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Riding in connection

Updated: May 4

what’s needed to ride in connection? how do we achieve harmony under saddle? How do we make sure our horse stay healthy and we address his needs while riding?

The first thing you need to ask yourself is: which type of connection do I have with my horse on the ground? He/she following me around gently? He/she often distracted from the outside world? How does my horse respond to my cues? Do I need to make lots of pressures, micromanaging the space with the rope? Or he/she follows my thinking and body position in respect to his/her body?

I think you already understand while answering these questions that if there is some kind of disconnection from the ground this is what you are also going to find under saddle. This is a golden truth, like it or not, we can’t think to ride in harmony if there is no connection on the ground. Your groundwork will prepare you and your horse for a good ride! Building trust and safety on the ground will help you creating connection via clear communication with the aids which you can then translate much easily under saddle. I will give you an example. When working on the ground, you already have trust and safety and you have communication, but your horse in making a circle to the left is pulling outside trying to escape on the right shoulder. You constantly need to pull him back into the circle having lots of tension in the rope (the rein). Doing a straight line on the left side it’s then very easy, the horse will drive into the wall/fence, however on the other hand he/she will simply fall on the inside right shoulder and being very diffult to make a straight line along the fence. So, one side you have lots of pulling on the line, on the other side you have to put lots of pressure to get a larger circle or a straight line. Let’s say you ignore all this and you just lounge him/her in this way in walk, trot and canter. Then you step up and start riding. Straight line in walk might be manageable if the horse has enough activity, however when you try to turn on one side it would be very hard to get him out of the straight line and on the other side he would simply fall into a sharp turn, loosing balance. Let’s not talk when you try to do a circle, lots of tension in the reins, the horse goes all over the place and if we are inexperienced we start to use hands and legs to fix that circle. This will get more and more pronounced when going from walk to trot and from trot to canter. Saying that, you all understand that if the horse has balance issues due to natural asymmetry, learned behavior, not following the feel of the aids but going against the pressures, you can’t ride in connection and harmony. The foundations have to be solid, everything needs to be addressed both on the ground and under saddle in a congruent way so that the horse will recognize patterns and learn more quietly and easily.

It’s like a dancer who wants to do a ballet or a coreografie but doesn’t train the basics movements and the gymnastics first very well. From training the basics, the harmony of the movements will come naturally and beautifully.

At the end you will only prepare and the horse will offer the rest.

When interacting with your horse always make sure you do a little checklist of what's going on in that moment: is he light at the halter? is he focus on me or is he distracted? does he have the drive to go or he rather stay? Can he do a circle of different dimensions without you moving and have a soft contact on the line keeping a nice pace?

Always be aware of the little things, those are the ones which make the big stuff at the end!

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