Allowing your horse to move
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Wednesday, October 27, 2021 10:26 PM
It sounds simple, doesn't it. Many riders will exclaim but of course I allow my horse to go forward!
It is surprisingly easy to give your horse a feeling of restriction, tightness, not quite matching his movement, gripping, hanging on the reins, etc.
Restricting the movement
It can happen if a rider is working on a difficult/new exercise like a shoulder-in for example. In trying hard to get the results a rider will stiffen in her hips/spine/shoulders/arms. All this tightness can send a chain reaction into the horse's body to slow down/stop his movement. If he is being kicked forward he will stiffen up or react negatively against such contradiction. Paying as much attention to yourself as to the horse is very important.
A rider can have stiffness in her body and restrict her horse without trying anything, simply because she cannot move that much with her hips/pelvic. Including asymmetrical tightness of one side compare to the other. Improving rider's own flexibility, strength and coordination can help to free the horse.
Not matching the movement.
This type or restriction is the hardest to catch or change.
Many riders use their shoulders or lower back to move with their horse. This is not correct. The higher the movement in the rider's body the more it feels for the horse like it is going opposite direction. Try for yourself -
stand sideways to a tall mirror, feet apart, knees bent, now bending from the hips move your shoulders back and forth imagining you are in canter. Watch what happens with your hips, they will actually move backwards first then back to
where you started. Even in light/two-point seat riders should not pump the shoulders. The other common mistake especially in walk and canter to move in the lower back by pushing it forward. Again,
for the horse it feels stiff and restricting.The movement must be below the lower back in the actual pelvic bone/seatbones supported by core muscles.
Gripping happens when riders feel insecure. They grip with their knees. Or, turn their toes out and grip with lower legs. Either way gripping stiffens the whole leg and hips which are primary joints to absorb horse's movement.
Unfortunately, gripping can stay in riders after they become better and are not worrying anymore of falling off. It can become a norm of contact with a horse. Taking legs completely off the horse's body in all gaits even for a split second is a good way to check on yourself and improve your balance. Soft contact through inner thighs, inside of the knee and upper calfs.
Hanging on the reins
This is very difficult problem to even recognize. Many riders are absolutely sure they are not pulling when they are. Two main reasons for pulling/hanging on the reins. One - a rider lacks tone in her body and has a tendency to sit with too relaxed midsection that sags downward and during the movement a rider is left slightly behind. She hangs on the reins for her own balance. Can be quite discreet, hard to see. The other - a horse leans on the bit and the rider holds with heavy contact. That does not help a horse to understand what is wrong with it and he can keep leaning because a rider keeps holding! It takes two to pull! To start - improve your own balance to be independent of the reins, learn passive consistent contact, learn to carry your arms from shoulder blades, learn to feel the quality of a contact - stiff/dead/heavy/no contact/jerky/loose/alive/light/supple/elastic...
Fixing these problems takes long time and hard work. However, recognizing them can create change not only in rider's attitude toward her horse but also toward understanding of what is required of her as a rider. Making a horse/rider combination more of a team rather then one tells another.