Holding Patterns and Your Performance

The theme lately has been INTENTION. Figuring out what you want, using visualization and kinesthetic awareness to get it communicated to your horse.

Something we don’t often hear about is habitual movement patterns, or holding patterns.

We humans store A LOT in our physical tissues. Issues and tissues go together long before Kleenex made that a slogan. More often then not- any trauma, negative emotion, thought, or injury is stored in our bodies. It gets stored in how we move, and how we hold postures. 

Think of the first thing you do when you’re stressed (if you don’t know what you do physically when you’re stressed… start paying more attention!). Typically the breath shortens and moves up into the traps, shoulders, neck, and jaw. We tense in our upper body, often unconsciously.

What happens when you are sad, or low? Typically we end up collapsing forwards through our torso- ending up in a flexion based posture.

Think about what happens in your body when you’re approaching a jump while riding and you’re anticipating a certain distance… A LOT of times (and I am included in this) we end up tensing our hip angle closed, and getting ahead of our horse.

This creates a shift in the horse’s center of gravity, and the good ones will be able to jump from their front end (for a while, until their body starts breaking down..). Sometimes they’ll chip, catch the rail, or take a ridiculous distance to save our sorry asses.

What happens in your body when you’re working on lateral work? Do you try and use your hand to move the hind end instead of visualizing your horse’s hind end moving over and physically engaging your hip-leg activation to help them? Or do you collapse through one side to compensate for a lack of lower leg guidance (typically, this is the outside leg side in lateral work)? Do you close your hip angle with tension, clench your jaw out of effort, and then expect your horse to manipulate their body around your clenched butt?

These are COMMON things. Yet not often are they CONSCIOUS. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.. we CANNOT expect our horse’s to move properly underneath us if we CANNOT be aware of our bodies, holding patterns, and compensations.

Sometimes we can even have intension mentally, but no collaboration from our bodies. This leads to a blissful unawareness until we hit a shit distance, can’t get the higher score on lateral work, or struggle with changes/circles/etc. For example- today in a lesson I was struggling to get and maintain distance and pace going through a grid. About half way through the lesson I noticed I was getting the intention clear in my head, but not connecting it to what my body was doing. My body, in turn, was death gripping the reins, closing my hip angle, and bracing my knees/ankles in the stirrups. The horse was getting it done by taking long distances, taking out strides, and grabbing the bit from my death grip and taking full control. Finally, once I consciously paid some attention to what my body was doing in relation to what my mind was visualizing I was able to RELAX and ENGAGE appropriately- resulting in an immediate fix of the issues we’d been fixated on for an hour.

That’s the other things- we humans like to fixate on the negative and totally forget about the positives. What can you do when you sit still and ride? Over, under, through is what my coach always says. When you relax, get in the moment, and ride each stride? When you LET GO of old tension, anticipations, and expectations and just ride what’s underneath you in that moment?

I’d bet it’s a lot different then what you’ve been fixated on…

Check out Sarah and I’s latest podcast on Letting Go.. it also applies directly to this point!

 

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