The New Year is around the corner, and I wanted to share some valuable tips to help you have a smoother ride in 2024.
Horse riding, beyond being a sport, is a dance—an intricate connection between rider and horse. To truly enjoy this partnership, comfort becomes the linchpin.
When you or your horse are uncomfortable – because of:
🐴falling out of rhythm with each other,
🐴tack not working properly, or
🐴not feeling the horse’s movement through your body
It can cause your horse to become upset, unwilling, or in pain, and for you can cause you to have muscle fatigue, strain, or not enjoy the ride.
When I was training for the 2015 Thoroughbred Makeover from the RRP in Kentucky, I was practicing a variety of skills including jumping, lateral work, and western patterns. I planned to show my horses in Trail and Freestyle.
That’s when I met Esther Johnston at my first Centered Riding Clinic. We were paired up for Esther to help me with my position.
I LOVED it! ❤️
Esther was full of great exercises to help me with:
🐴 balancing my seat
🐴 having symmetry in my body
🐴 using my core
🐴 following my horse’s rhythm
Learning to do these exercises helped me ride the path I intended – straight to the jump, sideways smoothly, backing up effortlessly, and understanding flying lead changes better.
In 2015, Esther came with me as part of my team to help me at the makeover. My horses (Soar and Lion of Wallstreet) won 1st and 2nd in the Trail, 3rd and 10th in Freestyle, and the overall title of America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred.
Since then, I became a certified Centered Riding Instructor and have traveled all over to learn from some of the best instructors, and now am a Level 2 Centered Riding Instructor along with Esther Johnston.
Together we teamed up to film a Riding in Harmony course to share our knowledge to help others in the comfort of your own home.
This course took about 3 years to put together with professional filming, editing, and written information to go with the videos.
“Riding in Harmony: Comfortable Riding Made Simple,” a transformative online course and now we delve into some of the lessons and tips from inside the course to unveil the secrets to ensure both horse and rider revel in comfort, resulting in both a more willing and happier horse and a smoother rider.
🔤 Unlocking the Comfort Code: The 8 ABCs
At the heart of “Riding in Harmony” lies a fundamental concept— the 8 ABCs. This innovative approach dissects the art of riding into eight elements:
The course expertly guides riders on positioning and cueing tips for each element, paving the way for a comfortable and harmonious ride. Understanding and mastering these ABCs not only enhances the rider’s control but also ensures the horse moves with ease, minimizing stress and discomfort.
All of the movements we ask of a horse, come back to one or a combination of these 8 ABCs. For example flying lead changes can be taught with a combination of forwards and sideways understanding.
Allow your weight to follow where your horse needs their weight.
For example if you want your horse to do a forehand turn (pivot on the front legs), have your weight shift to be on the same leg that your horse is pivoting on. Having your weight match the horse’s weight allows them to balance and respond better.
Be careful when shifting your weight – a little goes a long way, and too much of a good thing can be a bad thing and actually throw your horse off balance or get in their way.
🎆 Bodywork for Riders: A Symphony of Strength and Flexibility
A comfortable rider begets a comfortable horse. The course incorporates a comprehensive module on bodywork exercises designed specifically for riders. From butt walking to toilet squats and core strengthening, these exercises not only improve the rider’s strength and balance but also foster a deeper connection with the horse. Groundbreaking exercises like the “ground center grow” not only enhance the rider’s half-halts but also contribute to overall body awareness, promoting a more comfortable riding experience for both.
Butt walking – this is a fun exercise you can do inside. I like to do it while I am cooking and waiting for the kettle to boil, or the food in the oven to be ready. It’s quick and simple.
- Sit on the ground with your feet in front of you, legs bent, your left hand holding your left knee and right hand holding your right knee.
- Walk backwards several feet, take a rest and then go forwards. How? Use your hips to help lift your butt and move. You alternate right hip, left hip, repeat. You’ll need to do almost a figure 8 motion in your hips of lifting, moving backwards (if going backwards, or forward if going forwards) and then down and around to repeat.
This exercises helps strengthen your core, and improve the symmetry and awareness in your hips and seat bones.
🌟 Bonus – Toe Writing exercise from Esther Johnston
🐎 Tack Fitting Demystified: A Guide to Equine Comfort
Well-fitted tack is the cornerstone of a comfortable ride. “Riding in Harmony” delves into the nuances of tack fitting, offering invaluable tips to ensure both horse and rider enjoy the journey. From saddle fit assessments to bridle and bit choices, the course provides practical insights that can prevent discomfort and behavioral issues in horses. A comfortable horse is a willing partner, and this course equips riders with the knowledge to achieve precisely that.
Does your saddle pad have impact protection?
Impact protection is your saddle pad’s ability to absorb some of the bounce so that your horse’s back is more comfortable. This can help prevent muscle soreness, allow you to go for longer riders, and can help the rhythm to be more comfortable to sit to.
How do you check for impact protection?
- Grab a ball (a tennis ball works) and drop it to a hard flat ground surface (barn floor concrete is great) from around waist height and see how high the ball bounces.
- Lay your saddle pad on the floor in the same spot and drop the ball from the same height over the saddle pad. See how high it bounces.
If the ball is bouncing to a similar height on the ground as the saddle pad, the pad is not offering impact protection. If the ball bounces on the ground, but not at all on the saddle pad, then you know your pad is providing impact protection.
My favourite pads for impact protection have been ThinLine because they are shimmable, breathable (I get the cotton base pads) and machine washable.
Balancing Rhythm and Harmony in Gaits
The course meticulously addresses the nuances of achieving rhythm and balance in various gaits, with a particular focus on the walk, and trot. Through a series of exercises, riders learn to find their center and establish a harmonious connection with the horse’s movements. This not only enhances the riding experience but also contributes to the horse’s physical well-being, ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable ride.
The course features exercises both while riding and bodywork without your horse.
“Riding in Harmony: Comfortable Riding Made Simple” is not just a course; it’s a gateway to a riding experience characterized by comfort, joy, and a deep connection between horse and rider. The lessons, tips, and exercises offered in the course create a roadmap to an enriching and harmonious journey, where both horse and rider revel in the joy of comfortable riding.
As you embark on this transformative experience, remember that a comfortable rider nurtures a willing and happier horse. Explore the course, unlock the secrets of riding in harmony, and elevate your equine journey to new heights of comfort and joy.
Ready to Ride in Harmony? [Enroll Now] and discover a new dimension of comfortable riding. Happy riding! 🐴✨