Horse Rider Tips- Assessment Opportunities

TOP 5 Physical Assessment Opportunities

PC: Cassy Kendall

Of yourself, any time you work with your horse, but especially if you feel out of your "comfort zone."
When learning or experimenting with a new way of communicating and interacting with the horse, people can unintentionally develop intensity in their facial expression, tension in their posture, increased energy, and tight movement.
Without meaning to, as a person is trying to mentally assess, process, and physically coordinate their communication with the horse, they may also be conveying unintentional signals to their horse.
This adds unnecessary confusion when attempting to change old patterns in the interaction.
1.) Are you breathing?
As folks focus they tend to also hold their breath. A great way to address this is to talk. Tell your horse about what you are doing (literally, it also helps you keep track.) Sing to him or whistle. Anything! Yes, I'm not kidding. If you are speaking, you are breathing.

Breath is one of the most underrated aspects of interacting with our horse. It affects our softness and specificity, our mental clarity, our muscles, and the effectiveness of our aids.

2.) What are you looking at?
Literally. As folks try to coordinate learning the mechanics of communication and the finesse of "feeling" what is happening, they tend to drop their gaze downward. Learn to "scroll" across your horse's body, rather than zooming in on one body part. It will help you learn to associate what you're feeling and what the horse's physical behavior looks like, especially when feeling resistant or unwanted responses.

3.) Are you gripping?
Without trying to be "strong" many people tend to grip their hand on the lead rope or rein. Society always tells us to "hang on" in other aspects of life when we aren't sure. Unfortunately, when it comes to our horses, gripping makes us become an anchor for our horses to lean on.

So practice having "piano" fingers. Check that you can open and close your fourth, middle, and index fingers on the lead rope or rein as if you were playing the piano. This can release tension in your neck, shoulder, rib cage, elbow, bicep, forearm, and hand.

4.) How are your feet?
If you are on the ground, notice if your feet are at a comfortable distance, with your weight distributed evenly or if you are physically in a position where if you had to move quickly you've "blocked" or put yourself in an unsteady stance. Notice if you stand with a slight bend in your knee or do you lock them causing rigidity in your leg and to roll your weight off balance onto your toes when addressing your horse.

If you are in the saddle remind yourself every once in a while to lift the bottom of your foot slightly off the stirrup.

This will reflect if you are pushing down and bracing onto the stirrup causing you to be rigid in the saddle and "moving" against the horse's momentum. Especially for folks who expect their horse to hang on the reins, this is a "go-to" unintentional coping mechanism.

5.) Are you smiling?
This is not a joke. When the human smiles their demeanor, energy, breathing, emotion, and intensity are affected. Often as folks ride, I'll say something funny, this isn't to be a comedian, but when a person smiles, their entire posture can change.

There is a feeling of "invitation" from the human towards the horse, which they can immediately pick up on. This can create support rather than critique even when teaching the horse something new. It also diffuses the potential for the human ego to take over if the horse is struggling during the learning process.
Obviously, there is much more, but these five simple checklist behaviors can truly change the timing, feeling, and effectiveness of your communication with the horse.

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