The Difference Between Riding And Influencing A Horse
Riding a horse is so much more than just being able to stay onboard. When I was younger and first learning to ride my friends and I used to joke that once you'd fallen off eleven times you were a perfect rider. In order to achieve this converted title we would slide, rather ungraciously, to the ground at any given opportunity. Of course I now realize there's no such thing as a perfect rider and I'm sure every horse who has ever had a rider on its back can attest to that. But we can aim for improvement, co-ordination, and balance.
In the early stages of learning to ride you will, or at least should, spend a great deal of time learning how to sit correctly balanced on the horse and master the basic aids that will allow you to walk, trot, canter, and steer. I can not stress enough that this process can not be rushed or skipped over. It can be monotonous but is absolutely essential. A good instructor will have many tricks up their sleeve to keep the lesson fun and interesting. (More on that in a future blog.)
Until you achieve an independently balanced seat you will be no more than a passenger on the horse.
Riding a horse should be a pleasure, for both the horse and the rider. Your ultimate aim, no matter which discipline you ride, is to be mounted on a happy, co-operative horse who is balanced, comfortable, and responsive to your aids.
Once you are able to use each hand and leg independently, without sacrificing your balance and position, you can concern yourself with how your horse is performing. This is when you begin to understand how your body can influence, both positively and negatively, the horse's performance.
Only when a rider has developed a deep, balanced, independent seat can they truly influence a horse and either teach it something new or remind it of something it has already learned. Your aids should be clear and accurate enough so that the horse can respond immediately but soft and subtle enough so as not to cause them any stress or anxiety. Your muscle memory should be so finely tuned that your body reacts, almost without you even thinking about it, in a timely and precise manner.
This kind of balance and control is not something that can be achieved quickly. It is something we all strive for and some days we get closer than others. To be truly in harmony with your horse and move as one, is one of the best feelings in the world. With patience, empathy, sensitivity, and practice each horse and each ride will get you one step closer to the elusive title of perfect rider.