Mountan Magic Ranch

Balance or Why isn't this horse getting it?

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Kim Andrews

    The horse is an incredible creation. We can make any number of mistakes while riding. The horse, with his desire to please, will put all his might into making it happen, despite our mistakes. Because of the horse's willingness we can remain ignorant of these mistakes until someone opens our eyes to them. Iím talking about balance, how humans sit on a horse, or should I say, get in his way. We lean over the shoulder we want to move, putting undue weight where it should not be. Still the horse performs, even with the jab of a spur or a yank on the rein. We lean too far forward to do a turn on the haunches, the weight on the forehand inhibiting the horse's movement. Amazingly he tries to perform. Putting our weight too far forward or back, we ask our horse to back. Still the horse performs.

    Balance is extremely important in creating unity with our horse. Inside our bodies we have two seat bones that are the driving force of balance. Sit on your hands and feel those bones. You can definitely feel them in a hard saddle. Notice when you slouch back, as if you were sitting in an easy chair, your seat bones point forward. When you hunch forward, your seat bones point back. When you rock side to side you can feel how much more weight each seat bone bears as the other one becomes unweighted. If you have any doubts about your horse feeling this, think of how much your hands are starting to hurt. Your horse can feel a fly land on his back; surely he can feel your seat bones and the position of your entire body. Think of your seat bones and weight distribution as you ride. Are you heavier on one seat bone or the other? Do you collapse a shoulder or one side of your rib cage? Is your neck, back, or any other part of your body stiff? It all relates to your center of gravity, how you are carrying your weight. You can feel it in your seat bones.

    Your eyes are another important part of your body that affect balance. Looking where you want to go, using your peripheral vision, and staring intently at something are three ways you can use your eyes. If you are looking at the horseís shoulder when you want to move it, you have automatically moved your seat bones to weight that shoulder. You are in the horse's way! Look ahead, level with your body, not at the horse or the ground. Feel the horse move that shoulder; FEEL THE HORSE! When riding forward, look out where you want to be. This gives a definiteness and purpose to where you are going that transfers to your horse as confidence. You become a trustworthy leader. If you use your eyes in a soft, relaxed manner, your whole being is relaxed and ready to help the horse. You can adjust to a situation and your horse will be relaxed and willing. If you use your eyes with staring intensity, your whole being will be tense, unable to feel and react properly, you become a predator on your horses back. Your horse becomes tense and fearful. Iím not saying there is never a place for focused concentration. You may need that level of intensity, initially, to get a spoiled horse to go where you want. Eventually, however, you should do more and more with soft eyes. I have a saying I use with my students, "The eyes control the body which controls the horse."

    One more thing, donít forget to breathe! Proper deep breathing rejuvenates the mind and releases tension from your whole body. Breathing in harmony with your horse's rhythm, combined with proper balance and soft eyes, blends you and your horse into one unit. This allows you to help, not hinder, him.

    Things may fall apart a lot at first. As you become more aware of your body, what you are doing and how you can make that minor adjustment, it will hold together longer. When you are having trouble with a maneuver, and communication with your horse seems to be blocked, donít think itís your dumb horse that isnít getting it. Ask yourself, "Where are my eyes focusing?" "Are they hard or soft?" "Where are my seat bones pointing?" "What seat bone has the most weight?" "Am I holding my breath?" "What am I doing that is keeping my horse from performing to the best of his ability?" As you gain control of your weight, eyes, and breathing, you will find yourself telling your horse, "Yes! You made it! We did it together!"

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Last modified: 20 May 2019