This is a picture of the underside of a pair of riding britches I often wear. The fact that the two sides are worn unevenly– indeed, the right side is so worn as to have torn a hole in the leather– tells a cautionary tale. It tell me that am not a balanced, even rider. My trainer has told me that I dominate left and need to slide my left hip to the right. When my hips are unbalanced, I also compensate my tilting my upper body in the opposite direction. All of this is, of course, is not obvious to the casual observer–it is very subtle– but it is to a trainer whose eye is skilled at detecting imbalances in either the horse or rider. And, as they say, the horse doesn’t lie. When I get corrected with her directions, the horse amazingly is willing to lift his back, he turns so much easier, he goes forward in self-carriage, and just feels so much more rideable. But how do I feel? I feel as if I am hanging off one side. I feel unbalanced, weird, a bit uncomfortable…and that’s because my physical memory–or muscle memory– of where center is, quite literally, is wrong. Oh, and it’s so hard to learn something new (and humbling, and a bit scary). “If you feel right, you’re wrong,” she quips. That is the truth for me at least for the short term. Now, I wonder about the chicken or the egg question: did the imbalances of my horse make me crooked, or did my crookedness make him shift to carry me? It doesn’t matter, we are addressing it now. And my young horse, a more sensitive red mare, will tell me right away that I am unbalanced (or clenching or whatever) because she is not going to tolerate anything less than the most accurate ride. Riders, I recommend you get on a well schooled horse and see what he tells you. Even you riders who are quite accomplished. Does the horse struggle to bend on a circle? Does he lose forward impulsion? It might be your imbalance. As my trainer always tells me, “The horse doesn’t lie.” Neither do the pants, it turns out.
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