Pretend you are a horse
Have you ever tried pretending you were a horse? Have you thought what it would feel like to have a person on your back telling you what to do? Would it be confortable and enjoyable? Or would it we unconfortable and difficult?
If you carry a well-packed knapsack on your back that is also well balanced over your shoulder, it is not an unpleasant feeling. But if it is loosely packed, unbalanced, and not strapped on correctly, it can be very unconfortable and seem much heavier than actually is.
There is another way pretenging you are a horse. Get down on your hands and knees, keeping your back level. Move around the floor a bit, being careful not to hump your back or let it sag. It will help to check yourself in a full-lenght mirror. Then, have a friend poke you sharply with two stiff fingers on either side of your spine just at the base of your shoulder blades. What is your reaction to these sharp pokes? Ouch! You quickly hollow your back and your head snaps up. Have your friend poke you in different places nearer your pelvis. Each time you will find the same reaction, especially when the pokes are a little farther down. It’s not a pleasant situation…
This is the sort of thing we do to our horses when we don’t sit to the trot correctly, when we bang the saddle at the canter, when we post to the trot and come down too heavily or when we mount and land on the horse’s back. Your reaction in this exercise was to shrink away from thumps and bumps, to hollow your back and raise your head. How many times have you seen a horse react in just this way? He is unhappy, tense, his back hollowed. His nose is up, his eyes have an inner frightened look and his ears are back. He looks unsure, sorrow; he switches his tail and moves with short, stiff strides.
Now let’s change the picture and try another exercise with you on all fours on the floor. Have your friend, instead of poking you rather rudely, play with his fingers on your back in a rather pleasant way. Or let your friend caress your back, gently massaging you. It feels wonderful! And what is your reaction? To raise your back, stretch and arch it like a cat!
It is certaintly not a sesnsation that you are going to avoid, but one that you are going to accept and even enjoy. Wouldn’t it be nice to give that kind of pleasure to your horse when you are riding him?
Have you ever seen a horse resistant and stiff with one rider, respond quite differently and much better to another rider? The second rider mounts the horse springing lightly up and setting gently in the saddle. They move off quietly, the rider’s body flowing and swinging with the horse’s body. The horse strides out freely, head down, neck long and relaxed, ears and eyes quiet. Gently the riders picks up the reins and moves the horse on, body balanced, hardly touching the horse’s back in the rising trot, then the canter, and still there is no tension because the body is swinging with the horse. The horse is both enjoying his rider and is willing to cooperate and move as he is asked. The horse’s strides are supple and open, the rhythm pleasant to watch; impulsions come softly from behind with energy flowing through his body. Under such a rider a horse becomes transformed. Even a horse with actual physical problems will be improved to some degree.
What is the teaching of all this? You would like to ride like the second rider, to learn where to sit in the saddle so that you you are balanced and positioned correctly. But at the same time, when the horse moves, the problems begins and you find yourself stiffening up in an effort to mantain a balanced position. But under the proper direction, the correct teaching, you can improve your balance and coordination; first, learning how your body work, for instance how to move differents parts indipendently from other parts, and then, with an inner consciousness of the correct seat and balance. Improve your riding by knowing your horse and increasingly with the correct tecnique and exercise.