Basics of Balance: Assessing your riding behaviors

When the rider has the ability to use all of their aids (hands, seat, upper leg, lower leg, upper body, head) independently of one another.

i.e. If you move your left rein does your right lower leg grip the horse's side? If you rise up in the upward motion of the post in the trot, do you tighten your fingers on the reins? When you are trying to turn your horse with the rein and you lean with your upper body towards the direction you were attempting to turn.

A major challenge for folks creating independent aids is a general lack of body awareness in general.

Yes, they are sitting in the saddle. But how? Are their seat bones "plugged in?" Do they understand what part of their body conveys what communication towards their horse? Are they able to offer a variety of energy in their fingers, seat, and legs?

An overlooked factor is if the equipment is "working against" the rider limiting their movement or putting them into positions that prevent them from sitting balanced; such as many fenders on western saddles are set too far forward, creating a "chair" position in the rider.

Why is it important?
An unbalanced rider is uncomfortable physically (creating an unintentional continual tightness or tension in their body, limits their ability to independently use their aids.

Unclear communication because as they use one aid they are conveying something else at the same time with another body part they didn't realize was moving.

Their timing to influence what is ABOUT to happen is delayed because they are not sitting centered 'taking the horse for the ride" rather are "going" for a ride like a passenger because there is more focus on trying to get comfortable in the saddle rather than influencing what is about to happen.

Being balanced allows you to influence or react quickly, efficiently, and calmly to all situations presented.

Do you have balance? Start self-evaluation while riding on the flat.

Ride a straight line- Can you pick a point and ride your horse straight towards it, or do you find yourself physically leaning in the saddle to try to "drag" your horse towards the chosen destination?

Maintain a consistent rhythm- Does your horse constantly change his rhythm within a gait? Have you noticed if you are offering the desired rhythm with your energy in the saddle or are you "waiting to see" what your horse offers?

Transitions- Abrupt, abrasive, draggy, jumpy, etc. these are all signs that you have not offered your horse clear communication through effective aids that can only be offered when you are riding physically balanced while preparing for a transition whether it is within a gait and decreasing and increasing the energy or from one gait to another.

Adjusting your horse’s stride- How much "work" does it take you to get a change in your horse's step? What aids do you have to use and how many times do you have to ask before you get the desired results? If you are incorrectly balanced, you cannot offer light and effective aids to offer clear communication which will cause resistance in your horse adjusting his stride.

Responsiveness of your horse- How much of a delay is there from when you ask your horse to do something to the time he actually does it? If you are unbalanced your timing and effectiveness of your aids will cause your horse to not believe that when you do something, it means something, and he must try to participate.

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