Articles of Thought
Riding is the art of keeping the horse balanced between your legs. This may sound simple but I assure you that in the long run it is more difficult than that. Often I hear someone come up to me and explain that they thought they would take to riding like fish in water. One gentleman noted that he wanted to ride to show his kids that he could ride right along with them. He felt it would be a breeze for him because he felt he was very athletic and played many sports and have even competed with motocross racing. He went on to state that the balance and speed was not the issue, but proper alignment, soft hands, leg with seat and hand cues were difficult to put into practice. He now has a much deeper appreciation for those who ride and for his kids who were learning to ride along with him. I thanked him for his comments and agreed that riding takes time, patience, perfect practice and awareness. Riding takes years to really learn and those who are dedicated become very eloquent and their riding looks effortless. I explained to the gentleman, that I applaud him for taking the time to learn to ride and participate in an activity right along with his children. This family is establishing a great relationship with their children and learning a new sport and skill sets that will carry over into other avenues of life and memories that will last forever.
It is a long process to
mentally and physically being ready to ride again after an injury. I
am not talking about a horse related injury, just any injury that
took you out of the game. Physical therapy can do a great job in
getting us back up and on our feet. But often having down time, we
lose some muscle tone, strength, coordination and energy loss play
into our hands and take us down a spiral staircase of excuses not to
ride. Riding takes effort. We have to regain some energy to have the
desire to really want to ride. Then when we come to terms with
wanting to ride, we have to figure out how we can overcome the fear
of knowing that our balance may not be the same, our cues not as
efficient, or timing off and our focused awareness not in the same
place as it once was. It can be scary just getting back on a trusted
horse and having someone leads us around. It may feel awesome being
back on a horse, but we may not be sure if our body will hurt, if
our backs will spasm, or if our arm and leg be strong enough or will
we simply slide off the other side of the horse! For each person who
is a rider with an injury there will be different (yet similar)
thoughts running through our head as to what this will feel like
getting back on a horse. There are personal challenges ahead and the
best way to deal with it is to understand your limitations,
HAVE A DOCTOR’S APPROVAL, and find
a great coach who is knowledgeable with horse and human
bio-mechanics help you along the way. The coach should be able to
facilitate the connection of the mind, body and spirit of the rider
and correlate that to the horse’s ability to teach the rider how to
deal with and understand their own personal challenges on a deeper
and refreshing level.
Take the time to talk it over with your coach as to where your thoughts and concerns are, where you’re at physically and mentally and what your goals are that you’re trying to reach. Open communication is necessary. You need a coach that you trust and will lay the foundation for you to work within your comfort zone at first to rebuild some basic level of confidence. Do not worry if the process takes some time. Rome was not built in a day, and you did not learn to ride in one day either. Give your body and mind a chance to relearn. It can be done, but I strongly urge you not to go at it alone. If you need assistance, give us a call and we can work with you to rebuild your confidence.
One key element I focus on with barrel racing is not the speed of the horse, but it is in the gliding ride of the horse and rider. With the horse and rider moving together as one, and the turns are precise, and the action between the barrels all roll into one great movement, then I know there is potential in both horse and rider. The softness of the turns, the look of an effortless run , the timing of the cues all show up with a rider and horse with a good foundation and equitation skills. To me, a well-run pattern far out weights a faster, yet sloppier pattern, especially on a colt. I prefer a horse that is balanced and moving correctly. I would rather start a horse on the barrel pattern that is very broke and eager to learn. I may teach some elements of the barrel pattern to a colt I am working with, but I am not jamming them into a pattern before they are ready physically and mentally. Taking the time to develop a horse’s foundation will help ensure a longer “career” for that horse. Besides, it is much more fun to ride a horse that glides through the pattern than one that feels like a rocking horse.
There are still many horses out there that are downhill at the withers. I find that often I can enhance the withers with strong hind quarters, good muscling along the back and abs, and gymnastic exercises. I use a variety of exercises to accomplish this task. One exercise that I really like when developing a horse is to sit softly on the seat, using proper equitation leg aid and softening the head and neck at the withers by careful easing the reins out and timing my cues of asking for the “withers to be raised” (Which is really a supporting role and hind end lowering) and directly rewarding the effort. This can be really efficient and well executed at the working trot. Take your time to develop your timing and feel of the rein, bit, head, neck, withers and hind end. It won’t be long before you can feel the changes in the horse’s body.