Sometimes we complicate concepts more than we should. This week I have been flatting without supervision because my barn is on the road for two weeks showing. Riding without coaching has forced me to push myself to be correct without reminders. I am truly a quintessential relies that is complete with years of baggage and relies on breaking habits by using a second eye through coaching.
I have been consciously focusing on a concept explained to me a few years ago by a renowned dressage judge and trainer when she was ventured from the dressage court to our outdoor arena in “hunter-land.” She rode by me and told me to think, “ride with your horse equally between your hands- just like the handle bars of a bike.” It was a total aha moment. I don’t know how many times my trainer told me to keep my horse straight and my hands equidistance so the hind end follows the front, but the analogy of bike riding is what finally resonated in my brain. She did remind me, with a chuckle, that the concept is easier said than done. Hence why I am often relegated to riding with a crop across the withers forcing me to keep my hands even and using my legs to keep the horses hind end following the front end.
From an expert perspective on the concept from a forward riding perspective, Practical Horseman reported in an article titled, “Bernie Traurig: Keep At It Until You're An Artist” shared the following advice from one of his clinics:
“Keep our hands separated— two hands steady, connected by that steel bar. Move both hands toward the wall,” he coached the riders. “You are affecting the shoulders of the horse. The hindquarters will follow. Once you practice this, it becomes invisible. You barely move your hands toward the outside and he moves over. Bending lines, controlling shoulders on short turns, it is so useful."
Sometimes it takes a simple visual analogy to correct a chronic flaw in our riding. I hope this analogy between steering using bicycle handles and steering the body of your horse helps you as much as it has helped break years of a bad habit!
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