Have you ever wondered about mechanical horses? Are they just a gimmick, after all they don’t feel like a real horse and certainly don’t spook like one, or is there something you can learn from them? Alanna Clarke put Harry the horse-bot to the test with her duck bum, wobbly leg and chair seat, and was surprised at what she found!
Having had a taster session at Manor Grange during BYRDS camp with the lovely Aunty Janet who teaches on Harry the horse-bot, and feeling an improvement straight away, I decided to go back and find out more about these very different riding lessons.
Going on the horse simulator allows you to really focus on you and your position resulting in a better overall image and hopefully helping you to be more effective and to influence the horse better.
Firstly Janet asked me what I felt was wrong with my riding to give us a basis to work from, Well I had a list! From my slightly chair seat, duck bum and wobbly left leg I made sure Janet had plenty to work on.
Once I was on Harry the mechanical horse’s back we did a quick recap of what we’d done last time, getting me to close my eyes and put my legs into their proper position, as well as using the triangle on your body. Janet explained that the tip was the bottom of the bit of the bra that lies flat between your boobs, and trying to keep that point between the horse’s ears, something which she has everyone do as it helps center the rider.
After making sure I was in the correct position, Harry began moving going quickly in to trot. To improve my flexibility and balance in the seat, Janet had me doing some irregular rising trot, starting off rising two beats then sitting two beats, until it gradually increased in difficulty to sitting two beats and riding one and vice versa. This was so I was more balanced when I stood, as I have a tendency to tip forwards slightly. The amount of times I completely lost the rhythm was ridiculous, and I was trying my hardest not to do duck bum in the rise but it was surprisingly difficult to do without any forward momentum. I was pretty red I can tell you.
Next, we talked about keeping the weight in the saddle equal and adjusting according to purpose. Janet told me to imagine that there was a marble under each bum cheek and I was to not let it roll out, so I had to really sit deep in my seat. This also helped my flexibility as to stay in the saddle and not get bounced away I had to let my belly button follow the horse’s movement. Going into canter, Janet had me practicing using each hip on their own in corners to stop me from leaning in as if I was on a motorbike. It was much easier to do one way than the other, as I found out I’m very partial to leaning to my left to help my left hip direct the movement as my flexibility is not as strong in that hip as it is in the right.
Finally, we went over numbers on our feet, and how different pressure’s a different number. When you’re walking around and have barely any weight in your stirrups it would count as a one and the absolute highest umber being eight. Going into rising trot, my challenge was to try my best to not allow the number to rise too high, and Janet would set goals for me to reach, like when I rose I had to be on a three and sitting two, making me bend from the knee a lot more when I am sitting to find a way of supporting myself minus being reliant on the stirrups. It was extremely difficult, because I just kept flopping, but I at least got close to my target and got an estimated four standing and three sitting. It also caused me to flick up rather than stand straight up in the rise of the trot, resulting in a much nicer landing.
By the end of the lesson, I was exhausted its actually quite hard work! The difference you could easily see in my riding comparing from beginning to end was phenomenal, I was super impressed at how much better my leg position was and how I had things so much clearer in my head. I found the session so useful, Janet is not only lovely but she really knows her stuff and I’ll definitely be going back for more and I’d recommend them to anyone who needs to improve.
Unfortunately doing just that may have to be put on ice for a while. Sadly Janet, and her sister Josie who runs The Wonky Donkey sanctuary next door to Manor Grange were both badly injured on the Manchester bombing at Ariana Grande’s concert. They will both need lots of operations for a long time and the Janet has had to cancel her lessons for now and is struggling without them. There is a Just Giving page of you are able to help this lovely kind lady, please take a look. Here is the link. https://www.gofundme.com/3vg7osw?r=82725