What this episode is all about & how it can help you:-
- Sitting straight in the saddle
- Allowing your legs to ‘drape’
- Understanding an active aid versus an inactive one
- Supporting your horse when he needs support
Remember back to when you were first learning to ride. You possibly saw your legs as being a ‘go button’ of sorts. Go forward or go sideways. However, as you began to improve the conversation, by refining your aids, you realised that your legs have started to also become a channel of sorts…
A channel for the energy that is created inside of the ‘container’ that is you and your horse together.
In this episode of the Daily Strides Podcast you will learn all about creating that channel with your legs and how it will improve your overall riding.
Your Whole Body is a Channel
I want you to think about this; your whole body is connected. I realise that this is not a new piece of information, however many riders fail to see how one part of their body has direct influence over other parts. How the placement of your leg can impact the placement of your seat or vice versa.
If you are just starting out, I think it is far easier to allow the more obvious body parts to influence the more ‘subtle’ parts. Your legs to influence your seat, rather than the other way around.
Later then, as you begin to gain more control over your body in the saddle, you can start ‘swapping’ this out a little. Your seat to influence your legs. Your seat will define or indicate where your legs are positioned at given time in the saddle.
Sitting Straight in the Saddle
Part of this influence is how straight you are positioned in the saddle. When I say ‘straight’ in the saddle, it is straight in two ways.
Firstly that there is an equal amount of you on both the left and the right of the saddle.
One of the most common ways riders become ‘crooked’ is when they are sitting with one seat bone closer to the centre of the saddle than the other.
The second way to ensure you are ‘straight’ is to make sure you are indeed sitting on your seat. Both of your seat bones centred and pointing straight down underneath you. It is all too easy to fall into the bad habit of sitting either with their pelvis rolled too far forward or too far back.
Sitting on your fork, or rolled back into a more ‘armchair seat’ automatically shuts down your seat aids. This will result in your legs not being able to work correctly while riding.
Allowing Your Legs to ‘Drape’
Once your seat is correct, you can allow your legs to ‘drape’ over your horses sides. This sounds exactly like what it is. Drapes are often another word for curtains and you want to think of your legs being allowed to hang from your hips like curtains.
They have their own weight and shape, and yet they will follow the contours of what they are ‘draped’ over.
For many riders, particularly women, it can be difficult to truly allow legs to ‘drape. This is often due to the fleshy part on the inside of the thigh. If you suspect this is an issue for you, I have a little exercise you can use to help.
What I suggest is just put both your legs up as though you were a jockey, touching your knees above your horses withers. Now take your right hand from the back underneath your right leg and pull that fleshy piece out behind your actual thigh. Then lift your leg out and gently allow your leg to drape down over your horses side.
When your leg is positioned correctly, you will feel that there is contact all the way down.
Many riders concentrate on the contact at the knee, but I prefer it if the knee is loose and it is not locked on the horse. What you will now find is that the rest of your leg from your thigh all the way down to your calf and ankle is going to be draped around the horse.
Understanding an Active Aid Versus an Inactive One
The next thing to understand is that you have active leg aids as well as inactive leg aids. In other words you can engage your leg aids, or you can disengage them.
It is important to recognise that when your leg is off and is not engaged (or inactive), it doesn’t mean that there is actual daylight between your leg and the horse!
Your leg is still ‘on’ the horse, however it is similar to having hit the off switch. You have disengaged it. You don’t take your actual leg off or away from your horses side. There should never be daylight between your leg and the horse’s sides, but you do want it that the leg is not active.
The reason that this is important is because later as you and your horse become more developed, you will play less and less of a supporting role to your horse.
Very often in the beginning we, as riders, have to support our horses. This is not always actual physical support, in that you are holding him up. It can also be more of a moral support. As soon as your horse’s balance develops and he becomes stronger, you will have to support less and less.
If your leg were to be active all the time, you would first of all be exhausted and secondly your horse would eventually simply tune out
Supporting Your Horse When He Needs Support
Very often at the beginning of our development journey with our horses, riders find themselves supporting their horses. This can be both a mental and a physical support. It is a ‘reminder’ to keep things on track when things are going off track a little.
A lot of the time this is described as ‘balance’. You will step in initially when your horse loses balance and help him to regain it.
However, as confidence and strenght builds, your relationship with your horse will also shift and change. As you and your horse becomes stronger and you are positioned correctly, you are better able to actively engage the aids when you need to engage them.
When you engage your aids, you can create energy. This energy is then put into the channel you have created, so you can best direct it.
Understanding and Strengthening Your Channel
Managing this energy is really your channel. It can also be thought of as the container that is made up of you and your horse. You actively and mindfully put energy in there.
Then you decide how, where and when that energy will be used. Yes, you can use your leg to ask your horse to create the energy, but once it is there you can use your legs to channel that energy as well
Channeling can be in a directional way by directing where the energy is going to go. The channel can also be how the energy is being used. Is it running out, or is it being held?
Developing Your Channel
Of course, as you begin to refine the conversation between you and your horse, your seat will then become a bigger part of your channel.
Initially it is your legs which are guiding your seat, but what we want is that the seat is doing more of the guiding. You will eventually build to that. This may look like your seat allowing or resisting.
However your seat moves and influences, it will become a bigger part of your overall conversation. Of course your legs don’t completely cease to exist any more, but there is a balance of aids, and the balance will eventually shift.
In other words it will then become less about your legs and more about your seat
Your legs will still have to be positioned correctly because your legs dictate your seat, and your seat your legs. But as you become stronger and more developed you will have to think about it less, and it will naturally fall into place.
That is the channel. Once you have the channel created then you can start strengthening the channel, and you can start creating true impulsion in your riding.
Links mentioned in the episode:-