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)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Centered Riding Introductory Lesson

Sunday, August 22, 2010

I had a great group of riders here for a Centered Riding Introduction lesson Sunday morning. Three of the riders where new to me for lessons and 1 of the riders is already taking lessons from me. We started at 9 in the morning with exercises on the ground. Here is a brief report of how much we did in 2 1/2 hours!

We first had some stretching exercises. We worked on opening the chest muscles, both out and up.

We worked on having Soft Eyes and how much more you can see when you use soft eyes as compared to hard eyes. We broke out into pairs, with one person standing still and staring with hard eyes at something on the wall. The other person walked around them, and put a mark on the sand when they walked out of the view of the person who was staring. Then I had that person take a deep breath, and then used soft eyes without staring. Their partner walked around them again, and remarked an area in the sand when they walked out of view. Each time, the person could see at least a foot further with soft eyes.

We worked on deep Breathing and how to do that. I think breathing deep and using your diaphragm is one of those things that you hear about but don't do unless you are a singer and have been taught how to breathe deeply. Everyone only moved their chest when they breathed. I had them put a hand on their belly, and breathed as deep as they could, making an effort to fill their lungs with as much air as they could. This will cause the diaphragm, the largest muscle in the body, to push down, which causes your belly to move.

We talked about out Building Blocks and how to balance our bodies, starting with our head and working down. Our head weighs 8-14 #, and tipping it slight forward puts that much more weight on the horse’s withers and front end. Tipping our head back puts the weight on the back part of the horse’s back or loin. We rocked our head back and forth, and side to side, to find that point where our head is balanced. I find it interesting that every time I do this, I look a few inches higher than I did before.

Then we talked about out Center, where our center is, how our center moves, and how to relate that while on the horse. We have an imaginary ball within our center, spinning at the speed the horse is moving. We can regulate the speed of the horse but slowing or speeding up our center’s motion.

Clear Intent is riding with a purpose and we didn't talk about that except to mention it. During lessons, I talk about having a plan or purpose about where you want the horse to go.

We Grounded our feet, and talked about where to place our foot in the stirrup, which is usually a little further back than where we traditionally put the stirrup. Each person grounded their own feet, finding where that spot is on the bottom of their foot where they feel a “zing” up into their leg. Unless they are like me, and I only feel a dullness.

We did the same exercises on the horse. I Grounded everyone's feet, so they felt that place again on the bottom of their foot. They felt the sole of their foot in the stirrup.

We worked on Balance, starting with balancing our heads and where we are looking. We balanced our upper bodies, rocking back and forth until we found that spot where we weren’t rocking any more. We “woke up” our leg joints, by doing some leg stretches. We rotated our ankles, we moved our legs up and down, we stretched our knees by marching, and the hardest stretch, moving a straight leg from the hip joint. You need to swing your leg slowly, as when I do this, I can feel a “catch” in my hip. We repeated the arm and chest stretching exercises on the horse.

We found our Center and our Neutral Pelvis. We placed one hand in front of us, thumb on our belly and fingers pointing down. The other hand was on our lower back, directly in line with the first hand. Then we felt our hip joint as we swung our leg. By imagining a line between the hip joint and the center of our hands, we found our Center.

To sit balanced, we should be sitting on our seat bones. To find this area, we placed first one leg, than the other, onto the pommel. Slowly dropping each leg and picking up stirrups, we are now sitting correctly. I also did a hip release on 1 rider, showing the correct alignment for the leg. I showed the riders how they can do a hip release by themselves.

We worked on the Following Seat, allowing the horse to move freely and to feel the movement. Imagine a ball in our center, spinning backwards, and imagine the size of the ball. To increase the speed of the walk, imagine the ball growing, spinning larger and faster. To slow the horse's motion down, spin the ball in your center slower and decrease the size. To maintain a slowness but with an extended stride, imagine a large ball spinning slowly. Every now and then, I reminded the riders to use Soft Eyes and Breathe.

We worked at the trot, posting while using our leg joints. While in a revised seat, standing balanced in our stirrups, we worked on allowing the ankle, knee and hip joints to take up the movement of the trot. By doing so, there will be less stress on our joints, allowing our bodies to move with the horse. We worked on Dancing Knees, allowing our knees to move while the horse trotted.

At the end of the 2 ½ hour lesson, 3 of the riders practiced the lope. I had one of the riders practice loping off with their center, by thinking of sending her center forward in time with the horse’s hind leg. I had her maintain a feeling of sitting up as she loped. I wanted her to lope with a feeling of “up” through each stride when the hind leg pushed off and into another lope stride. By just thinking up, the rider had a more correct and gracefulness to her body. It was exciting to see the change in the horse‘s movement also, as he maintained a more collective stride.

Each rider worked at their own level within each of the basics. That is exactly
why Centered Riding works for all disciplines and all riders. Everyone is a
different point in their riding skills but you can work on the exercises and
maneuvers at every level of ability.

I'm excited that 2 of the riders were new to me and they are continuing lessons.
One of the riders wants to continue lessons and learn how to work with desensitizing her horse and to ride balanced if her horse should be jumpy while riding. I can't wait to have my next group lesson!

Click here to check our more about Centered Riding.

The journey has begun for a few more riders!

“Embrace the Journey!”

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