At the end of my lesson on Saturday, Sarah noted that the rear quarters of my saddle (right where the two sections come together, and you can see the two sections clearly next to one another) were a good indication to pay attention to after rides, to determine the balance of your seat when riding. Sure enough, they proved a clear story of my balance, with the right quarter lower than the left, indicating that I was more heavy on my right seat bone. I have mentioned before, and Sarah has made me aware of through my last few lessons, my difficulty in finding my left seat bone. I believe I have gotten better (even Sarah mentioned it at last week's lesson on Wesley) thanks to the running I started, which is helping to free up my hips. Also being aware of the "problem" helps keep me actively assessing my riding position.
After seeing the rear quarters of the saddle, Sarah asked me to bend over and touch my toes. I did, then she placed a shim (same neoprene shims she uses for saddle fitting) under my left foot and asked me to try again. I just barely reached my toes noting that it was much more difficult and my lower back was strained. So she swapped the shim to my right foot and as I bent over again, with her keeping her knowledgeable hands just above my hips, I found it much easier. She noted that my right hip is "out". She further explained that our bodies, when trying to compensate for something uneven, will tighten or loosen certain areas to allow ourselves to stay stabilized as we move. This meant that my right leg was shorter, causing my hips to be uneven, and subsequently, the right side of my torso to "collapse" to compensate for the unevenness.
This made so much sense. I remembered back to when I broke my leg as a five year old, and believe that that substantial injury must have effected the continued growth of my leg. As I grew and began walking again, my body began to compensate for it's shortcomings. Now I have a lifetime of uneven holding patterns that we need to figure out how to unlock undersaddle.
To begin, Sarah adjusted my stirrup length on the right side up one hole. This will allow me to keep my hips even as I ride, and begin to loosen the collapse that I have in the right side of my torso. She advised that the next time I ride I simply ride without thinking about the changed stirrup.
As I mounted for the first time after the lesson, I honestly forgot about the stirrup change until a few minutes into the ride. I was amazed by how balanced and centered I felt. I didnt have to work hard continuously to find weight in my left seat bone. Instead, I was naturally balanced on both hip bones, and it felt great. It was definitely a moment where I, for the first time, realized what it felt to be balanced between both seat bones. I didnt fight the saddle tilting one way or another, and could now focus on my core stability and just ride.
And I had a great ride. I reinforced some of the exercises and concepts I learned at the last lesson, and Milo moved beautifully. He had a little trouble on the counter canter to the left, as we had at the lesson, but this time it only took the second attempt and he counter cantered continuously. Balance, such that I have felt when working on it with Wesley, will come as strength and stamina build for Milo. But the stepping stones are in place. Oh and you know what else? We finally have a planted foot for a spin. Could it be the strength building exercises we have been working on for his hocks? Or could it be the balance in my hips now? Probably both. But I should have taken a picture of the hole Milo's foot dug into the arena dirt. Priceless.