I hear you! You are saying :”Whaaat? Ride a mounting block? What is she talking about?” Well ,Dear Readers, let me explain.
During the winter season in Florida I train with coach and international competitor,Luis Reteguiz Denizard, known as Lou to his friends.This year when I arrived in Florida I watched a couple of lessons Lou was giving to his other students and I kept hearing this reference to the mounting block: “sit evenly on the mounting block” “let the third step of the mounting block touch the ground.” I was puzzled but I knew that in my first lesson all would be revealed. And it was.
I had warmed up Biasini for the start of the lesson and Lou asked me to dismount. I did so. He then asked me to sit on the edge of a three-step mounting block. I had to sit right on the edge so that when I moved my seat (bum/bottom …whatever..) forward it would pull up the back of the mounting block off the ground behind me. This must be done without leaning forward of backward; always nice and upright in the body.
Then I had to tip the mounting block forward and let it drop back in the rhythm of the walk(1,2,3,4,), the trot(1,2,1,2,) and the canter.(1,2,3,1,2,3) Then I had to let the part of the block I was sitting on ‘release’ forward and down as far as my knees would allow and let my legs release. Cripes! That is not as easy as it may look. Then I would let the block go back and be on the ground again.
What does this have to do with riding a horse? When I mounted up again and started walking with Biasini Lou asked me to replicate the feel of how the mounting block felt as I moved it off the ground behind me. I did that in the walk, trot and canter.
Now, let me be clear, this is NOT a pelvic thrust or riding with my seat to push the horse forward. This is all about keeping my seat in the saddle and moving with the horse. No bouncing, no air between my bum and the saddle, no shifting of my weight side to side, no leaning in or putting my weight on the inside seat bone when going around corners. I am sitting on the mounting block and if I were to do any of the aforementioned squirreling around then the mounting block would not tip forward.
In the very first lesson I could tell that this was going to cure me of some of my bad habits. Habits like leaning in as if I was riding a motorcycle instead of a horse around corners. This is a bad habit because the horse is not a motorcycle and if you lean in or place more weight on the inside seat bone, the horse will move toward the inside of the corner or the circle to balance himself. The muscle memory of the mounting block soon cured me of that
After this first lesson I took a few opportunities to come and practice riding the mounting block in order to cement the feeling in my mind. Now that I have been riding with the mounting block reference for a few weeks it is becoming more solid in my riding on Biasini. Here are the other things it has helped me with: learning to release. Releasing any tension in my legs, and back and arms is essential. Otherwise this tension transmits to Biasini and how can I expect him to be moving freely if I am tight.
Next is allowing the mounting block to go back down to the ground behind me. This is not like doing ab crunches in the gym where you are not allowed to put your head back down on the mat. The mounting block returns to the ground at the end of each forward movement. I have been amazed at how effective this is; allowing the mounting block to go down behind me with each stride. When I ask Biasini to give me an extended trot I can actually sit to his big trot movement. And that is just the beginning of the things that are helped by letting the block touch the ground before it tips back up again.
So a mounting block is not always just a mounting block. It can be repurposed into a useful tool to assist riders in developing a better seat for dressage. I am still learning how to ride the mounting block but one thing for sure, it is really helping me to ride my horse.