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Ride like you walk February 18, 2016

Posted by mikeschaffer in calmness, dressage, Natural Horsemanship, online lessons.
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Many students are writing in, anxious to see the snow melt so they can get back to their regular riding. Since we have more enthusiasm than riding opportunity, I’m suggesting they do one of my favorite riding exercises – walking on the ground.

Yes, that’s right. One of the best ways to improve riding technique is to observe your walking technique. This is true because when walking with reasonably good posture, we manage to go, stop and turn with our hips. When riding, the correct use of our seat for asking the horse to go, stop and turn is virtually identical.

I know many will protest they’ve been taught to use their seats in a different, and generally more complicated or counter intuitive way. It is also true that if we are to compare many of the methods taught, we will find that they are often in conflict. Yet when done with a modicum of skill they all work. I discovered this for myself decades ago. My conclusion was and is, as long as we use our seat consistently, in an encouraging way that doesn’t interfere with him, the horse is open to learning our aid and doesn’t really care much about the details.

From a standing position, I begin to walk forward by pushing my hips slightly forward. How slight? Until I paid attention to this, I never noticed it – but just doing this starts me walking. Notice I don’t need to be kicked in the ribs or ever squeezed about my mid-section.

When stopping from walking I bring my shoulders up and slightly back which again brings my hips slightly forward, and again allows my feet to come under me in a perfectly fine halt. It goes without saying I don’t need to pull backwards on my face or any other part. I just “sit up” a bit and allow myself to stop.

When changing direction while walking I don’t pull my nose in the direction I hope to go to, or point my feet that way, I simply turn my hips a teensy bit in the direction I want to go in. Not to be repetitive, but I didn’t know I how I changed direction until I made a conscious effort to figure it out. It’s really a small change.

This is relevant because if you teach your horse that he should go, stop and turn in response to only you using your seat this way, the rest of training is a matter of polishing it up. Said better by an Irish eventer I rode with long ago, “Once you have go, stop, turn, everything else is window dressing.”

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