Monday, March 5, 2012

At the girth

The rider's position plays an important role in achieving desired results from a horse. If we are not in the proper position, we can hardly expect the horse to read our minds and respond as we desire - they are instead to respond appropriate to the aids we have given them. I think many riders are potentially mistaken in their interpretation of the term "at the girth". Since many of my blogs refer to a rider's leg being "at the girth" or "a tad behind the girth" or such, I felt it prudent to clarify exactly what this term meant.

This is what "on the girth" looks like:

When the rider's leg is at the girth, this is NOT meant to imply that the rider's leg is actually ON the actual girth strap. The correct position of the rider's leg is so the heel is in a straight line with the rider's hip, shoulder, and ear. THIS is "at the girth". Any instructor or rider who tells you otherwise is incorrect. We might slide our leg back only slightly (ie, 1-2 inches) from this position or even forward (ie, half an inch) to specifically cue the horse's shoulders or haunches or to deliver a stronger aid (ie, forward), but the rider's leg should always return to this neutral position. The way a rider can imagine this position from atop their horse: imagine your horse were to disappear right out from under you. Your position atop your horse should reflect being able to land on your feet with your knee bent under you and your heel in line with your hip, shoulder, and ear. If you are not in this position, you need to reposition yourself and consider what could be altering your position from chiropractic misalignment to your saddle.

While we're at it, notice the second pink line in the above photo? This is the position your arms should be in. I obtained the above photo from this website, which has a ton of fantastic information on it as it pertains to your position and how to improve it. Some of the exercises provided are ones my instructor has me perform - they really help. Any rider who considers themselves an athlete (and every rider is) should be stretching appropriately so as to maintain the proper position on their horse and so as to prevent possible injury.

Here is another very informative photo that demonstrates the rider's (correct) position in context of the rider applying the 'circle of aids' and causing the energy of the horse to flow freely beneath him:


The grey arrows refer to the cycle of energy allowed and guided by the circle of aids. The rider's hands must be soft but firm, his elbows must be elastic and his shoulders relaxed. The rider's hands and upper body MUST be independent of the lower body. This requires strength (especially core strength) and balance and a correct position that places the rider in balance and with his gravity centered. This is the best position from which to influence the horse and also to allow the horse to move in a beneficial manner.

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