Have you ever struggled with a pesky upper body that insists on leaning before and through the turn? Do your shoulders and torso have minds of their own?
Try these ideas to sit (and stay (-:) square, still and deep in the saddle:
1. Let go of trying not to lean.
Our bodies cannot ‘not’ do anything. You will be well on your way to sitting quietly, deeply and still as you focus on what you want, instead of what you don’t want.
2. Focus instead on the mechanics and feeling of a silky, deep cutting turn.
Work towards the goal of being a partner with your horse in a seamless kind of deep swiveling sensation as you turn.
You and your horse are a team. Your horse provides the power and the movement. You provide the support.
You each have your own jobs.
3. Understand your horse’s job.
The turn begins with a square stop on his hindquarters.
He then draws his weight one more notch back.
His primary weight just after the stop and just before and during the turn needs to be on the opposite hind leg away from the cow.
So if you are facing left, getting ready to turn right, after your horse stops, he anchors his left hind leg in the dirt. He holds that crouched position and weight distribution to make a balanced turn in rhythm with the cow.
If you’ve heard the terms, “losing his rear” or “fishtailing” … that occurs when there is less weight (and wait) on the opposite hind leg away from the cow.
4. Understand the rider’s job.
The rider must maintain proper balance and weight, in order for the horse to do his job.
Help your horse stop by collapsing your back and dropping as deeply as you can into the saddle when you see the cow slow down or stop. Stay down. Tell yourself, “Collapse. Go deeper … deeper … deeper.” Try to press your belt buckle down and toward your back bone.
Check in with your hips. The hip on the outside of the turn … the same hip as the anchor leg of the horse … remains quiet and still … and heavy.
Now, ever so softly and deeply, your hips are quietly a part of a swivel turn.
Your job is to stay balanced and allow your horse to turn around.
As your horse turns, imagine your hips going even deeper as he turns. Feel the swivel.
Try exhaling into the stop and turnaround.
Wait to use your feet until you have almost completed the turn and you are approaching traveling on a line parallel with the cow. Your trainer will coach you about when and how exactly to use your legs after the turn. Different trainers have different approaches to this piece.
As you visualize and practice these technical pieces, coach yourself in feeling words, like “soft, deep, collapse, go deeper”.