The conformation of the rider's pelvis can impact the rhythm of the horse in movement, and affect the harmony between horse and rider.
Normally, a horse's trot is rhythmical, like a metronome: 1-2, 1-2, 1-2. When a rider has a collapsed pelvis, it is often impossible for her to absorb the horse?s energy and effectively use the stomach muscles. This causes a loss of balance, and an inability to achieve this inherent rhythm. The result is an uneven rhythm of 1-2-2, 1-2-2, 1-2-2, where
1 is the upward motion of the horse
first 2 is the horse returning
second 2 is the rider returning
The Double Bump
Horses hate it. In fact, many horses will change their frame to accommodate the pain that results from the rider being out of rhythm. By working in a long frame, or being "out behind," the horse is adjusting his frame to allow for the longer interval required to achieve balance. This is counter-productive, and exactly what you don't want to see happen, especially in dressage.
Saddle Structure Can Help
To allow the woman with a hyper-extended hip to achieve the proper position, the saddle must be made to compensate for the position of that rider. It has to allow the rider to sit with her pelvis in the natural position, thus allowing for balance, position, and a secure foundation. By adjusting the position of the pommel and stirrup bars, and altering the saddle?s tree to accommodate the collapsed pelvis frame, the rider is sitting vertically, hip travel is minimal, use of stomach and back muscles is complementary and interactive, and rider and horse are relaxed. The legs will be in their natural position with respect to hip articulation, and shoulders will be back to achieve natural balance. Now the rhythm will be: 1-2, 1-2, 1-2. With a properly fitted saddle, the rider, with the reduced time interval in the rising trot, can now accommodate the horse's rhythm.
Rider in Rhythm, Horse Will Follow
An interesting anomaly occurs in the horse who is in the long frame, or working out behind. When the rider's interval of time for hip travel is reduced, and it is the horse who has the longer path to travel, the rhythm will again result in 1-2-2, 1-2-2, 1-2-2.
However, this time:
1 is the horse rising
first 2 is the RIDER returning
second 2 is the HORSE returning
Notice that the 2's here are the opposite of the first example. Here again, the horse is not going to be very happy. However, once he adjusts his frame for the rhythm of the rider, the horse will place himself in a shorter and stronger frame. This shortening of the frame is an essential step toward the collection of a horse and establishes that all-important harmony between horse and rider.
Sabine Schleese, BSc, MBA, along with her husband, Certified Master Saddler and Saddlefitter Jochen Schleese, is founder of Schleese Saddlefit 4 Life ? the Science of Saddle Fit and Design Promoting Equine Back Health. Contact her through Schleese Saddlery Service Ltd., 1-800-225-2242 ext 22 or www.schleese.com