As riders we want our horses to be soft and supple and to some extent we expect this as soon as our horse has reached a certain phase in their schooling and education. I often hear riders say:” my horse knows how to do this or it should just be able to do this.” I always work with the understanding that horses are only as soft and supple as the rider who sits on their back.
Now lets have a closer look shall we; horses are living breathing animals, I think we sometimes tend to forget this, just like us they can have days when they feel slightly stiff or just not as switched on as they should be. How would you feel if, let’s say, you get out of bed in the morning feeling a bit sore after a hard days work the day before and I come along and start chancing you with a stock whip because you are not moving fast enough. Then to top it off I growl at you and call you names as I kick your backside all the way down the hallway. Now I know that seems a bit rough, but do you get my drift?
A lot of riders tell me that they do stretches before they get on their horse, some take time to do regular yoga, which helps them to relax and they become supple.
Horses need time to relax and soften too and they need as much time to warm up as we do.
So let’s have a look at some great warm up strategies that help you and your horse.
1. CHECK YOUR BREATHING
• As long as your breath is shallow your body will hold on to tension and that will automatically transfer tension into your horse.
2. CHECK YOUR SEAT AND BALANCE
• If you are crooked your horse will be crooked as well. You need to make sure that you are sitting evenly on both of your back seat bones with even weight in your stirrups. If you are collapsing you will throw the horse of balance too.
3. MAKE SURE YOU DON’T BLOCK
• If you block the horses movement with your seat the horse will respond by not wanting to move forward freely and softly. Most riders mistake their horse’s lack of forwardness with laziness and start kicking harder instead of checking if they are causing the lack of forwardness by blocking through their seat. The area that most riders block is through their groin and thighs.
4. ALLOW YOUR HORSE SOME TIME TO WARM UP AND SOFTEN
• Make sure you give your horse time. We get so hang up on forwardness that we often forget to allow horses to slow down in order to balance themselves if need be.
Work with your horse instead of working against him and think of softness as allowing your horse to be soft rather then making him soft.