Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony. ~ Thomas Merton

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Arcs and Straight Lines

Take a dressage whip and curve it, making an arc.  The arc is strong and flexible.  It can bear pressure without collapsing.  Straighten the whip and discover that the straight line is flexible but weak.  It cannot bear pressure without collapsing.

Now consider your horse's back.  Something I was given to ponder while watching some demos at the WEG.

The desire to have the horse in a natural posture is only good when his back is in a natural state, unencumbered by the weight of a rider.

No matter how natural we want to be, the act of riding a horse is unnatural.  They are designed to pull, not carry.

To effectively carry a rider, a horse must lower his croup, step under with his hind legs, lift his abdomen and round over the neck, flex at the poll and bring his head just in front of the vertical.

In this position the horse is rounded from croup to poll and his back lifts to carry the weight of his rider.

This is not a forced position.  It's not about pulling in the head and driving up the hindquarters.

The clinician we saw was riding a gorgeous Andalusian stallion.  He had a double bridle and was being ridden on contact.  Yet when the rider moved his hands forward, the horse maintained his frame and his cadence.  A beautiful example of self carriage.

I don't know that I have what it takes - either by my skill or the ability of my horses - to achieve such magnificence.  But more and more I'm convinced that ignoring the physical - failure to help the horse move in a bio-mechanically correct manner - is just as detrimental as ignoring the mental and emotional.


Parelli Central said...

Great post, Lisa! I remember seeing 3Star Parelli Instructor Rachel Jessop's before and after pictures of her Arab during my Parelli 6 week course and was amazed that it was the same horse. This is "horse development" and takes so much skill to achieve when still "putting the relationship first" and "taking the time it takes".
I see in my horse JB positive changes since we started. He had an incredible poor posture due to being "held" in a small paddock and box stall by his previous owner, and it affected our ability to do transitions, canter and smaller circles. Once you get a feel for it, it is spectacular how much you can help a horse staying physically, mentally and emotionally sound!
Keep up the good play...

Petra Christensen
Parelli 2Star Junior Trainee Instructor
Parelli Central

Lisa said...

Something I'm coming to realize through my Centered Riding lessons is that you can work on the horse physically - riding with contact and connection - without sacrificing the mental and emotional. In fact, my sweet Bleu is teaching me that when she feels good in her body, she is better able to give me her mind and heart.