We had our "Moving in Harmony" Workshop this weekend. In these workshops I look for ways to illustrate concepts so the participants can locate a similar situation in their lives and apply it here.
Our eyes are one of our primary senses that we (as humans) tend to use the most, so to add to the sense of seeing, we add touch, both, in movement. Remember the goal is to get into harmony with our horses, like a dance within a couple, and then add purpose.
In this photo this couple has mirrored "hind" legs, the goal, even including, weight shifts, the human hand on the right hind quarter of the horse to feel what happens to the hip when the legs move; and finally the eyes watching. Let us not overlook the senses of energy and emotion which create the safety and comfort of both the horse and human who only met a few hours earlier. moving with a slowly grazing horse makes it all much easier than a quickly walking horse, so don't worry about the grazing!
To really move in harmony with our horses, it is the hind legs that should be carrying us. The hind legs are where we need to begin. So far every student I have taught who has taken riding lessons, learns rhythm at the rising trot and that happens by looking down at the front legs, which is an ok place to begin, if the human progresses to feeling, however, so many are forever looking and not able to feel. Resulting in, getting more connected with the front legs only and riding from front to back instead of getting connected with the engine behind.
FILL UP YOUR SENSES!
Riding, while relying only on looking perpetuates unbalanced horses who are already heavy in front, either on the mouth or the front legs, which is why so many riding horses have physical as well as emotional issues in front. It is time well spent to connect with our horse's hind legs through feel, using all of our senses.
Begin on the ground and then take it to the top. Have a helper on the ground who can help you 'call cadence.' The helper will begin by saying 'now' when your horse's identified hind leg is un-weighted and leaving the ground. The valuable place to identify is before the leg gets to the top of the rotation. This is when the leg is gracefully influenced, if you are too late or too early, you can easily unbalance your horse and create a disconnect. Some horses are very forgiving about this lack of harmony. When you begin to call the cadence correctly, close your eyes and fill your other senses with this rhythm.
When you are connected to your horses hind legs through feel, you will always be able to place the hind leg where you want it for optimal movement, like, working cows in a group. The cows in the center of the remuda ( in this case, moving fence made by horses) needed to be trained. This is a peaceful moment in this workshop! There were many times when a good, connected 'couple' had to dart off to 'catch' an escaped cow! Being able to have a ready horse who is relaxed because she is balanced creates confidence in horse and rider.
Take the time it takes because it works if you work it and harmony with your horse is worth it!
Yours Truly, In the Company of Horses,