Most riders feel as if they should leave the school puffing and sweating. If you’re not pushing and tweaking, checking and flexing you’re not trying hard enough, right?
Wrong! If you were a horse what would you prefer? Someone who sat still, allowed you to do your job with minimal interference or someone who felt they had to hold your hoof every step of the way?
Horses are unbelievably sensitive. Your slightest move can alter things dramatically. Think how hysterical they get if a fly, which is a millionth of their size, dares to land on them. You’ll be surprised how little you have to do to have an affect.
If you’ve read The Other Way of Stopping (see popular posts) you’ll know how to stop and collect your horse without using your hand. If you’ve read Be a Lazy Rider (December 2010) you’ll know how to get your horse to go forward with less leg from you. This is The Other Way of Turning.
In walk ride large round the school. Have a contact but keep your horse’s head straight in front of you. On the long side turn your head to look directly across the school.
Now turn your upper body – your shoulders and your hips - to the inside. Your outside shoulder and hip should be further forward than your inside.
Concentrate on keeping your shoulders above your hips and your weight on your seat so you stay balanced.
Keep your body in this position and wait for your horse’s response. It may take him a few strides to start with but all horses have the same reaction. They’ll turn to the inside. If you stay in this position you’ll find he comes round in a complete circle.
Try the same from the centre line. In walk ride down the centre line and turn your upper body and your head to the left or right. Stay in that position until you’ve ridden a complete circle and continue down the centre line.
To change the rein from E to B turn to the inside to get off the track at E and straighten your body when you’re facing B. Your horse will straighten up too. Ride across the school and use your body to tell him which way you want to go at B.
The more you practice the more you’ll achieve. The angle that you turn your body tells your horse how tight to turn. You can make him do a 10m or a 20m circle just by changing the angle of your body. Try riding a serpentine only using your upper body. You’ll be surprised how much you can do without using your leg or hand.
Once your horse starts to pick up what you’re doing he’ll really start to listen to you. It’s amazing to think by doing so little you can have such an effect. Bear this in mind the next time your canter is crooked or your halt isn’t quite square. Are you sure your horse is at fault?
It’s true that the more you can do to help him the better. Just remember that sometimes less is more. Have fun.