DRESSAGE TIPS: MASTERING YOUR BODY ALIGNMENT WHEN RIDING BENDING LINES
Body alignment is a key part of dressage. It’s imperative that your seat is in the correct position. This way, the energy can flow through your legs and travel to your hands in the proper way. The position of your seat and your hips makes a world of difference. But when you turn, this can be especially difficult to maintain. Here are a few tips for body alignment when you’re riding bending lines:
Let’s first discuss how to get properly aligned in general. Your seat should be perfectly even. If your horse is travelling in a straight line, you should feel the even weight in both stirrups. Both of your legs should stretch around the barrel of the horse. You should have one hand, one hip, and one shoulder symmetrically on each side. This is easy enough when walking in a straight line, but what about when you turn?
How To Correctly Ride a Bending Line
Most of the time, when a horse is turning, one of the rider’s shoulders moves forward and upward. You’ll want to prevent this by ensuring that you are sitting on both seat bones in the saddle equally. Imagine there is a rod along your spine. Keep your shoulders level and pivot them to the left or right around this imaginary rod in order to prevent yourself from dropping one shoulder or collapsing one side. Stay perpendicular to the imaginary rod. Your hips should pivot slightly in the same direction.
“What Do I Do With My Hands?”
To explain the proper hand position, USDF Certified Trainer Melissa Allen likes to use a concept called “home base.” Imagine a square from the front of the saddle to the front of the withers. This square should be even with your hips both height-wise and width-wise. Make sure to keep your hands in that square. This will keep your hands in front of the saddle with a similar feeling to pushing a shopping cart forward instead of pulling it back. Make sure your hands stay in that box no matter what you do. Yes, even when you’re riding a bending line.
How To Keep Your Hands In The Right Position While Riding Bending Lines
As you use the imaginary rod to pivot, the direction of your hips will lead the imaginary square to slightly change. When you ask the horse to turn, your hands should move very slightly but stay in the “home base” box as your body moves into position. If you bend the horse without remembering home base, you may lose the connection to the outside rein because one of your hands goes up or out.
Now that you’ve mastered the seat position, add some more technique to your turns. Ride a leg yield on the circle. To do this, you’ll need to begin on an 18-meter circle left. Your seat must be in the correct turning position. Leg-yield out to a circle of about 20-meters using your inside leg. Using the inside leg allows you to connect your horse to the outside rein. After you practice this, you will feel both reins on the bending line as the horse truly goes between both legs. It can be difficult to stay in position when your horse turns, but with practice, you can form the bond with your horse that allows you to execute this move perfectly.