The torso as a balancing tool
When we ride, we put our vertebrae on top of the vertebrae of the horse. So if we think of our upper body as a balancing tool, it would make sense that you have to know how to work with a balancing tool.
Let us imagine for a moment we go to the circus, where we see a performer balancing a pole on his head. When this pole leans far out of the circumference of the performer’s body, he has to make rather quick or abrupt movements to get it back into balance. When the pole is exactly in the centre, the movements become quiet and very small. If the performer is skilled in this act of balance, he can turn in mindboggling directions all while the quiet and small movements accompany him.
Let us now go back to our rider, whose purpose it is to sit up perfectly straight in the middle of the horse. But what if the rider is crooked to one side (as most of us are), or drops the inside shoulder, or leans to the back, or the front for that matter? How will this influence the horse’s balance?
All of the above mentioned problems, and believe me, there are many more, will have a detrimental effect on the horse’s balance. A young horse will react in a very different way to an older horse. If your body for example leans to the left, a young horse will tend to follow that lean by moving more to the left, in walk maybe not too bad, but in canter the speed in which the young horse will try to “catch” the falling rider will definitely be higher. Unfortunately for the young horse, the rider will most probably start to use more abrupt and harder aids to try and correct the young horse, to make him go slower or not fall over his left shoulder.
An older horse has maybe learned to hold his body with more tension in an attempt to counteract the “falling” rider. Now the still leaning rider, will start to complain that the horse is always so tense. If the rider never learns to rectify his own body and therefore always disturbs the horse’s balance, the pair will not really be a match made in heaven.
Correcting your own body, before you aim to “fix” the horse, is almost always the better way to go about it. Once we manage to feel the ease of our own balance, the horse will effortlessly follow the quiet and small suggestions that whisper down from our bodies…and we can feel weightless…