MORE SKILLS TO IMPROVE YOUR HORSEMANSHIP
At right: Here I am riding Ollie in a muddy arena. We love sand arenas when they're wet as the footing is much more stable and yet still cushiony. The photo provides a good example of correct collection and positive yet light and non-restrictive use of the reins. This is what "contact" means: the Fountain of Collection is turned on in Oliver, so that the center part of his spine actively and elastically arches up with each step while he coils the loins and raises the base of the neck. Note that's the BASE of the neck, not the poll. When the horse's biomechanical mechanism is activated in this way, it is the horse that stretches the reins, not the rider. When Oliver stretches forward to find my hands, he gives me the option of using the reins to assist in redistributing his weight appropriately for whatever maneuver is to come next.
Because we're turning a circle here, you see me asking and assisting Oliver to twirl his head. The twirl of the head is an essential part of any correct circular figure; the horse's forehead must face in the direction he's intended to go.
One other little point: can you tell what gait Oliver is in here? Oliver never willingly took a trot step in his life. A genetic pacer, I High Schooled him in all the movements of dressage. Gaitedness is not a reason why a horse cannot correctly collect, or why he would have to move stiffly. Oliver became one of the most supple horses I have ever ridden.
At left: Bone structure and shape of mens' vs. womens' pelvis, sacrum, and lower back are very different and the differences have profound effects on how men vs. women tend to sit and function in the saddle. Women are rarely instructed differently than men but greatly benefit from instruction geared to their anatomy. I researched and began teaching this information back in the 1980's.
Below, left: This gentleman in the warmup arena at a rodeo sits pretty well. His black horse is very relaxed and calm and is circling left at a lope on the left lead. All of that is fine, but there is a big problem with how the horse is moving. Can you tell what it is? Answer at the bottom of the page.
Above: I teach the Bow Tie exercise at almost every Horsemanship Improvement Clinic. I love this exercise because within it is contained (in potential) every form of lateral work. As such it is a powerful and effective tool for making every ride into an act of physiotherapy, something beneficial to the horse rather than something merely taken from him.
Right: This Saddle Seat competitor on her beautiful Arabian gelding are on the arena track on the right hand. The photo catches many problems with rider and horse. Can you name some of them? Answers below.
ANSWER to rodeo rider above: The horse is moving crookedly. "Crooked" movement means both that the animal's body is oriented at an angle to the direction the rider intends for him to go, and that the horse is not moving anatomically straight, with his pelvis behind his shoulders.
ANSWER to Saddle Seat rider on gray horse: Two overall problems: first, the rider lacks an effective seat and leg. She "clothespins" over the horse's back, misuses her stirrups, and sits out of balance. Second, the rider knows nothing at all about suppling or lateral work; this is why the horse moves counterflexed and she can't get him to move over to the rail. How much more beautiful this horse might be if he were only trained and ridden with knowledge and skill !