I just came across a quote from Ian Frances which I totally agree with.
“If we accept the concept that a horse’s front feet control his direction and his hind feet control his impulsion….. then it would seem logical to hook the front feet to your hands and the hind feet to your legs.” ( Ian Francis)
Now this is nothing new, and this principle is often spoken of particularly in dressage. What I would like to do is just spin this a bit further. Since the riders legs control the horses back legs and the riders hands control the horses front legs then we also have to look at what connects the horses back legs and front legs together.
Now it is pretty obvious that this is the horses body, to be more specific the horses back and spine. Since the rider is sitting on the horses back we need to suggest that the rider has to control the horses back with his/her seat bones.
The interesting question is: “What controls the riders hands, seat bones and legs?” And the answer is “the riders mind” Now this is something I get excited about!!
What sets riders like Ian Frances, Rozzie Ryan, and Stuart Tinney apart from others is – (a). Their experience and skill and (b) Their strong mind. Our body is purely a vehicle of the mind. We become what we focus on, which also applies to our riding. We get the outcomes that we focus on.
When Ian Frances gets on a horse he knows exactly what he is looking for. By focusing on the desired outcome he asks a horse again and again until the horse is able to give him what he has asked for. Many other riders on the other hand ask once or twice and if the horse does not respond they often doubt themselves and with that their focus changes to – (a). Am I doing the right thing? (b). Maybe I am not good enough to get it! or (c). it’s the horses fault and I can’t be bothered wasting my time.
Remember that the body is purely a vehicle of the mind, that means that the vehicle responds to every thought physically and emotionally. Thoughts of doubt, frustration and anger lead to tension and stiffness through the body, our communication therefore becomes distorted and unclear for the horse to read. On the other hand patience creates calmness, softness and relaxation through the body and horses are able to learn and improve their skill.
I often see riders being very stiff and rigged through the body and that makes it much harder to communicate, especially riders who are trying particularly hard to do the right thing. It then becomes a vicious circle and no one will ever have success. Keep your body relaxed and soft by keeping your thoughts positive and encouraging. Look for what is working well instead of what isn’t working.
So, next time you get on your horse pay attention to your mind. Focus on what you want to achieve and be patient and kind to yourself and your horses. By controlling your mind you can then control your body and ultimately control the horses legs.