The horse riders upper and lower body parts, working in coordination are so important!
I often get asked “which leg and which hand to push or release” and “which rein aid should I use?”
It’s a tough question, when the answer is always everything at the right moment, at the right time and with feeling.
- So imagine yourself walking in a small circle, carrying a tray of drinks, the smaller the circle the more you have to turn your torso.
- Focus on opening the hips and softening the joints, while rolling your feet and landing softly.
- Place your feet, and yes, you will need both legs to push, release and do it again, one a bit more for standing and one more for suspension.
Balance is key with coordination, now at a faster pace … just kidding … but, then again not really, as in the end that is exactly what you ask of your horse, with you on top, in balance and in motion!
Now imagine every time you take a step to the inside, the tray you are carrying is topped up or re-balanced … this would throw you off balance, make you a bit nervous and your confidence and trust in the person that loads the tray is getting less.
This relates to riding because it is a partnership and trust is key.
It always amazes me, when I ask the riders to use one hand softer, or remember to lift the hand, how the hand almost automatically disappears towards the hip.
I guess this has something to do with strength, as when we lock our hand into our hip, we can hold on a bit tighter, while we balance our seat and leg on the other side of the horse.
IF we lift our inside hand a little bit, we can lighten the load on the inside stirrup and thigh, with an open hip rotating the upper body upwards.
We have to let go of our control and go with the flow.
This is easier said than done, as we always use our hands to fix most things in life, so when we feel the balance underneath us shift, we naturally try to stabilise the horse (as well as ourselves!) with our hands.
Notice that it is the same as for us – when we walk the small circle, we have to make room in the turn and make way for our inside leg. This leg gets placed inwards and out of the way with a lift in the withers and a rotation of our torso in the movement.
- Hips, shoulder, legs, hands -all get a bit of a lift, while the outside of the horse extends.
- We balance ourselves on the outside thigh against the horse and with a long inside leg.
- Our stabilisers on the horse are OUR legs and torso, connected in the middle through the pelvis and hips, so we constantly work on being flexible and adjustable in this region.
- Not so much the hands, they are soft and allowing and are there just to refine the movement, for the last little bit of a polishing effect.
- Sometimes just to remind the horse to stay focused ….
Unfortunately, every movement creates a ripple effect.
So once we take the horse’s head out of alignment with our stabilising action of the hand movement, the horse will use a shoulder/ front leg to stabilise itself. This creates stiffness and tension. And as we feel the balance shift and the horse overloading a shoulder, we lose control over their hind legs and also, often the ability to take the half halt through and place the horse on the haunches and back into balance.
So the roller coaster ride continues and so does the ripple effect.
Often by one big adjustment, followed by another counter reaction, until both horse and rider are out of sync.
Stop, retreat, regroup and …start again.
We need to go back to the root cause of the problem and find ourselves centred in the middle of the horse and work on spinal alignment in the horse and rider.
The best way to do this is slow down, take a moment, take force and gravity out of the equation, give yourself time to feel and observe all the little nuances.
For both horse and rider we need to eradicate the shifts, the leans, the braces, one-by-one.
Use your observations skills, time and patient practice
Awareness of the movement pattern and reaction, we might think we are centred and that your hands/ elbows/ shoulders are relaxed, but can we really freely move them up down, left right?
The same with our torso, can we really go with the flow and sit centred so we can adjust forward, back, right, left, and swivel and rotate?
Go with the rise and the flow, stay light and centred.
Time your breathing with the intention of what you want to achieve, rhythm, engagement, slowing down, relax, breath in and out in harmony with the movement.
Looking at our legs, we can open our hip joint, use a calf or thigh muscle to balance or engage?
Same with our body, we have to make ‘friends’ with our habits, good and bad, so that we can adjust them one by one.
It is always a challenge to train both sides of our body to be equally soft pliable and reactive.
For me, it always helps to walk it through in my mind and then transfer it to my horse’s movement, expecting her to come along in an inviting leading manner, not through stiffness and tension. Occasionally I insist ….which is a bit more than an invitation!
If you want to know more about how I can help you, send me a PM or call me on 0408 882 730, and let’s find out what you’re goals are!