens rarely these days, since when I'm riding Leo I'm usually more like 'oh hey, jump, are we going over the jump, can we not sprint at it so quickly, are we going to continue around the arena afterwards or take off in some random direction?' etc. Jumping bareback on one of the solid, couchlike ponies helps with this a lot, but I don't have as much opportunity to do so as I would like.
    Strength-wise, I have excellent shoulder/upper back position. When I was a kid my trainer would thread a dressage whip through my elbows to force me to sit up, and although in 'real' life I slouch like crazy, I sit wonderfully tall and straight on horseback.

  13. That's a hard one. I haven't ridden dressage in so long I probably wouldn't do anything right if I tried haha. I want to sit in a dressage saddle so bad. I miss it. I think my strengths are that I love to read, so in my head I know a lot of things, like what the perfect dressage position is, but putting it into practice is different. I miss taking lessons for that reason. It was always so much fun when something I read clicked and then I knew how it felt too. So fun. Two of my biggest faults are fear and inconsistency. My strengths are having an open mind, always being willing to learn, enjoying trying new things, always putting my horse first, etc. There are plenty of strengths, but they don't necessarily have anything to do with talent haha. I wish I actually had pictures from my dressage days.... and my teenage years when I was fearless... they would be a lot less boring. ;)