If we want to improve our riding, it will all start with awareness. Awareness of what you are thinking, feeling and doing while being up there on your horse and awareness of what your horse is doing, thinking, feeling underneath you. Are you aware of your one hip moving different then the other? Can you feel your breathing change when you transition up or down? How do you feel when your approach that jump, do you believe you will make it over or are you afraid your horse will take a bar down? Can you feel the tension or relaxation in your horses back?
It is important to observe your body and your thoughts while you ride. Quite often, rider’s are so busy doing things to their horses and giving aids, that they pay little to no attention to themselves. And if the attention gets turned towards themselves a little, it often focusses on what their body is doing wrong. Instead, I recommend to start feeling what your body is doing right and where you can feel movement in your body. Start by allowing each body part to be moved by your horse. Then observe your thoughts: what do you think about while riding? Are you distracted, thinking about your grocery shopping list or the incident you just had at work, or can you fully be in the ‘now’, together with your horse? Do you think more negative or more positive thoughts? Are these thoughts about your horse or about you?
Stop thinking anything negative about yourself or about your horse. Instead, focus on what goes right and what you and your horse are able to do together. Maybe you have to adjust your goals and be happy with smaller things.
A good way to start to feel what is happening and to connect with your horse is to do this very simple exercise: Ask someone to take your horse by the rein and walk it around the riding arena. Get out of your stirrups, let your legs just hang down and if you are comfortable; close your eyes. Don’t judge what you feel, and don’t do anything. Just be soft and passive and allow the horse to move you and allow your body to be moved. Feel what is there: can you feel your hips moving? Can you feel your legs swinging? Can you feel the movement travel up your spine and get out the top of your head? Can you feel your head moving? Can you feel your own and your horses breathing?
Can you feel your own body and the horses body move together?
Then open your eyes. Does that change anything? How does the visual part of your brain influence your feeling?
Our ultimate goal is to have this feeling of togetherness all the time. To have body and mind become one, and to have horse and rider become one. In the end, two minds and two bodies becoming as one. The ultimate Centaur.
The key to this togetherness is not technique. It is not about doing. It is about being in the here and now and allowing your body and mind and the body and mind of your horse to flow. Technique helps to direct that flow, body awareness and training will help refine it. The education and physical development of your horse and yourself will allow this togetherness to remain there on higher and higher levels. But without this awareness, without allowing, training of horse and rider can get on a high level in terms of exercises, but remain mechanical. The true harmony comes out of togetherness. This togetherness comes from a state of non-doing. Of simply allowing your body and your horse to move as one, directed from your intent, with your previously learned techniques as a background program to steer things in the right direction.
I like to share my thoughts on the Art of Riding with you here. Topics related to training and keeping horses and reports of my own experiences you can find here. Enjoy!