How many of you have heard someone refer to riding dressage as "just sitting there, while the horse does the work"? We ALL know that is not true, though our job is to make it look like we are just sitting there (doing nothing).
At Session A, we discussed this immobility. Our instructor, Sandy Howard, highlighted a story about a group of "body experts" that went around to different sports and analyzed the muscles required to succeed. At first glance, they assumed that a rider did not use many muscles to perform with the horse. However, the stabilizing muscles in a dressage rider are working harder than it appeared to these "body experts". Like a gymnast on a balance beam, a dressage rider uses muscles to remain immobile when forces would prefer them to be falling all over the place - known as dynamic balance (the ability to control the body during motion).
These balancing muscles are very important for keeping us not only upright in the saddle, but effective. We can only relax our hips and let our legs drop in the sitting trot when we have enough strength to function without these training wheels.
Working without stirrups, doing transitions on the lunge without rein aids and "core" strengthening off the horse all help improve a person's balancing muscles for dynamic balance.
That is why I have signed up for a gym membership... and a personal trainer.
Someone once told me that you need to ride 2 horses to be fit enough to ride 1 well. As a trainer, I would rather ride all of the horses at 110%. It is time to have a taste of my own medicine and let a professional push me past where I would go on my own :)
It may not be time for New Year's resolutions yet, but I say we all promise ourselves that we will work without stirrups a little more... take lunge lessons a little more... and treat ourselves like athletes.
So get those stabilizing muscles working and kick off those "training wheels" for good. Anyone can just sit there. A real dressage rider does not!
Here is a random golf video that 'drives' my point home. Watch the video, think about this blog post and see how you can combine the two to improve your balance while riding: