> It makes a lot of sense now. I have this very same issue on my left side.
> With leg yields, turns on the forehand and even just bending. And I ALWAYS
> lose my left stirrup.
I am fond of saying "Don't crunch up your leg!" Lots and lots and lots
of students (and me too when I ride unless I constantly remind myself)
have a habit of bending the knee, just in general and also in
conjunction with giving a leg aid. Our knees are very bendy and we use
them a lot so it's just natural for them to want to be in use. Try to
remember to have a long leg, draped along the horse's side. The
Centered Riding book has a bunch of visualizations to help with this.
One is to visualize that your legs reach all the way to the ground and
that you're walking along in soft squishy mud as you ride.
Also if you can take your leg off the horse, grab the back of your
pants behind your thigh, and pull as you place your leg back on, you
tend to get more of your thigh laying on the horse properly in a manner
that helps your lower leg stay parallel and long instead of crunching
up. I think you have mentioned that you are on the small side, so you
don't have a big fat thigh that can squish out to the front if you
aren't careful (like me, heh heh) but you still want whatever looseness
your thigh has to be coming out behind and not squished to the front.
Then any exercises you can do to loosen that hip joint will help. I
didn't read the article you posted yet but it might mention this. And
last but not least, you might honestly be shorter on that side.
Usually folks are shorter on one side. Oh and also, the left side is
the side used for mounting, and stirrup leathers (if leather and not
nylon) can get stretched out such that even if in the same hole, the
left stirrup is longer than the right, which can cause you to lose that
stirrup more than the other side. Hopefully your instructor is making
sure it's not that simple of a problem!
Then when you need to use a leg aid, just bring it in so the horse
notices, right where it's already laying. There is no need to bring it
UP, or BACK (unless doing a turn on the forehand). Just bring it in.
Also I think many many people are taught to first turn their toes OUT,
and then bring their heels IN, and then give the aid. I consider that
part of the escalation sequence for a sticky horse but not the normal
way I'd use a leg aid. It is very difficult for me with my hip problem
to use my legs correctly. If I try to bring them in without bending
the knee, it hurts and I'm very stiff. If I can bend my knee (and bend
my hip, bringing my upper leg up) it's much easier for me to bring the
leg inward. My de-tuned lesson horses don't care one way or the other
but a sensitive horse would find all that motion disconcerting, and it
also affects the seat to do all that with your leg, which in turn dulls
them up to seat cues...
> So, in saying that, what kind of exercises and stretches do you do to help
> your riding?
I like to stand on the bottom rail of a fence with just the balls of my
feet and stretch my heels down. I also like to bring a leg straight
out laterally and then do little circles, loosening up my hip joint.
Anything you can do for lower back and abdominals will be great as long
as you don't turn into Iron Man who holds himself stiff with his big
bulky muscle mass while riding! But I wouldn't count those in the
category of things I like to do as they are difficult and I'm basically
a lazy slug... Loosening up ankles is also important. The various
times I've had physical therapy for the lower extremities, my
therapists have always said I have the tightest least flexible ankles
they've ever seen... So that's hard for me. On the horse, around here
we like to do a scissors exercise with our legs, where the legs move
one forward and one back from the HIP joint, not the knee. We also
bring one leg up at a time, bending it at the knee and holding it at
the calf, while focusing on keeping our seat evenly weighted and not
leaning or twisting. And the ever popular (not) "pretend there is a
string coming out of your belly button pulling your hips and belly up
and forward". Women hate that one for the most part since we seem to
spend so much of our lives trying to keep our bellies pulled INWARD.
> And what IS this "core stability" everyone keeps referring to?
Well, you want to be loose but stable, not flopping around. So if your
core muscles (lower back and abdominals) are strong and if you can
learn how to use them right, you can help your upper body be stable,
absorbing the motion but not flopping or bouncing or jarring into the
horse's back. You have to be careful though because it's not a type of
strength that equals stiff and rigid and unyielding.
You probably already have some core stability since you've been riding
for a while now. Do you remember when you first started, how your
upper body would bounce around? Do you watch a lot of beginners? Some
of my beginners actually look like rag dolls up there at first, with
their heads going one way while their tummies go another and their arms
flail about. Core stability is what begins to allow all that improper
movement to lesson. But it's not that your upper body stops moving.
It's more that it begins moving correctly in rythym such that it's not
interfering with the horse, such that it's allowing you to have a more
comfortable ride, such that it's helping you have quiet hands (it's
hard to have good hands when your upper body is going all over the
place!) and such that it helps you to keep a good, effective posture.