One hour riding with Ashleigh Sanderson
A year ago, I had the chance to participate in a biomechanics clinic with Ashleigh at Horse Valley Riding Academy. Since then, I’ve been following and reading her blog, as I find the way she teaches and her advice very useful.
At the time of the clinic, my riding experience was still very low and everything she taught was an eye opener in terms of seat and legs (mine or the horse’s).
During Singapore National Day weekend, Ashleigh was back at Horse Valley Riding Academy and I was able to book a lesson with her.
She started by asking a few questions about what my focus was lately. Lately, I’ve really been trying to improve my seat (read: glue my butt to the saddle) as well as get steady hands. The first thing she told me was that both my seat and my hands would get better by paying more attention to my core. She highlighted the fact that, more often than not, when a rider has an issue with their legs and hands, it comes from the core area. I took it as a very positive insight, as paying more attention to the centre point of the body to correct posture seems like less work than focusing on each individual part.
We then went on to analysing my weaker and stronger side – no surprise here, my weaker leg is my left leg. While the right doesn’t move, the left swings more.
Consciously thinking about the movement of each of my legs and the dissymmetry was really helpful. Finally, we moved on to the core area and she introduced me to the concept of ‘tensegrity’. On a very basic level, this is understanding how to be both tense enough but relaxed enough on a horse. It’s finding the right amount of core and lower back contraction without being too stiff or too floppy. She then asked what other sports I play or played. When I said both gymnastics and pole dancing (the pic here is actually me in Bondi Beach, Sydney during a work trip), she was thrilled.
She told me to remember how, when you’re going for flips in gymnastics, you need to use the right amount of muscles without being too rigid. That example really spoke to me, as I’ve experienced it and I can relate to how to apply it to another discipline. The moment I started understanding how to better use my core (pushing forward and back with the whole area), I could really see a difference in my hands and legs. Not surprisingly, even my horse during the lesson, Papa Bear, reacted to this new type of energy and focus. I’d like to say he felt how powerful I was and how we could be stronger together, but maybe he just got excited as an answer to my own excitement about this new discovery.
It’s so great to be able to piece things together in my mind and then be able to execute it and see a difference. I know old habits die hard, yet I do feel this new knowledge is really going to help me refine my riding skills.
A big thank you to Ashleigh and her great tips. If you want to know more about her, head over here.