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To help guide you to a deeper relationship with your horse.

 

Seven Tips For Better Balance

In the horse-world we comment about horses being on their forehands, stumbling, losing their balance, dropping their shoulders, not picking up correct leads, and a host of other details that affect their performance and our enjoyment of riding. However, human-balance errors are the culprit behind many of blunders our horses make. A well-balanced rider will not interfere with the horse’s balance and can assist an unbalanced horse to re-balance. Balance is often an optical illusion. In fact, many riders believe they are balanced simply because they appear to have the classical ear, shoulder, hip, ankle alignment. Real balance, however, cannot be seen, it must be felt. Fortunately, human bodies, like gyroscopes, seek and learn balance quickly. Here are seven exercises that will improve your balance:

1) Weigh yourself using two scales, one under each foot. You will probably be surprised to see the weight difference. After you adjust your weight so that it is evenly distributed over both feet, close your eyes and allow your body to absorb the sensation. Play with the readings and see what happens when you put more weight on one foot than the other. It does not take much effort to displace your weight by twenty, even fifty pounds. Imagine what this does to your horse’s back and legs when you are carrying your weight unevenly!

2) Practice tipping and swaying. Sounds silly, but this activity trains your brain to rebalance in the same way that those clown-like toys right themselves when they are pushed over. You can do this exercise sitting and standing. Rock forward, backward, and side to side as far as you can without toppling over. Allow your body to feel different imbalances and to right itself. Close your eyes and feel the sensation of being both in-balance and off-balance.

3) Practice standing on one foot. You can do this while you are cooking dinner, getting dressed in the morning, or waiting at the bus stop. In the beginning you may only be able to raise one foot slightly off the ground for a few seconds. Over time you may be able to pull your jeans or socks on while standing on one foot.

4) Keep your gaze at eyelevel. Many of us spend the majority of our waking hours looking down. When we look downward while riding, it puts unnecessary weight on our horses’ shoulders. To learn to walk with our gaze at eyelevel, place your finger on a wall directly in front of your eyes. Mentally mark that spot and imagine that it is a line that speeds out in front of you as far as your eyes can see. Now, while you walk keep your eyes on that imaginary line. You will find that by doing so, your posture becomes straighter and your balance becomes more aligned. When you ride keep your eyes on this imaginary line.

5) Raise your ribcage off your hip bones. Slouching is another habit that inhibits balanced riding. An easy remedy is to get into the habit of stretching your torso upwards off your hips. When we do this on horseback it allows the horse to follow our movements. By creating space between our ribs and hips the small of our back can flex along with our horse’s movements and we can use our weight aides effectively.

6) Practice walking! Walk the cracks in the sidewalk and other straight lines. Just because you have been walking since you were a toddler does not mean that you are good at it! Remember as a child when you used to see how long you could walk on the top of railroad tracks? That kind of activity helps you to focus your balance directly between your feet. You can, also, Practice placing one foot directly in front of the other or close your eyes and see if you can walk straight toward a target (keep yourself safe and peek when you need to).

7) Walk pelvis first. Many people walk headfirst, then shoulders, then feet, and their rear-end drags behind. Practice walking the way we want our horses to walk – hindquarters first. Stand up straight, keep your gaze at eyelevel, ribs-cage off hips, and swing your hips forward. Your legs and feet will follow your hips. Keep your upper body relaxed, quiet, and upright. Let the movement of your hips bring your upper body effortlessly forward. You will find your walk to be much more fluid and balanced. This will take weight off your horse’s forehand and it will be easy for you to move with your horse’s hips.

There are many ways to improve your balance but these seven easy tips will start you on a journey that will not only transform the way you ride but will carry over to many other aspects of your life.

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