Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Great Camera Switcheroo

In a previous post I mentioned that my son got a new camera for his birthday, which is why the pictures on my blog were looking better. Well, my daughter said she would like her own camera for her birthday as well. She didn't find anything she liked better than my son's camera, and my son was a bit disgruntled over the scarlet color of his camera, which looked red in the store. My husband, son, and daughter decided together to give my son's camera to my daughter, and my son picked out a different camera that is solely for still shots, but even better quality than the scarlet camera, which takes motion pictures as well as still pictures. The scarlet camera was perfect for our daughter, who doesn't need anything big and clunky around her college campus. The newer, better quality still photo digital camera that my son picked out will help him learn the finer aspects of photography, which that point-and-shoot scarlet camera wasn't doing for him. Are you following me?

If not, don't worry about it. I just wanted to show you some photos that my son took with the even newer camera. I asked him to do a photo shoot while I rode at different paces, so that I could understand why my equitation instructor was telling me to correct things that I thought I was doing well. For instance, in the picture below, I thought that I had heels down, toes in, and legs back.

My heels are clearly down, and the toes were turned in a decent amount, however my heel is supposed to be lined up with my hip, shoulders, and head. I've been bringing my heel back as far as it can go without losing the stirrup. Yet, you can see I have a considerable bend in my knee, so I should be able to straighten my leg out further and bring it back further without losing the stirrup. My instructor feels that the stirrups are the correct length, but I might experiment with that. I suspect that my weight hinders me from being as flexible as I might be otherwise. I'm still working on that.

This instructor I'm working with now wants me to hold the reins where they are in the picture. He wants my arms at my sides with a bend in the elbow. My previous riding instructor wanted my arms mostly straight with only a slight bend at the elbow, and my hands holding the reins at the horse's neck. Any opinions on this?

Check out how high I'm getting in the saddle while posting. My instructor says my form breaks down at the higher speeds. So true. My wrists are supposed to be curved, and I lost that position on my left side. My toes are also drifting outward. I was glad to see that Bombay looked happy in this shot. I always worry that I'm coming down too hard at the posting trot.

Though I normally don't like to look at my own butt, this picture was exceptional. I love the angle, the motion, the feel of freedom. Ignore my arms flopping at my sides. That's another thing my instructor says to me: "We are not birds."

I sure felt like I was flying, though.


Jenn said...

You weight shouldn't be a factor AT ALL in getting your legs underneath you. You look very well suited for you horse.

Flexibility, however is hindering you. To get those legs under, where they belong, you should work on stretching your hip flexors, which are the muscles/tendons that run across the front of your hips (pretty much at the "crease" where your femur is connected to your pelvis) and your quadriceps. Before every ride I do flexor and quad stretches on the ground and then again in the saddle by bringing (or attempting to bring!) my heel to my butt. That will put your leg in the correct position.

You will find that posting with your legs underneath you is MUCH easier! Who ever thought riding was so much darned work, eh? :)

Mrs Mom said...

Your saddle, while I bet it is comfortable as all get out, is going to hinder you some in an attempt to get your legs back underneath your seat. If you look at where your stirrups are set on the saddle, I bet you will find them very far forward. You might can tinker with it some, to see if you can move them back a tad.

Try posting at the walk. And two-point. Not for anything silly like taking a fence, but for building your strength up more. Work on FEELING where your horse is. Maybe have your son help you out? Or husband? And get them to be there, hands on Bombay, so that you can totally let go and FEEL where things are. That too will help with the posting. Minimum effort- let Bombay's momentum lift you.

As to your arms-- where are YOU comfortable with them? If you are not comfortable with the placement, wiggle around and seeif yoru instructor will compromise on position.

Keep it up!!!! Bombay looks like he is having a grand time with a job, and you are getting to RIDE~!!!! Pretty exciting when you think about it! ;)

Oh- use your visualization too. SEE the posts smaller and slower. See yourself sitting softly between strides. See things going smoother and smoother every trip! ;)

Jenn said...

Mrs. Mom is right. I'm not terribly familiar with how western saddles fit because I'm an eventer/foxhunter and I wasn't sure if you could adjust the placement of the stirrups on the bar. Is there another saddle you could give it a go in, just to see if it helps put you more in the right position?

Bombay does look happy in his job...and very relaxed. The desensitization is probably giving him all kinds of confidence in you as his fearless leader.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Mrs. Mom and Jenn -
I went outside to take a look at my saddle. There is no mechanism to move the stirrups further back, so I just tugged on them as hard as I could and was able to move them back a little bit.

My older, lighter, uncomfortable western saddle's stirrups are much further back, so I'll give that a try and see if it makes posting easier. I'll also work on flexibility and posting at a walk. Thanks.

Twinville said...

I think you and Bombay look fabulous together. But I'm not much help in riding technique critiques, being a beginner myself.

But I do have a question about the length of the stirrups. To me, they look too short, for your tall frame and long, lovely legs. Is the reason you have them shortened to get higher up in your posting?

