Monday, June 18, 2012

Debbie Sams: Gripping with Knees

Part 9 in the “Deep Seat” series

Gripping with knees
When your horse spooks, your first reaction is to grip tight with your knees. After all, you want to stay on, right? Well, yes, staying on is the priority, but gripping with the knees is not the key to sticking to your horse.

You are trying to hold yourself in place by gripping with the knees and often the thighs as well. The problem with this is that the horse becomes like a slippery grape. Imagine that you are holding the top of a grape between your fingers. If you squeeze it, the grape will pop out of your fingers (Illus. 29). In the same manner, if you grip with the knees and the thighs, you are gripping mainly the upper portion of the horse’s barrel. This makes you more likely to pop off your horse’s back because the lower legs have lost contact with the horse’s barrel (Illus. 30).

Illus. 29
Problem: If you pinch the top of a
grape it will pop out of your fingers

Illus. 30
Gripping with your thighs
Noodles — To rectify this situation imagine that you have cooked noodles for legs. This will cause the legs to relax and lengthen (Illus. 2). Cooked noodles are soft, movable, and sticky. You want your legs to move softly with the horse, stretch long, and stick gently to your horse’s sides.
Illus. 2
Spaghetti legs
Contact with thighs and calves — Next, consciously think about having contact with the calves and a very light contact with the thighs. This contact might resemble a wet towel. It sticks to the horse but it does not squeeze (Illus. 31). The knees should rest lightly on the saddle without any light coming between the knee and saddle. Your heel must be down to maintain balance.
 Illus. 31
Solution: Imagine your calves are like
a wet towel that sticks to your horse's sides.

Read Part 1 (Sticking to Your Horse with a Deep Seat) in the "Deep Seat" series
Read Part 2 (Deep Seat versus Light Seat) in the "Deep Seat" series
Read Part 3 (Deep Seat Problem and Solution) in the "Deep Seat" series
Read Part 4 (Arched Back — Problems and Solutions) in the "Deep Seat" series
Read Part 5 (Torso Leaning Forward — Collapsed Chest) in the "Deep Seat" series
Read Part 6 (Rounded Shoulders, Collapsed Chest) in the "Deep Seat" series
Read Part 7 (Knees and Heels Creeping Up) in the "Deep Seat" series
Read Part 8 (Toes and Knees Turned Out) in the "Deep Seat" series

Debbie Sams teaches English and Western riding with an emphasis on dressage. At her Springer's Stables in Broadalbin, New York, she also teaches drill team and vaulting. Her farm gives pony parties and holds horse camps for scouts and local community college and elementary school youth programs, as well as for the Sacandaga Bible Conference and Retreat Center. Debbie has been teaching drama and drill team on horseback since 1979; in 1985 she became a Certified Horsemanship Association Instructor. She is the author of 101 Drill Team Exercises and has also put her horse knowledge to work in writing for such publications as Practical Horseman, Equus, and the Northeast Horseman’s Journal.

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