Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider

Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider
Click on Logo (Original artwork by Lanie Frick for Messick Quarter Horses. Not permitted to be copied)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Centered Riding Instructor's Course, Level 1 Part 2

August 12-16, 2009

What an experience! I am thrilled with what I have learned! After years of riding, training, and teaching, the freedom of movement has come. Not only to the horse, but to me, as the rider.

I feel like I am a natural rider. I sit the horse with no tension in the body. Legs, arms, and hands are ready to respond to the horse’s movements. Or to the unexpected jump! But from years of riding young horses and older horses with bad habits, there is a tightness in the body through my shoulders and neck. One thing that this week has taught me is that there is years of memory within the body. You may feel relaxed, with no tension, sitting straight, in balance, and body in straight alignment, when actually you are not. I am amazed how I feel when our wonderful instructor, Peggy Brown, had me tip forward a FEW degrees. I felt like I was going to fall forward, when actually I was in alignment. I need to realize that and work on that. I need to learn what my other body parts do when I am tipped back a little. Where do they go? That intrigues me and I will work on that as I ride through this next month.

I have learned to relax my body to ALLOW the hips to follow the action of the horse. This has been the biggest break through on my journey of Centered Riding. After Part 1 of the Instructors Course, I easily learned the “Dancing Knees”. During this riding exercise, while in 2 point position, I allow my 3 leg joints, the hips, knees, and ankles to accept the movement of the horse. Know, in Part 2 f the course, I needed to free up my hips more. And I got it! Well, actually, I got it too well. My body feels like it is moving all over the saddle as my hips move with the horse’s lope motion. My instructor says that this is natural. Riders learn to move, and at first, they move too much. Then, like any balancing act, the body learns to move less and less. The body will finally settle in to the movement of where it needs to be, while staying out of the horse’s way. Yea!!! But know to work on less movement of my body and more natural movement, and one of impulsion, of the horse’s body.

I have learned to straighten my neck - UP! I rode with a “vulture” neck or like a “turtle in the shell” effect. This concept was hard to achieve. I understood how I should look, but getting the look was not easy. One area that Sally Swift enjoyed studying was that of the Alexander Techniques. Alexander is a little bit of stretching, a little bit of meditating, and a little bit of relaxation, all rolled into one technique. As I learn more about the Alexander Exercises, I know my body is going to come into a natural alignment. What I didn’t realize is that with even a few minutes of stretching, how sore your body gets! As I tried to work on my neck through my hour of lessons each day, I became sore through my neck muscles and upper shoulders. I try to stretch and relax every day now. One exercise that helps me, actually 2 exercises, are to stand against a flat wall, feet shoulder width apart and slightly forward off the wall, and stand straight against the wall with the lower back and neck. Another exercise is to lay flat on the floor, with knees bent and a small book under the head. Hands flat against the floor of laying across your midde, and RELAX!

I ride with contact as I work on collection, BUT, as I left go of the tight contact on the reins, and as I rode with a balanced body, my horse’s neck dropped naturally. And with the freer movement of my hips and joints, my horse’s movement was deeper. He naturally drove with impulsion as I freed up my body to get out of his way, to allow his body to do his job. BUT, I felt like even though he was collected, he was strung out, which isn’t possible if he is collected. I think it is just a different feel of collection, with the head and neck down, and out, but not with the nose sticking out. Finny had a much longer neck, and that is what you want. I will work more on his canter this next month, too!

I am so excited to continue this Centered Riding journey! As part of the curriculum, I have to wait 2 years to move on to Level 2. Instructors need time to learn the basics and time to teach what was taught at each level before moving on to the next level. During this time, I will need to continue my own education by continuing with Centered Riding lessons and clinics, as well as auditing and participating in other clinics and workshops.

I will now be using Centered Riding basics and exercises as part of my lessons. So come have a lesson or buy the Centered Riding books and practice with your horse! I’ll enjoy reading your thoughts, what you are doing with your horse, and your accomplishments! Ask me questions and I’ll gladly try to answer them or find the answers!

Come along on the Journey with me!

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