Pesky Plateau and Positional Pressure

The recent break in my posting has been difficult to overcome. You see, I've been struggling through the deepest parts of the Second Level Wall (discussed by Jen at Cobjockey here and Karen at Contact here), and honestly the going has been tough. 
Workin' it, Second Level at Heartland in April
Despite being thrilled with a 60% at 2nd 1 at our May USDF show, the rest of my scores were very scattered. My riding was better, and our connection was better, but I knew we really weren't where we needed to be to succeed. I don't just want to squeak through Second Level. (Though, I'm totally okay with squeaking through Training or First...)

So, the moment we came home ... we took a vacation. It was needed. I'd been pushing my horse hard, and he was burned out. But, I didn't stop reading, exercising, and (yes, not a lie) doing yoga. I know the factor holding us back at this time is me, and the only way to fix me is hard work.

Just after vacation, a friend shared the article "Sitting On A Horse In Balance" by Gabrielle and Camille Dareau, and I had a breakthrough.

The article is written in an incredibly straightforward manner, rare in an article on effective position. It purports to focus on staying in balance with the horse. This seemed slightly misleading until I realized that they weren't necessarily discussing balance as in the ability to stay on a horse, but more balance, as in the ability to stay with your horse. Or, as the writers put it, allowing a "profound gymnastic connection." (I know, I can be incredibly dense sometimes.)

I kept casually perusing the article until I ran across the following illustration, and mentally compared it to this photograph ...
Common faults in the riding position. Image by
Image ©, via 

It was at this point I knew I needed to really get serious about reading this article and putting it to work for me. Luckily, the following drawing was posted just below the "wrong" example, and all of the advice in the section labeled "The Key Steps to Sitting on a Horse Well" was easy to follow.
Gabrielle and Camille Dareau
Image ©, via 
For me, the biggest breakthrough was the idea of tilting the pelvis or "tucking the seat," lifting up on the pelvis with the front of the abs, and dropping the center of gravity right into the bowl of the seatbones. Once I went out and tried the position, I found a lot of things suddenly making a lot more sense. I felt I could lift Guinness' withers with a mere thought, and separate my leg action completely from my seat. I'm also better able to relax my arms and shoulders, as I'm no longer tense from bouncing and trying to hang on.

Guinness responded to my positional adjustments immediately. In the last couple of weeks he has become much lighter and constant in the bridle. I am able to fix his broken shoulder/neck line when traveling to the left (something that has seemed impossible). He is also becoming much more responsive to my leg, as I've learned to separate my forward aids from my seat.

This is a monumental breakthrough, and I wasn't the only one to notice it. With only a few days of practicing this new position, I had a lesson with Nancy. After watching me ride for about 15 minutes, she squeaked out "what happened to the rider from May?!" I told her about the article, and she immediately knew which one I was talking about. We chatted a little bit about what I took from it, and she was very pleased and supportive. "You have it," she said, "now we just have to tweak things."

That sort of improvement feels so good, and, almost magically, improving at Second Level doesn't seem so monumental any more. Instead, I feel like I've crested a huge hill, and I can suddenly see the horizon.

Now, to keep up the work so I can internalize everything I've mentally comprehended and turn it into blind muscle memory...

(Seriously, everyone read this article. It's amazing.)


  1. Congrats on your break-through! It feels so great when something suddenly clicks! :)

  2. Thanks for sharing the article! Looking forward to critiquing my seat to see if it's tucked or not - an area I struggle with!

  3. Ok - tucked my seat last night and whoa - sat deeper, more balanced, and could really feel her stride underneath me. Felt my hips open up more too.
    Did feel a little weird not being perched - definitely need to loosen up my lower back moore.

    1. Awesome!! I'm so glad it's helping someone else! :)


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