I work on my own straightness a lot, because I really need to. At competitions I hope all the training will hold together! I have regular McTimoney Corley Chiropractic treatments, as do my horses. I find that these make an enormous difference. I check the seat of my saddle after every ride, to be sure that my proprioception is correct. If not, I try to re-set it and am very aware of how I’m sitting next time.
A great way of checking that you are sitting on your seatbones evenly is to take both feet out of the stirrups and put your knees jockey-style together in front of the withers – this way you will really be able to feel your seatbones, and be sure that you are sitting exactly evenly on them.
Riding without stirrups shows up crookedness, as of course does riding bareback… and, if you’re feeling brave, jumping bareback, as in the photos!
I am fanatical about saddles being perfectly symmetrical and all my girths have central elastic or none, not just at one end. A top saddler told me that girths with elastic on one end will give as the horse lifts the shoulders over the jump and expands the ribcage, making the saddle tilt hard along the spine, leading to crookedness and, in some cases, the horse diving sideways in its jump in response to the pressure.
Top tips: In the dressage, remember to ride the hindquarters forward straight, and that any corrections should always bring the front end into line with the hindquarters, never the other way around. Make sure to show the horse is evenly curved on circles (not just neck bend!) and push forward to ensure straightness on straight lines, especially down the centre line.
For the jumping phases, your training will really tell. If your horse is used to being ridden straight to the fences, and to landing and moving away on a perfectly straight line, this good habit should stay with you in the ring and out on course, making your life a lot easier!
Someone I know was an eyewitness to a horse decanting the rider at Olympic level and carrying on down the course straight as a die, and jumping the next, very skinny, fence all on its own. That’s pretty extreme but does show just how straight-thinking a horse can be trained to be!
All photos by Katie Mortimore