Tuesday, April 5, 2011
The Importance of Footfalls
I've been reading Wendy Murdoch's Simplify Your Riding and I just finished watching Eitan Beth-Halachmy's Poetry In Motion: Understanding Your Horse from the Inside Out. I also have Mark Rashid's Understanding Foot-Fall and Influencing Movement but have yet to watch it.
I know the basic sequence for each gait and I know the phases of movement for each leg. I know which diagonal I should be posting and I know that the canter is initiated from the hind. I know lots of stuff about footfalls but I don't truly understand them.
It's high time that changed.
To understand footfall is to know, at any given moment, where the feet are - both in sequence and in phase. It means feeling the movement of the horse and timing a request at the moment the horse is able to make a commitment about where the foot will next land.
Simplify Your Riding, a fabulous book that is no longer in print, has wonderful photos and information about timing requests to the footfall to effect the movement you want. So timing your trot request at the right moment in the walk sequence allows you to rise on the correct diagonal on the first beat of the trot. Timing a downward transition at the right moment allows you to ease into the lower gait. Pretty cool?!
I wish this had been impressed upon me earlier. Not that I could have done much about it. Until the last year or two, most of my time on Cricket's back has been about survival. I started getting a good feel for footfall about 2 years ago when I was up at Carol's in the deeper sand of her indoor arena. I played with it and got pretty good about feeling the landing phase of each foot at the walk and getting a feel for the trot diagonals. Then everything kind of went by the wayside when I started working on canter and freestyle riding.
In the last month or two, I've started gaining a better appreciation for the connection between how Cricket moves and how she feels. When I can influence her body to be correct and balanced, her mind is much more relaxed and obedient. I've not completely given up on my freestyle riding or finishing my L3 but I am exploring ways to improve Cricket's physical response and in turn I'm seeing her offer more. Hmm, how interesting!