Ella trots Leslie 2

I remember my first canter where I felt like the horse and I were moving totally in sync with each other. I can’t tell you how many previous canters felt like I was going to fly off the saddle because the rhythm and movement just wasn’t there.

Later I found out that there was an element missing – the feel. I had no idea what the canter should feel like – or the realization that although every horse performs the canter the same way, their movement, their swing, their lift, could be so different.

If wasn’t until I learned to listen to my horse through my body that I was able to ask for the canter, and get it on the correct lead, every time.

Learning to ride a horse is different from learning to read, or write, or even play the piano. But, is some ways it is very similar.

Most of our learning is based on our perception – what the marks on the paper mean, how to make marks that other people can read, how to press the keys in a way that makes a recognizable tune. But, with horseback riding, we are also learning how to interpret the movements and responses of another living being.

Each horse has its own way of moving. Yes, the walk is always a four-beat gait, but some horses may swing more from side to side where others rock from back to front. Some may even move one leg slower or faster than the other three. Some horses keep an even tempo; others speed up, slow down, or even stop.

As an instructor, I can see when a horse, let’s say if taking a stroll through the park instead of marching in a parade. I can explain to you how to wake your horse up using your aids, but it is up to the rider to be able to feel if the horse is responding and how quickly you are getting a response. It is up to the rider to feel the horse’s energy drop and keep the horse moving before he decided to slow down or stop completely.

Once one of my students understands how to use aids for riding, I may not even offer a suggestion if the horse is not following the cues. This is the point where the rider needs to figure out what to do so the horses responds appropriately.

Knowing the cues and using the aids is important, knowing how to apply them to a particular horse, that is knowing how to ride!

Linda Watson-Call is the owner and head riding instructor at Pretty Pony Pastures. Visit the website for details on all the lessons and activities at this facility.
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An amazing thing happens when we turn on the music is our arena. Everyone, including the horse, perk up!

Part of our riding is to get the horse to walk or march to a particular beat or rhythm. But what happens if we all hear the beat of a different drummer? We still have horses going slow as well as fast. Let’s add music – and everyone gets the same beat.

What is amazing is that the horses as well as the riders pick up on the rhythm or tempo of the songs being played.

We’ve had a drill team here for a number of years, so I’ve always known that the riders enjoyed practicing the patterns more when the music was being played.

Lately, I’ve been adding music for an enhanced riding experience. I’ve had a few riders who could not keep a rhythm with their horses, so I created a CD with marching compositions on it. John Phillip Sousa is great for this. Pop in the CD and suddenly the horse and rider are moving!

I also use music as a distraction. Our barn, like so many others, have birds in it. One of our special needs riders has an aversion to the birds. She hears their chirping and has a meltdown. But, she needs the benefits of riding as well. I found some kiddie music CDs. Not only did the songs distract her from the birds, but, she enjoyed singing the songs and had an excellent riding class. The other students in her class have started asking that the music be played, too. This is the singingest riding class ever!

So whether it’s used as a change of pace, a way to get the rider to feel the rhythm with the horse, or distract the rider, music makes a great addition to any riding lesson.

Linda Watson is the owner and head riding instructor at Pretty Pony Pastures. Visit the website for details on all the lessons and activities at this facility.