Sunday, April 17, 2011

Kids Corner - Sitting Pretty with Kelly Tombs and Colleen Kelly

As seen in the "Local Horse" magazines

Sitting Pretty!
Improve the way you sit with these 10 fun points….
By Colleen Kelly and Kelly Tombs

So you want to learn how to ride?  There are many things to learn, and the learning never stops.  Even when you have been riding for twenty years, you will still feel like you have more to learn. 

When you are getting started, there are a number of things that are key points for success.  If you can get these basics under control, you will have a lifetime of enjoyable and most importantly SAFE riding ahead. 

If you have ever been to a trail riding school where you hire a horse for an hour, they have probably taught you to kick to go, pull the reins to stop, pull his head to go left, and pull his head to go right.  When you have your own horse, or a horse you ride regularly, there is a much easier and kinder way to communicate to your horse what it is that you want. 

These basics are things you can work on and get better at no matter what level you ride.  Even a Grand Prix dressage rider can improve their balance, and many include these types of exercises in their riding routine everyday. 

Lets look at the top ten points you can work on.

How to hold the reins
How do you hold the reins?  Do you hold them like you are playing a piano? Or like you are carrying a cup of hot chocolate – with your thumbs on top?

The rein should be gripped between your thumb and the second finger, quite firmly, so it doesn’t slip through your hand.  It should run down through your hand, and out between your little finger and your 4th finger.

And…make sure your little fingers aren’t open and point out, or you could hurt them!

How to Turn
Turning is actually much easier than you may realise.  Horses have a really good sense of where you are, and are very much affected by little movements in your body.  Try for yourself, walking at a nice march, then, rather than pulling on the rein to turn, just look where you want to go. 

If you want to turn right, look over to your right.  Exaggerate it if you don’t get a response straight away, turning your shoulders as well.   It’s very important not just to pull on that inside rein!

How to sit
Why don’t you get one of your friends on the ground to help you out here!   Ask them to have a look at your belt and make sure it’s level to the ground.

It’s important that your tailbone feels pretty heavy.   Leaning back or leaning forward can be quite dangerous.
Have a look at your helmet, and make sure it looks level to the horizon.  

It’s so hard to know if your shoulders are level!   So, let’s just forget about it!  It’s much easier instead to concentrate on your elbows and make sure your elbows are level to the ground.  It’s so much easier than trying to get your shoulders level. 

A great way to improve all of your upper body is to pretend to lift someone or something onto the horse.  With the sport of vaulting (gymnastics on horseback) we lift other riders onto the horse, this is amazing for fixing your posture, especially your shoulders!

Feet straight
Keeping your feet straight keeps the horse straight.  Imagine you’ve got skis on your feet, and you need to keep them level and straight.   Or, you can imagine that you’re a push bike rider, and that the stirrups need to be on the balls of your feet.   This will become more and more important as you do advanced sideways work, as the advanced riders help their horse go sideways by pressing on that stirrup a little.

Leaning forward
Leaning forward might be OK in jumping (so long as your heels are down), but if the horse stops suddenly you can get flung forward!   A great tip is to learn to stand up in the stirrups.   Standing up FULLY straight up and down, just like you would when you’re standing on the ground.

And, make sure your toes don’t point out.   If you’ve seen people point their toes out, then have a look at the top eventers.  They sure don’t point their toes out, or their spurs would be on all the time.  Turning your toes out makes you lean forward even more.

Level seat bones
Are you a bit confused about where your seat bones are?  You are not alone! 

If you know where your tailbone is, and you know where you pubic bone is, then there are also the other bones that you sit on, on the left and right.

If you want to know if they are level, imagine you are wearing a belt.  Is the belt level from back to front, and left and right.

If your seat bones were torches, where would they point?  Would they point down to the ground? They should! Or would they be shooting out behind you?  When you are on a circle where would they point? Would they point down or would they be blinding the horse in the paddock next door? 

It is interesting once you become aware of these, how much you can improve your riding by fixing this alone.

Bent elbows
Ever been told to keep your hands still?  Well to help that happen you need to learn to have soft, loose elbows.   A great exercise is to sometimes do rising trot holding the saddle. That will help your elbows move, and keep your hands still.   But make sure you’re safe when you do it!

See what your chest does to the horse
Try this out…walk your horse around and drop your chest, sitting sort of “lazy and slumped”.  You’ll soon feel the horse’s two front feet get heavier than the two back ones.   Then raise your chest again, and you’ll feel the two back feet get heavier.   It’s amazing!   When weight is on the two front feet it’s called “on the forehand”.  When weight is more on the back feet it’s called “engaged”.   Engaged is good…on the forehand is bad.  And you can so easily fix it by seeing how much your chest affects the horse!

10 Clean your teeth on one foot.

Last by not least, and exercise you can do every night.  Clean your teeth standing on one foot with the other foot out in front of you!  It’s an exercise that’s come from the very best people in the world to help with your balance.  And the trainer that trained the United States Dressage Federation Horse of the Year does it every morning and every night…so why not try it?

Good Luck, and enjoy your riding.  Come and watch some of the clinics coming up in your area! J

Colleen Kelly and Kelly Tombs are both Official Trainers with the International Society of Rider Biomechanics. Kelly is based on the Gold Coast and Colleen conducts clinics Worldwide. You can follow them on and .   Pics by Charlotte Reeves Photography

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