Welcome to a short homework series based on the things that I learned and worked on in my June 1st lesson with Harley. I hope that you find some of our work helpful to your own riding
or, at least, interesting to think about.
Imagine my torso as a folding-chair.
This one might take some convincing. Collapse is a bad word in dressage and riding. In fact, I will explain my own faults with regard to collapsing in a later post. However, my teacher instructs me to "collapse" my front while plugged-in with my seat. What does she mean? I used to be a horrid hollower. My lower back actually had a concave curvature. This was partly due to prior training and partly due to my conformation. When your back is hollow, your front-side is convex and over-extended. No joint or muscle group in the rider should be at its endpoint: totally contracted/closed or totally stretched/open. This inhibits movement at best, invites bracing from the horse at worst. So my teacher treats my back like a joint. I must keep that joint in its middle position, which is also called neutral and is necessary to ride in neutral pelvis.
By holding with my tummy muscles a little bit, I can "fold the chair", which is my torso. This brings my shoulders over my feet without dislodging my seat. This actually makes me straight in the saddle. Although I am not a hollow-backed rider anymore, the tendency is always there for me. Remembering to "fold the chair" keeps me right in the middle, making me a mobile, balanced person for Harley to carry. I must remember to do this for every transition, up, down, or within gait, and even when we are traveling for periods of time at the same pace. Toward the end of the lesson, I actually felt some fatigue in my torso, which is rare for me. My teacher said that it could just have easily been muscles letting go as it could have been muscles working.