TRAINING NUGGETS #2

Always falling forward in the saddle

And the weight is thrown forward on the horse's front legs. Of course, the horse will start rushing and disaster looms latest at the next turn. Yells Crocky, the self appointed instructor, "Why do you always lean forward. Sit down!" Bravo, my man, go man go, your student appreciates the advice. But does she understand what is going on. No, certainly not. What she does understand, however, is that she for sure is going to fall off next time around. She gets more aggravated, more scared and totally tense.

Ok student. Bring your horse in. I would like to tell you something while you catch your breath and feed the adrenaline to the barn cats.

What you are doing on your horse is completely out of your control. You don't do it. It happens to you. Nothing you can do about it until you understand exactly what is happening to you.

There are two subconscious reactions of your body to imminent dangers which you need to understand. First your coiling up by raising your knees and dropping your head. You are not aware that you are assuming a fetal position. You know from pictures and even films how the human body is positioned in the mother's womb. This prenatal memory is activated in case of physical danger because never after birth your body will find that protection and security as remembered by the subconscious from the time in the womb. So the subconscious reflex to the danger is the return to the womb-security. Secondly: The abdomen is perhaps the most vulnerable part of your body. Think of those disgusting pictures on TV when defenseless people, lying on the ground, are kicked and beaten with clubs etc. You see these people without fail to coil up, protect their heads with their arms and the soft part of their abdomen with their knees that have been pulled up to their chin. That is exactly what you are doing on your horse when you feel threatened by the animal's movement. I guess that you understand by now what I am trying to tell you. .You'll perhaps say: Ok, I understand. But what am I going to do about it? - Good question! The answer is easy, you can read it in any reasonably decent instruction book: Learn to ride by sitting erect and deep down.

Well, I think the best starting point is the longe. Have your instructor or a competent rider friend put a horse on the longe and start with plain walk, including exercises like swinging your arms, turning your upper body with arms outstretched and shoulder high. Once you get comfortable doing that, start the trot. In the beginning put your inside hand on the pommel, the outside hand on the cantle. The inside hand will now pull your inside hip forward, the outside hand the outside hip back and prevent you from swaying forward. Once you get comfortable let the outside hand go, then the inside hand and finally put either hand on it's side into your hip, which is called akimbo. Whenever you feel to lose your seat grab pommel and cantle and don't forget: inside hand = pommel, outside hand = cantle. Try it once opposite in order to learn the effects. Namely: you'll start to fall off. Now repeat your walk exercises in a trot.

It should not take too many sessions and, pending on your athletic condition, you will feel comfortable to sit on the horse without the use of stirrups and reins. Your exercises have, so to speak, screwed you into the saddle and also awakened you to the feeling of balance. If you now increase and decrease the trot, consequently vary the back action of your horse, you will no longer fall forward when the horse trots on or if the horse does so unexpectedly.

The next step would be to pick up the reins - while the horse is still on the longe - and see if you can sit quietly without hammering your hands up and down, thus hurting the horse's mouth. Never forget that a horse that gets hurt - wherever - will get tense and hard in the back and that can make riding a torture!

Have patience and happy riding!