As I reviewed the photos taken at our last show, I realized something.
The position of my back is terrible when landing off a jump. I mean, really bad.
I think this realization was so stark because I’d also just finished watching a video of the winning rider in an equitation final, so of course she looked picture-perfect at any moment before, during and after each fence.
I have pretty okay form over a fence. Sometimes I get a little ahead or throw my body forward in anticipation of the jump but that’s something I’ve been working on and have gotten vastly better at over the last year and a half.
But I had given very little thought to what happens to my form after we’ve taken off and are coming down for the landing. Looking at all the photos – and I mean ALL of them, not just the ones that are worthy of sharing – I realized that I make a sort of hunchback. I already knew that I tend to slump my shoulders a bit, but this is like my entire back collapses until my spine makes a “c” shape, with my arms completely straight through the elbow. It’s not great, guys.
Want to see what I mean? Saddle up, because these are not the pretty photos.
So I did what any ammy would do: I asked my trainer, Leanne, for help. She gave me an exercise to work on.
Get into two-point, drop the reins, and straighten my arms out and back. I privately call this position “The Fighter Jet.” Then, staying balanced, I fold down and try to touch my chest to Drifter’s mane, hold it for a few seconds, then come back up into two-point. This can be done at a standstill or a walk (if I can keep Drifter walking straight!)
When I first started trying this, I could barely fold at all without tipping forward. Super embarrassing. But I kept working on it, a little during every ride, and I can now pretty comfortably fold and hold down by Drifter’s neck for a few seconds before straightening up.
It’s not a miracle cure. I still get that hunchback sometimes but I’m more aware of my back and shoulders over a fence now. And as of last night’s lesson, I now have photographic and video evidence that I can, in fact, keep my back straight over a fence!
And for the video proof:
Now, obviously I’m not perfect, but little bits of progress can make such a difference! Have you ever had a similar anti-epiphany, when you realized you were doing something that really needed attention?