Quiet Rider
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Tuesday, April 8, 2008 08:37 AM
A quiet balanced rider has some characteristics that are easily visible upon observation and some that are not. The visible characteristics are balance, ease, feel of relaxation and obvious control of the horse. He/She appears not to struggle to stay on a horse, the horse carries such rider with ease. There is no stiffness or apparent holding. The invisible characteristics are strength of the core, suppleness of joints and muscles and control of the body movement. Lets look at all of them.
Balance - A balanced rider keeps his center of mass on top of his base of support. The center of mass in a human is located slightly below a person's belly button inside the body. A body behaves as if its entire mass acts or is acted upon at its center of mass. The mass has inertia, the faster the speed change the more difficult it is for the mass to change it's momentum. And it has a tendency to move into an opposite direction than the acceleration. For example, a horse slows down a rider is thrown forward. A horse speeds up a rider is thrown backwards. To stay together with your horse you must train your muscles to minimize the movement of your center of the mass in relation to your horse. Core strength is of a paramount importance for riding. Good core strength keeps your center of mass very stable which makes the whole body stable. Besides strength your core muscles must react fast to stop your center of mass moving. With practice comes correct automatic reaction of your muscles to the change which is much faster because muscles do not need your brain approval. Athletes use proprioceptive training technique to teach their muscles to react quicker to changes in balance. Two examples of unstable center of mass. First - A completely relaxed rider who does not have any core strength will not be able to keep his/her balance if horse decides to slow down or speed up even if the rider has asked for it. Second - A rider who throws his/her hips around thinking he/she is driving the horse with the seat.
Relaxation - Because a good rider appears relaxed and a beginner rider appears stiff logic assumes that you need to relax to be a good rider. Lets look at a trapeze artist. Does he appear relaxed when he stands on the rope? Yes - the good one does. Do we think we need to relax to be a good trapeze artist? No! The same applies to a rider. I think the fact that we sit on a horse creates a false feeling that it is easy. If we put a lay person on a rope and then on a horse from what he is most likely to fall. No brainer - from a rope. But a horse is not a chair. It is a powerful animal with size, strength, will and emotions. Unbelievable energy that can go any direction. Thinking that relaxation is a key to balance and control over such creature is foolishness at the very least. Beginner rider will be stiff no matter what. His/ Her body will try to prevent lost of balance by any means necessary usually grabbing the reins with the arms, grabbing the saddle with the legs and pulling stomach in trying to close the distance between the ribcage and the pelvis. All these natural reactions are opposites of what body needs to do to stay in balance with the moving horse. As we already saw earlier trying to be completely relaxed especially in a torso area will not fix the problem. Appearance of relaxation comes from years of practice, understanding the laws that govern your body and body of our horse and applying them properly.
Suppleness and Strength - The balanced rider looks relaxed because he/she has suppleness and strength. Supple body is flexible in the joints, strong in the muscles and quick in reactions. If your joints are flexible your body will not worry to pull something and can let muscle do the work. Otherwise the muscle will react to hold the joint from injuring itself, hence, stiff joint. If your muscles are strong but joints are not flexible you will be stiff on a horse. Weak muscles with flexible joints create very unstable structure. There is nothing to keep everything together enough on a movable object. Strong muscles for riding are muscles that can keep body in a certain position for a long time allowing for constant adjustment. They keep up with a moving horse and with the change of speed. They can relax and tone instantly in accordance of the moment. This gives the rider ability to stay in balance and to control the movement of the horse with ease which gives a feel of relaxation.
To become a quiet balanced rider you need to learn the correct posture on a horse, train your muscles especially core and stretch your joints especially hips. On my website I have articles that explain in detail how body works on a horse and I have exercises to help you develop proper breathing, core strength and flexibility. Click here.
Happy riding...
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My blog is about teaching, riding and training. I share what is important to me in my work with horses and riders. The writing helps me to think things over and have a better understanding of training ideas and priciples.
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