In my last blog, Effortless Riding or Riding with Less Effort we discussed what we bring to our ride, or how to generate “state” in preparation for our ride.
I had a friend recently say to me “My mare is REALLY working for me!”
What do you suppose she meant by that? Since we are quite good friends and based on some other comments after that declaration I know that what she meant was that she was experiencing a wonderful , harmonious relationship with her mare and that the result was thrilling! They were in sync, there was collaboration going on.
Another comment she said was “I have figured out how to organize my ride to suit her”.
So does this mean giving over complete control to the horse, no, but it does mean taking into consideration how that horse works the best. What type of warm up works best, a long walk on a loose rein, lots of stretch work, some lateral work, or ground work before getting on, or a combination of those?
Each horse comes to the ride with their own needs and preferences and if we don’t take them into consideration we are losing a valuable asset to our ride and our training program. If we get on and declare, “this is the way it is going to be, we are doing this, this and this, in this order..”we are going to create a dictatorship and not a collaborative experience. Some horses really enjoy working and have a very strong work ethic. With those horses it is easy to get and stay very serious and we may have to interject some play and fun into the ride to make sure those A type personality horses don’t burn out. Some horses need a bit more coaxing to want to work and we might only be able to do serious training a couple days a week and do other things such as gymnastic exercises, hacks out, trail obstacle work, cavaletti.
I have a horse who has told me in no uncertain terms that 2 days a week is his limit for dressage work. Since dressage is my discipline of choice at first I found this very frustrating and tried to change his mind. Not a good idea! Talk about too much effort-ting..oh my, he would work very hard for me for those two days and after that Rider Beware! Spook, buck, any excuse to say, no way!
So I learned and didn’t die in the process! And it has made me become a much better partner to him, we came to an agreement and really have learned some fun things to do in the process. He needed a lot of variety so I had to stretch myself as well and learn some new things . So as I said in my first blog, which is worth repeating is to ask the horse what are you here to teach me? If we remain open and receptive our horses are always teaching us, but are we always listening?
So what does all this have to do with Efforting or not Efforting. Well the bottom line is how do we find that balance between achieving our riding goals and keeping our partners happy? I know for myself when I am trying to make it happen, That is a red flag! I am off track and need to look at what I can shift to get me back in harmony with my horse.
Yes there are times you have to make something happen, to stay safe etc but I am not talking about that, I am talking about during my ride, when I feel frustrated, when I have that grimace on my face, my horse is tense, he has that grimace on his face..those are all what it looks like when I am trying to make it happen. Usually starts in the neck, my neck, his neck , which of course works it’s way down through our whole bodies till we both feel stiff as boards, Whoa! Pause, re direct..this is NOT working, what can I do in this moment to shift this? Of course all of this is happening in a split second and there is very dynamic movement going on , how do I get back into the flow of this movement, feel what is happening in my body that is creating this tension and how to shift it into something that works but is not over working?
Here in lies the challenge , and most of it has to do with gaining a better understanding of my body and how it works. What I know from my years of training and teaching Alexander Technique is that I can reorganize my head , neck and spine relationship, and by doing so I can help my horse reorganize that relationship as well. This takes clear thinking combined with good body mapping, skills I try to convey to my students as well. I don’t get it right all the time but I really enjoy the process and when I see my horse release tension and feel that glow of a great ride come back I know I am on the right track.
Happy Joyful Holiday Rides To You!!!