You have to start somewhere. All riders do. Maybe it was a pony ride when you were a kid or maybe it was riding a friends horse for the first time when you were in your 40’s but all of us started riding somewhere.
And it wasn’t pretty.
And it probably went something like this: pull on the left rein to go left, pull on the right rein to go right, pull on both to stop and kick to go.
Hey, they had to start you out somewhere. And you weren’t coordinated. I’m not as concerned about where you started out as I am about where you are headed now. If you’re reading this then there is a pretty good chance you are trying to better yourself as a rider. To understand your horse more. That’s great!
So todays question is: Do you ride with ‘feel’ in your whole body? What is feel (here is a blog about it)? Do you have it? How can you get it? Are you working on improving it?
One description of ‘feel’ if you google it is: to be or become conscious of.
Are you conscious of your whole body when you ride? Are you aware of where your eyes are looking, how much pressure you have on each seat bone, of your horses footfall and path of travel? Yes, each one of these is something that you should be conscious of. First you will learn to be conscious of each one individually…then two at a time…and eventually all at the same time.
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Feel is a hard thing to learn if you don’t have it naturally. I use video, feedback from the ground and yes, even our sliding glass doors! Sometimes I ride in the backyard and watch as I do a shoulder or haunches in to see if I’m doing it correctly. When we use video I yell out if I think its going great or it needs an adjustment. Then when I watch the video I can watch and remember and hear myself say what I was feeling. Its a great way to give yourself a “test” to see if you are on target.
I occasionally rode a horse ‘back in the day’ … but started riding lessons at age 52 – on a horse who really is not fully trained, so we have been learning together. My daughter’s method of teaching about foot fall is what she learned from her coach … YOU do the walk – trot – canter on ground so you know what order feet move and THEN you do it on the horse – calling out when a certain foot hits the ground (she tells me which one she wants to hear about) … is a great method!! My biggest problem though is ‘feeling’ when my horse is actually moving her hind over to properly curve her body on circle … too subtle for me to grasp quite yet, but getting better with much practice and daughter calling out “move her butt over”!!!! LOL
During a clinic our trainer said “If you all would take your feed out of the stirrups, you’d fall off!” First I was chocked, but boy, was he right! I think western riders are prone to have a bad ballance since we sit pretty safe in our saddles. I wanted to proof him wrong and started riding with english saddle & bareback to get a better balance and feel, and yes, it was scary, I didn’t feel save at all. I tried to really feel the movements and changes,e.g. his back muscles, what happens when he lifts his head, what happens when he lowers his head, what happens when we turn….As Stacy said, video taping is great. Yesterday I did ride in my english saddle and thought I was doing everything right, showed the video to my friend who just picked the video appart. Leaning too much forward there, hands are not completely still, too much movement in the bum instead of sitting still in the saddle, etc. First I thought, well, that doesn’t look too bad but quite frankly, everybody likes to sugarcoat. In my opinion the most important support system for me is to have friends and trainers around me that are not sugarcoating stuff, when I am doing something not right, I’m going to hear it. When I finally do something right, I’m going to hear it. Only if you have people around that tell you when it’s right, FEEL! Feel how the movements feels like, your hands, your legs, your shoulders, your seat, your posture, where are you looking at? That is my experience, save those momements and try to recreate them.
I was taught English for my first formal years, so I have a pretty correct seat and balance. But I totally want to ride bareback, and have never had the guts to try it with my youngster yet. Another exciting project !
I love horses, I just love back riding but I don’t have much experience. 20 years ago, I was with my best friend and I was behind my friend on Flicka’s back and she just decided to jump over a water pond, my God, I felt my body going with the flow, my friend turned back and look at me and said : you’re still there, I was sure you were down, you’re a real west. It was my best time horse riding !!!
One thing I just can’t wrap my brain/senses around is footfall. I think I’m getting better with feeling in my own body, but feeling how the horse moves and in particular where he puts is feet is really elusive. I started riding equines at age 2 (donkeys and ponies, in hand) and rode my first horse (and started with formal training) at age 9. Funny you mention this as I was thinking about this journey just today. I realize save for a couple of Western instructors (I started English till age 13) I never had really great coaching. Until now. That must be why I feel like a neverending beginner, lol. Next I want to take jumoping training because it looks like so much fun. Tried it lately, I was a little apprehensie but it went brilliantly, thanks to a very good “teacher horse”. I want to do more of this.
As for feel in the body I guess I really focus mostly on my hands and trying for them to be dynamic and really in synch with the horse. My horse is nicely soft on the bit but he’s young and still learning, so I’m careful to keep that going well. I need to be more aware of my seat, weight, etc.
Great coaching does speed things up. Two other methods for getting to feel the footfall better would be #1-riding with mirrors (ever wonder why dressage rings are covered with them?) and video taping and watching. Even if your coach videos for one minute and then hands the phone to you for you to watch right away. Then the ‘feeling’ of the movement is still in you when you visually see it.
Give it a try and write back!
Absolutely !! I had a friend videotaping us the other day and it was crazy useful. Now my coach uses a lot of dressage drills to prepare us for reining maneuvers, and often I need him telling me whether the horse performed the move correctly because I’m still unsure of feeling it myself. But I’ve gotten better and have a passion to keep on working and improving !