I have had questions about seat bones and weight. How do I use them, when, where and why. I'm going to explain the best I can. I am aware there are different styles than mine. I have developed the way I use my seat from what works best for me within the confines of my sport.
I'd love to hear from everybody on the differences on how they ride. If you're going to share, please explain the purpose and how it works instead of just pointing out the differences. That way we all learn more.
I'll start with seat bones 101. If you're way past this bear with me, OK?
I will sit on my horse. My weight is balanced evenly in the middle of my horse. I try to ride with my ear, shoulder, hip and ankle aligned all of the time, unless I'm specifically moving something for a cue. You would be amazed if you could see what incredibly crappy posture it's possible to have and still maintain those points in a line. Think "cutters slump".
I'll take my feet out of the stirrups. I'll relax my legs. I'll raise my arms to the side to shoulder height. Now I'll turn my torso and twist to the left. I'll make sure my arms stay level, my head turns with my torso and I keep my chin up. I feel my left seat bone sink into my saddle.
Now I swing to the right and feel my right seat bone sink into the saddle.
Now that I've found them I'll walk around the arena and practice putting weight into my seat bones. First left, then right.
I always estimate about five pounds of pressure into my saddle. Think of adding a bag of Yukon Golds to each cheek.
I keep my shoulders level while I'm getting used to this feel.
When I get it right I'll be able to sink into my left seat bone and my horse will step to the left in an effort to rebalance me. Sink to the right and the horse will move to the right.
Once I'm solid in this concept I will play with my seat bones at the walk, trot and canter. I have found that my outside seat bone balances my horse and the inside creates a turn.
This is where it gets tricky.
All cowhorse maneuvers are based on drive coming from the haunches. The horse is crouched and rocked either back or balanced over her hocks through every stop, turn and spin. Most of what we do is at a fast clip with continually building speed, driving with every step.
If I create my turns by dropping my weight into my inside seat bone, the horse will be following my cue, or playing catch up. I will be in a position to fall to the inside and have to counter that with my rein drawn to my outside hipbone and my outside leg pushed into the back ribs of my horse. At 35 miles an hour on a cow that's a lot to think about and too many opportunities to fall out of position.
So instead I drive my horse with my outside seat bone and leg into my hands. My inside leg will catch her if she falls to the inside, but the only position I have to maintain is my outside hipbone into the corner of my saddle. I'm extremely solid and safe in that position.
I stay essentially in the middle of the horse and am driving her into my maneuvers, instead of her following the cue. Do you see the difference?
So in a lead change my weight stays to the outside of my circle. My outside leg drives the horse into the circle. When I change I simply shift my seat bones and my leg. I am able to stay centered and balanced without a lot of work or thought. (Important for those of us who "cowboy" their horses)
When I'm going down the fence after a cow my horse is on her fence (or off) side lead. My weight is on the outside corner and my shoulders are back over my hips. My cow side leg directs how close she is to the cow, my seat bones ask for speed.When my horse turns into the fence she'll slide and turn, I'll push with my calf through the turn, shift my weight as we straighten and be in position for the run the other way.
So that is why I use my weight the way I do. I hope it made some kind of sense.
Now on to trailer loading. I am pretty direct on how I load.
You guys might think I'm nuts, but I haven't hurt one yet. I've gotten them all loaded. And they all stay pretty good travelers when I'm done.
I never get mad.
I get it done.
Every time I load a horse I take it somewhere. Even if it's around the block. I want my horse to understand that I load them, we go somewhere, we're done.
If I load and reload 100 times it's only going to piss us both off.
So I load. We go somewhere. I unload. We're done.
This works with straight loads or slant loads.
I'll do this every day with a problem horse but only once a day.
I get out my 50 foot soft cotton rope and snap it to a very sturdy rope halter.
I run the rope through the front of the trailer and out the window.
I bring the end of the rope to the back of the trailer, so I have kind of a pulley.
If I have a helper it works best, but if I don't I can make it work.
The key here is the horse only gets a release for looking in the trailer.
He doesn't have to get in at first, but he has to look in.
I'll put pressure(by pulling) on the rope until he looks. As soon as he looks I release the pressure from the rope.
If he starts dragging me backwards I'll let him pull me, but I'll return the pressure until he's looking in the trailer. Sometimes I need all fifty feet of rope, but not usually.
I don't release for rearing, banging, hiding around the other side of the trailer, nothing except looking inside.
The key here is that while the horse is flailing around I am whacking him in the pasterns with a longe whip. Not killing them, not drawing blood, but consistently popping those pasterns until he moves his feet while looking in the trailer.
He doesn't have to get in, he just has to move his feet, look in the trailer and think about getting in.
This only works if you keep your pressure and release working.
Remember, if he's flying back, let him, just keep the pressure on the rope, keep flicking those pasterns and don't quit until he stops going back. Then stop everything. That will get the point across.
The longe whip keeps you out of kick range. The cotton rope keeps you out of the trailer. Remember that.
Once he's got the thought in his mind he'll get in there pretty quick.
I will give a release for one step.
I will let him smell the floor of the trailer as long as he wants.
I will let him paw with one foot and his head in the trailer as long as he wants.
I will let him step in and out as many times as he wants.
I will only apply pressure when he quits thinking about getting in the trailer. Then I'll pull and pop until he's thinking forward again.
Once he's in I let him stand there. I don't tie him or close the doors until he is quietly and happily standing in the trailer.
If I have to reload a time or two that's OK. Only if he gets out again on his own mind you. Once he's in and quiet we will go for a drive. Come home. Get out. Be done.
It works. I swear.