… we promise the pipe-cleaner jockey is relevant.
As I have mentioned in previous columns, I have some issues with the lateral alignment of my spine. I have also mentioned that I am training a four-year-old, and despite a popular misconception that young horse trainers just need to be tough and brave, it is completely necessary for a young horse trainer to have what I like to call an articulate butt, meaning the ability to communicate clearly with the seat. It is during these early, formative years that horses decide whether changes in your weight distribution matter or not. The only way to teach a horse that the seat does matter is to ride like it does from the get-go.
So back to my crookedness. It’s not just a me thing: most people are at least a little crooked in one way or another and this has a big impact on our ability to effectively apply the seat aid. So how do we go about fixing this? To explain this, I’m going to need the help of my trusty sidekick, Piper Kleiner.
So as you can see, Piper has a slight curvature in her back.
Let’s see what happens when we try and fix that curvature by making a lateral shift.
Crap! Still crooked! That’s right, attempting to fix lateral misalignments by making additional lateral shifts will more often than not just make you crooked in the other direction.
OK. Let’s see what happens when we try and fix Piper’s alignment by stretching up through the top of her head.
You can see, while Piper is now in much better balance, she is still not perfectly straight. In order to improve her lateral alignment to a great extent, she will have engage in a regular stretching and strengthening routine to address unevenness in musculature, but for now, stretching up has put her in a position to much more effectively use her seat. So there you go. If you’re starting to feel off kilter in the saddle, plant your butt firmly in the saddle and stretch up towards the rafters. “Reach for the sky!” my parents always told me, and I feel like I am continually reaching in terms of lofty life goals, but these days I am also reaching for the sky… with the top of my head.
Biz is the author of Horse Nation’s “Back to Basics” series, which follow the journey of a “somewhat ordinary” horse and rider pair as they strive for greatness. Catch up on her past columns by clicking the #BACK TO BASICS at the top of the page.
Biz Stamm is a part-time seed scientist and full-time trainer/riding instructor specializing in starting young horses for sport horse disciplines. She brings the analytical mind she developed while working in a lab to her riding and teaching, emphasizing a thorough understanding of how the horse’s body works. She currently owns two horses: the Kalvin Cycle (Kalvin), a 9-year-old half-Arabian gelding, and DB’s Alpha Helix (Helix), a 4-year-old Kiger mustang gelding. While she is currently pursuing competitive goals, her main goal is to enjoy her horses, and for her horses to enjoy her.