Thursday, August 16, 2007

Are You Balanced?

This is an article regarding riding. I know a break from my usual drivel. But I heard some discussion today at the office where I work. This particular person was claiming to be an 'expert' rider. Okay, I AM not an expert rider. I am a decent rider, but can always learn so much more. I was amazed when I asked him if he couldn't balance on the ground, how in the heck did he expect to balance on a horse? His answer...*Easy, you just sit on a horse.* So that gave me the idea for the following article.

Are You Balanced?

Think about balance for a moment and what it means as a rider. We all know the basics: heels down, toes up, one leg on each side of the critter. But what about your personal balance on the ground. Sure, you can walk, you can probably run, you may be able to hop, or skip…but think about it. If you are a more balanced person on the ground, you will be a more balanced person in the saddle.

If you are a more balanced person in the saddle; your mule will be much happier with you.

Can you stand on one foot with one leg pulled up? Easy. Now try it with your eyes closed. Not easy.

Can you squat with your feet planted approximately the width of your mule, and then raise yourself again (do this keeping your back straight and head level)? Sounds easy, but it isn’t. Yet those are the very same muscles we use when we ride to keep ourselves balanced on the bottom half.

What about your upper body? Do you slouch or stand up straight? Do you slouch in the saddle or sit up straight? Do your shoulders ache after a very long ride? If so, your shoulders need strengthening. If not, you will ‘fall’ out of balance to compensate for a weak upper body.

Then take a moment to think about how you ride in the saddle. Do you turn to look at something and wonder why your mule/horse turns also? You’ve probably turned your whole body to look. The equine is just obliging and turning with your body. I’ve found that if I want to turn my mule and not use any reins, I can just shift my shoulders in the direction I want to go and stiffen slightly through my hips. The mule follows my direction.

Are you soft in the seat? We hear clinicians talk about ‘soft’ hands and supple necks. A light touch can communicate so much. Think a moment about your seat. Do you flop like a sack of dead weight, or move along with your equine? Are your eyes looking at the ground, or between the ears?

These are things to consider if you are having problems with your mule too. Is it really the mule? Or is it the rider’s balance and positioning causing some problems. I wish I could say I was an expert. But these are some common sense things that I’ve noticed over the years. People who don’t balance well on the ground and have poor posture often have poor results when riding.

Yes, I do practice balancing techniques on the ground. I do strengthening exercises for my legs and shoulders along with my stomach and back muscles. I find that my animal is much happier if I am riding balanced and to the best of my ability.

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