Saturday, July 30, 2016

Good Enough


A couple of bloggers I follow have had contrasting posts this week about rider biomechanics.  One, had a post about how she felt like she was finally getting her horse to the point where she could actually work on her dressage position and that until she had sort of a basic going horse trying to have a good "dressage" type position and worrying about biomechanics was sort of irrelevant.  On the other hand, had a post about a HUGE biomechanics breakthrough she had with her cob that led her to believe, yet again, that so much of riding and training dressage comes back to correct biomechanics and that if the rider biomechanics are off then the training exercises can't work effectively.

So who is right?  Do perfect biomechanics really matter when you are riding a non-steering dinosaur around that can't even canter?  If you're further along is that when you start trying to look like outline of a "dressage" rider?  When is that further along?

Here's what I think, after so many years of struggling to get my biomechanics together.  You need to have good enough biomechanics for whatever task you are asking the horse to perform.  If you are on a green bean then you only need basic alignment, aka being balanced over your feet, and a correct turning and stopping mechanism.  You'll be posting the trot, so no following seat needed in the trot, and if you're smart, you'll be posting the canter most of the time as well.  So all is good, your horse learns to balance, slow down from your seat/core, make basic big figures, and sort of do Training Level correctly.  If he is a naturally good mover that is a bonus as well, since you will score better based upon his movement.

The problems start when the rider wants to move up to First Level.  Now there is sitting involved.  Lengthenings.  Smaller figures that require real straightness to be accurate.  Unless the rider has a biomechanically correct, straight, following seat, things only go sort of OK because the rider's biomechanics are not helping the horse do the movements correctly, and a lot of times they are actively hindering the horse.  This is where the s$/@ hits the fan typically.  Or if the horse is an exceptionally good mover it will be at Second Level when things get harder again.

I think a lot of riders have good enough biomechanics for whatever level or task they have been riding.  The problems come when the rider wants to take it to the next level. Trail rider able to stay on, control speed, and have a basically happy horse. Not that difficult to achieve and good enough.  Training Level dressage rider able to walk, trot, canter 20m circles on some sort of rhythm with contact.  A little harder to achieve but not impossible for the average rider, especially with a horse bred for dressage that naturally has good movement.  First Level rider able to truly sit the trot and canter, effectively half-halt, lengthen, straighten the horse, all in a harmonious package.  Going to require a MUCH more advanced level of biomechanics and this is where being good enough requires a lot more work and understanding on the part of the rider.  And so and so on through the dressage levels.  The rider does not have to be perfect to be effective BUT the rider can't hinder the horse in a given task with incorrect biomechanics.  And the tasks are much harder at First Level and above.  What is sad though, is when the rider has no idea their biomechanics are hindering the horse and the horse suffers endless "training" to fix a problem that is based on faulty rider biomechanics.


  1. "What is sad though, is when the rider has no idea their biomechanics are hindering the horse and the horse suffers endless "training" to fix a problem that is based on faulty rider biomechanics."

    Yep. I love following along with Jen and Connor's progress (Cob Jockey) because Jen is striving (and achieveing!) harmony and correctness with her riding. And she doesn't constantly blame her horse.

  2. Exactly CFS! I really enjoy the Cob Jockey blog and it really adheres to my present riding and training philosophy. Something going wrong or not quite right, check the rider biomechanics first and foremost.

  3. This is very interesting to consider. In the almost two years I've had Knight (got as a somewhat greenie), there are very few equitation corrections that my trainer has zeroed in on with me. Not that I have flawless riding position, but I think I'm at a stage now where it's like we're trying to influence Knight's straightness or softness or bend or whatever, that just how deep my heel is down or how wide or narrow my hands are is somewhat irrelevant. The one thing that I'm very conscious of and I have to figure out is my own hip asymmetry. I can tell I am a little crooked and when my stirrups are perfectly the same length they feel a little off. It drives me crazy. I'm going to keep trying to be centered, straight, soft, etc., but I think I'm "good enough" for a least a little daily progress.

  4. Good enough for a little daily progress is great Susan! I think the point is when you start to run into trouble with anything, check rider biomechanics first, before assuming the horse is the problem. Also, when your trainer can get your horse to do things you can't it shows the holes in your biomechanics and where you can improve.