I started riding Western & barrel racing out in Colorado when I was still in the single-digits [in terms of my age]. Since my family lived in Connecticut, I soon started riding English and by middle school I was showing in the hunter/equitation ring. About halfway through high school, I got burnt out between the politics and the money involved in equitation so I flat out quit riding. I had to sell my horse in order to pay for college anyways so I figured, what the heck…no horse, no money for the show, and, if I quit, no more politics or stress.
So what did I do with my time?
I went back to dance class and picked up ballet..yes..ballet. I promise, there was no tutu involved but nevertheless…I was a ballerina for my senior year of high school. At about that same time, there was a 27-year-old riding trainer at my school/barn (they were one in the same), who saw the real me better than I could at the time. She convinced me to start riding again; training with her and her students for IEA (Interscholastic Equestrian Association) horse shows. Stay tuned for another post on IEA but, for the sake of this story, I’ll summarize by saying that IEA shows are horse shows for students in middle and high school to compete in one of four divisions. At these shows, you leave your own horses at home and instead, you ride one of the hosting farm’s horses that is selected by pulling a [horse’s] name out of a hat.
Anyways, I started riding and showing again solely to fill the “Open” division for our IEA Team. Though I had always placed well at shows, this became the first time that I was consistently placing in the top three at every show. Fast forward to the Spring of my senior year of high school and I ended up winning the 2010 IEA National Finals for my division.
So what does this have to do with ballet?
In equitation, position is over 50% of the deal. Next to modeling, equitation may be one of the most judgmental competition forms that exists. However, ballet can improve your position (and your scores) more than you could ever imagine (at least it was a surprise for me). While I strongly suggest taking a Barre class or two (it’s seriously a great workout & will improve your position just like ballet class), I will give you the key tips that will really help (though a formal instructor is probably better).
Tip 1: Engage your core!
Stand with your back against the wall. Engage your core and tilt your pelvis forward so there is no room between your back and the wall (thus removing the arch in your back). Now, remember how this feels and try to do it without the wall as your guide.
Tip 2: Keep your shoulders back AND down.
You can practice this against the wall as well for a guide but be sure check yourself every now and then by rolling your shoulders up, back, and then down. Don’t forget to keep engaging your core!
Do this on your horse.
It will take time to build the muscle memory but I PROMISE you, it will be worth it and help your position and connection with your horse on both the flat and over fences.
Questions? Please post them!!!!
Can’t wait to hear from you!