Also, I think you have a great looking booty, especially in those cute jeans. But I do wonder if the saddle may be a smidge too small. This was a huge issue for me when I was saddle shopping. I have long legs, am tall (6'), and have a good size booty, too.

I spent alot of time while researching saddles several months ago, at the website below, and I included the following info for you:

"As a rule of thumb, you should have approximately four inches between the front of your body and the fork. Your seat should rest on the base of the cantle, but not be pressed against the back of the cantle. Some prefer a tighter fit, some looser. In general, it's better to have a saddle a smidge too big than a smidge too small."

(Copied from:

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Twinville - I fit the saddle perfectly at the time I bought it. I was within my ideal weight range just a few years ago. I'm not in the market for another saddle, because I put my life savings into this one. I'm just going to have to lose weight.

My other, older saddle is much smaller because the kids used it, but its stirrups are further back.

As far as stirrup length goes, my previous trainer set the stirrups at the length they are now, and my current trainer chose not to change them. I'm not posting from the stirrups. I'm posting from my knees.

I am pressing back into the cantle because I always have to stretch out my back before and when I first mount. I have problems with my entire body being stiff and in pain. I'm supposed to roll forward more, but have a hard time remembering every aspect of positioning. If I think about my wrists, my toes point out. If I think about my toes, my elbows flap. If I think about my elbows, my heels creep up. In this picture I can see that I don't have my thighs rolled in. However, if I did that, I'd have less pressure on the cantle and my legs would be further back.

jme said...

you look good and bombay is adorable :-) i love the last pic with his mane flowing...

disclaimer: i am not a western rider at all...

...but i do know anatomy and balance, and from a strictly mechanical/anatomical point of view, your stirrups are short. if you can slide your seat forward a tiny bit, take your feet out of the stirrups, and stretch your legs way out and down, they should come to just below or at your ankles, and these look like they might hit you in the shins. western saddles are not designed, like an english saddle, for a forward seat and shortened legs, and if you experiment with dropping them one hole each day for a few days, you might find they get more comfortable as you go...

also, posting is a forward-and-back motion, not an up-and-down motion, so you may be posting too high, and might have better luck thinking about it as swinging just your hips forward and back, rather than standing up and sitting from the knees, which lifts your entire upper body too. you've got about 6" of air there, when 1" would probably be enough... also, swinging your hips will allow your leg to stretch back down under you, while gripping with the knee causes it to creep up in front of you. try it without stirrups if you feel up to it.

as for your hands, i think they look good the way they are :-) i love that they appear soft and that you don't grip the reins in a fist, but keep your feel light. i'd only recommend maybe letting your upper arms relax and rest lightly against your ribcage. but then, the wide contact you have here can help encourage your horse to accept contact with the bit better, so if it's working, stick with it for now :-)

Andrea said...

Wow those are some great pictures. I am with everyone on the stirrups leathers being a bit too far forward. Maybe do some work with out stirrups and see where your leg goes.

I too think your stirrups are a bit too short. When you post you shouldn't come that high off the saddle. It should look effortless. Use the horse's movement to help you with going up and down. Also, no stirrups will help a lot with this.

And I am so jealous, you have an amazing waist!! I would love to be able to wear a shirt like that and I would love to have a booty! Those pictures were wonderful and you look like you are doing a great job!! Bombay looks very happy too!

Katee said...

That last photo is awesome! I agree that the jeans you're wearing are totally cute and I love the Bombay's flowing mane and tail. Who cares if your arms aren't quite where they should be?? It's an awesome photo of you and your beautiful boy!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

jme - I really like what you said about swinging the hips forward and back. That's what I see riders doing in shows. My instructor keeps telling me to post up into the top of my head from the knees. He complains that I post over my horse's head. So much advice you have given, both through comments here and on your website, really resonates with me. I did go outside and lengthen my stirrups since several people have questioned the length. My instructor did have me ride without the stirrups at the walk and jog, but I'm not quite ready to wean myself off them at a fast trot or canter. It definitely feels better practicing the leg position without the stirrups, though. I'll let you know how things go with the longer stirrups.

andrea - Thanks for the comment on my waist. It's the one part of me that hasn't thickened all that much with my battle of the bulge.

katee - I'm glad you like the photo. I went outside today and practiced taking shots with my son's new camera and I couldn't get anything as good as that.

Flying Lily said...

Hey, you're getting skinny! No fair.

Try riding without your stirrups. Posting is a roll forward on your thigh; you shouldn't feel pressure on your knees particularly. I think riding without stirrups allows your leg to assume its natural drape and also strengthens your proper muscles and seat. You have a great rider leg and right now it is a bit ahead of you in the saddle, which makes posting harder and throws your weight back.

Beautiful pictures!!

dp said...

I'm with JME on this -- there is nothing like riding without your stirrups to help you develop a feel for how you should be riding with your stirrups. I know nothing about Western saddles, but you look like you're pushed too far back, which means that your stirrups are too short for you to center your seat properly. And yes, posting is not about big air -- just a light forward movement of the pelvis to make the rider more comfortable at the trot. The bigger the movement, the more discomfort for your horse.