Jet Set and I have been toodling along this Summer, working somewhere between 1st and 2nd Level. Endlessly. The work has been getting smoother using the ideas and concepts in a When 2 Spines Align but a few key things have eluded us. Don't get me wrong, a lot of movements are much improved and I understand the why's of dressage better but something still felt not quite right.
I was sitting around one day thinking about the fact that I can't sit the lengthens. I came to the conclusion that something must be off with my alignment, and that might be blocking my hips. Maybe my pelvis is tilted or something along those lines? Thinking about this, I remembered that Sylvia Loch had written a whole bunch of books about this very subject and I happen to own a couple of them. I started leafing through The Classical Rider and there it was.
Basically, the rider needs to be in neutral spine with a normal curve to the lower back AND the rider needs to project the waist forward like she is sitting on a cresting wave. Imagine being in riding position, balanced and aligned, and then projecting your upper body/core/center slightly forward without changing your vertical alignment. Then stay there over every movement, right above the crest of the wave of motion. That way instead of being slightly behind the motion you are always right above the center of gravity of the horse and giving very slight aids to shift the balance of the horse rather than being slightly behind the center of gravity and always playing catch up. Hmmmmm...
I played with the idea a bit unmounted and noticed a subtle shift in how my body was lined up and how I balanced walking through some basic movements. I went out and rode exactly the same exercises and body awareness as I have been doing all Summer and just added in projecting my body over the crest of the wave and there it was. Lengthens, square halts, easier flexion/bend, and a less tense horse. Bingo. I was in balance so he was in balance.
I remember reading Sylvia's book many, many years ago and pushing my lower back forward, stretching my spine up, and contorting my seat in all sorts of different ways with absolutely no success. I just didn't get what she meant. 20 years later after making the rounds of Mary Wanless, Centered Riding, and countless other biomechanics of riding books and DVDs I knew exactly what projecting over the crest of the wave meant and I was able to do it fairly easily. It only took me twenty years to figure it out!