Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

In the Arena #34 - The art of riding is the art of not interfering with the horse

Yesterday was simply beautiful, once again. We've had a string of gorgeous warm days... time to take advantage. I slipped up to the barn around lunchtime, groomed and tacked Val up. We built on Sunday's work, culminating in trot / halt, halt /trot transitions. More improvement in forwardness and accurate school figures + lots of trotting. Val was blowing and snorting, seeming very engaged during our trot work. A lovely, relaxed ride.

As a result of sorting through photos from the clinic on the previous evening, and noticing my many posture infractions... leaning forward, weight off to the left, twisting my upper body, elbows flapping like chicken wings... I spent this ride focusing on keeping my body centered and even in the saddle. Oh, easier said than done.

I've been reading Franz Mairinger's Horses Are Made To Be Horses, and these thoughts resonated with me:

"The better the body control is, the more consistent the aids will be. Then the horse will learn quickly and the rider and horse will understand each other. The control must be such that the rider knows what every part of his body is doing and every movement must be independent of every part of the body. We do not normally think about what we do with our body, but to be a good rider we must do so. The rider does not have trouble with the horse; the horse has trouble with the rider."

A lofty goal... will I ever get there?


My farrier made it to the island for our appointment today after all. He complimented Val's fitness and great attitude during his trim. (last visit we had that cowboy come to Jesus meeting) Smile... I love my horse. We have made great progress in the last few months. It's gratifying when others notice too.


What is less than gratifying are some aspects of being the barn owner. At the last minute the farrier changed our appointments, making them about four hours earlier. The appointments were originally set for after school, so that Lorraine, Cowboy's owner, could hold her horse for Will. As we were expecting heavy rain later and in consideration of Will's schedule, I caught and held my boarders' horse for the trim, rather than making Will wait while I hopefully got in touch with her mother, who isn't the most experienced horse handler. She (the mother) gave me some flack when I called to tell her the situation. I suggested she might want to thank me, and that first consideration goes to the farrier who drives seven hours round trip to see us, and who has no replacement. Rock and a hard place...


  1. Sounds like you had a great ride. I wish I could get my horse to enjoy trot work more. The transitions seem good for 'engaging' them though.

  2. Another good ride! Liked the excerpt from the book, one of my favorite books by the way.

    Ah...being a barn owner. At beck and call because of boarders and their expectations. Been there done that and I'd never do it again. Good luck being tactful(not one of my long suites).

    Val's feet look very nice now, that was a nasty chunk of hoof missing.

  3. Yes, that quote. A trainer once asked me what I wanted to accomplish in my riding lessons. "I want an independent, balanced seat," I replied. She laughed and said, "Don't we all." Sometimes it seems impossible to achieve, overwhelming to keep track of all my body parts, keep them moving in concert, but also leave enough space in brain to pay attention to the horse, too. Yikes! But in those rare moments when you hit it, it does feel golden and seems to lift the horse. I'll plug away it for the rest of my riding life, grateful always for the challenge because at least I'm aboard a horse!

  4. I also sit left and tend to lean forward, especially when I'm not in good shape. I've actually been told that the sitting left (or right) is more an artifact of the horse, not the rider. The horse is crooked and shifting the rider to one side. That's not to say that we aren't responsible for fixing it, but it may be more productive to try straightening the horse, then your seat will follow.
    I spent enough time as a barn manager to know that I never wanted to be a barn owner. Well, only if I didn't need to do it for money. I want to be able to throw people out without having to worry about paying the bills!

  5. Wonder what we'd do with out the photo /video paybacks!
    Really nice ride, from the sounds...and the blowing. I know my mare is hav ing fun, herself, when the high blow comes through!

    The body totally lies to you...I had a lunge lesson last year, my sis kept saying "sit back, you're leaning forward"...I swear, it felt like I was going to touch my horses back, with my back, then ~my sis said, " there!"

    Impressive hoof work there...sorry that the boarder just couldn't get past get are going to get lots of chances at diplomacy

  6. If you haven't been to a chiro recently (or at all) go get checked out - I tend to think our horses pick up our crookedness more than the other way around -b/c we can SEE our horses' moving crooked so much more easily than we see it in ourselves.

    Trying to straighten a crooked horse when we are provoking the crookedness by our own out of balance bodies is an exercise in futility - and the other benefit is that when we're straight and balanced we can then feel any crookedness in the horse much more clearly - so we can then address THAT issue.

    Love your rides, love the before and after hoof photo!

  7. Sounds awesome! I had a great on Howard today (and the past few rides). Anyway, check out my blog. It's called "A Journey with a Horse"

  8. Carol-

    Val does much better if I keep changing things up - frequent transitions especially.

  9. Arlene-

    I love this book so far - lots of wisdom and common sense :)

  10. Muddy K-

    You really hit on it. It's the journey, not the destination. Those (brief for me) moments where things come together are priceless :)

  11. Hi Shannon-

    I'm the culprit in this case of crookedness. I tend to collapse my right side and am stiff in my right hip which draws up my right leg. If I focus on keeping equal weight in my stirrups I can be somewhat even.

    My crookedness profoundly affects Val... but when I get even, so does he :)

  12. Kacy-

    My last video was a bummer to watch lol. Instructive though... kind of like taking bad tasting medicine :)

    Isn't it helpful when there is someone to tell you when you're straight and even?! I need to set up an all weather unbreakable mirror

  13. Billie-

    I'm definitely the source of the crookedness :)

    Some adjustments would probably help - however our local chiro is scary lol.

  14. Hey Ashley -

    Thanks for stopping by :)


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