Friday, April 27, 2007

Riding Theory for a Rainy Day

Sitting Right and Asking

The real riding masters have complete control over their own bodies. The theory is that when your own seat and balance are correct, the horse will respond with equal correctness, no matter what his physical make up.

As Patrice Edwards pointed out, if Arthur Kottas, former head rider of the Spanish Riding School were to get on any one of my horses, they would suddenly look practically perfect. His seat is so exact and his use of the aids--legs, hands, weight--are so right, that any horse will respond exactly as he wants it to. Theory goes that his seat will make the horse lift his back under him to create the proper physical carriage, which then creates the best gaits the horse can offer.

For the rest of us mere mortal riders, striving for that ideal seat, balance, position, etc. is an ongoing quest. I do know that when I spent a week in New York State with Lockie Richards, my favorite trainer from New Zealand, I learned a tremendous amount about how to correctly use my seat and body to get PJ working well. The concentrated, daily lessons were a significant part of that success.

I am now more than ever intrigued by how much a small adjustment in where my body sits on the horse's back can make. I am also intrigued by how much physical effort it takes to hold that position exactly as the horse makes all kinds of adjustments. And there, I think is the key to the difference between Arthur Kottas and me.

The riders of the White Stallions of Vienna are schooled for hours on trained horses--true school masters. They ride without reins or stirrups on a long line until that position and seat are so firmly established that their bodies cannot sit on a horse in any other way but perfectly. Muscles, bones, sinews, and brains learn it so right it is virtually impossible for them to do it wrong.

And so, when they get on a horse that does it wrong to start off with, their seats still stay correct no matter what that horse does underneath them. So, the horse very quickly discovers on its own how to be correct as well. Each time he slips from correctness, the rider is there, exactly where he needs to be carried and the horse must carry him. It is simplicity itself, and the results so complex it's amazing.

I am a good rider and a good trainer. But I can be so much better and I will be if I can sort out this magical "just right" use of my seat and balance. It is not a huge adjustment, but the problem, as I found out on Toby last night, is maintaining it no matter what.

It's going to be an interesting journey.

Meanwhile, I came home after the huge rainstorms of today to discover that Scott, my farrier, had made a "sneak shoeing attack." Turns out he had a cancellation due to the flooding and passed by my area and said to himself, "Well the horses are due, so I might as well do them." Perfect timing as I was going to put a call in tonight or tomorrow to schedule a shoeing.

I called him to say "thanks," and he told me the Boys were all either in the stalls or under the shelter and their legs were all nice and dry. As well, everyone was well behaved. I love knowing my horses can be handled by my professionals. Chance needs a little more practice with both Scott and the vet, but he is quite a good boy in general who will only get better with experience. Toby is, as my vet says, "a prince," and Tucker has become a star in his own right.

Then again, we'll see. The vet is coming tomorrow for the second round of vaccinations and some other work. Hope I don't have to eat my words.

1 comment:

  1. that's how theyget to retain it and the rest of us don't ride enough, unfortunately ...

    my farrier has decided that he won't do a horse if there's no one there to hold it for him - he used not to have a problem with it, but apparently now says that he has .... that is going to be tedious. but at least he makes appointments so one can arrange it, previous one rang the night before to say he was coming in the morning and of course there would be no way i could be there... he had to manage on his own!