There is so much talk about a horse being straight and balanced, but I would bet that most riders do not have a good physical sense of whether they are centered and balanced while on their horse. I know, you are out there right now saying, “Of course I do…” Just hold on a minute, and hear me out. I have a horse who suffered with and mercifully recovered from EPM. He (Paddy) at his lowest ebb, seemed almost paralyzed–taking a step took much encouragement and patience. He was aggressively treated and I am thrilled to say that he is recovered and rideable. I provide this background to let you know, however, that because of his affliction, I had to become very, very sensitive to his balance issues (the left shoulder/leg particularly affected) and to work out a rehabilitation program that would help him re-learn the correct neuro-pathways to balance and self-carriage. When I first started him back, I was convinced he was lame. No, he wasn’t lame, he was just not lifting that left shoulder or moving correctly. When he was ridden in such a way to ensure he was straight, voila! He was sound and moved quite well. Now, the responsibility was on me to ride him in such a way that I did not allow him to be crooked, and for me to learn where “center” was. Enter my trainer who is a truly classically trained rider. She told me I was lifting my left hip, I was allowing him to throw me to the right, I was doing all these things which I just didn’t “believe,” but when I sat where she said (which felt to me like I was hanging off the edge of the saddle) the horse miraculously lifted his back, slowed his rushed trot, offered to bend…yikes! I was me. I had such a long history with this horse and my “muscle memory” told me to sit in one place, when in reality we were both throwing each other off balance. Even with the benefit of mirrors, I still did not SEE it on my own. The bottom line in this long story is this: if your horse is stiff, rushing, reactive…maybe take a look at your position. A big, out-of-balance horse can easily throw you out of balance, but it is your job to be the constant, the rhythm, the comfortable place where he can come and join you. It sure is tough, but when you feel yourself “plug in” to a horse, it is so worthwhile. So find the center!
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