Saturday, January 22, 2011

Every Rider MUST do This!!

A few years back I was participating in a clinic in which my guru (trainer) gave the group an exercise that I think is one of the most valuable I’ve ever come across… the only problem with the damn thing is that it requires a somewhat reserved and conscientious person, such as my self, to put themselves in a high socially awkward position.... okay it isnt that bad but trust me, it feels a little odd to straddle a complete stranger and ride them like they are a pony! Let me tell you! So get this- there were ten people in the clinic and, naturally, I was paired with a sweet (though somewhat dimwitted) 50-something year-old woman we’ll call Twiggy as she had about as much weight and substance as my left thigh. Twiggy and I were instructed to have one partner kneel on all fours on the ground and the other to sit on their back (as one would sit on a horse)… you might say I had an image pass before my eyes of the poor wee woman squished flat beneath me like that guy who got steamrollered in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Thus, I quickly dropped to my hands and knees and assumed the position. Twiggy, with no reserve at all, hopped on my back and the exercise began.

The idea was to have the “rider” move in various ways in an attempt to demonstrate to the “horse” (me) just how acutely a horse can feel our body position, weight and movements. The Guru wanted us to appreciate how easily “feel” can be communicated and how affective even a light cue can be.

Personally it was one of the most "ah-ha" (the sound of the proverbial light bulb turning on in my head) moments in my horsey life. When it came time for my partner to have a turn I was able to destribute much of my weight into my feet... though I really only perched myself lightly on her tiny frame I did continue to fear that at any moment she might go"splat". In any event, poor Twiggy survived and we both walked away much the wiser.

I would highly recommend that every single horseman try this exercise. Find someone (of the appropriate weight and size) to sit on your back. It helps if that person is a rider so that they can demonstrate real life examples of how we move as horsemen. Have them turn their head (only) left, then right… have them turn their shoulders, twist their hips, rock forward as if to create impulsion, sit back in their seat, look over their shoulder, all of the things that we do as riders. Have them put their outside leg “on” and open their inside leg and feel how naturally the “horses” body wants to move in to the space created. I think you’ll be surprised by how easily you can feel a motion as little as the “rider” turning their head in one direction or the other.

Let me know what you think!


  1. This is really interesting, thanks for posting!


  2. Oh! Thanks for the memory jar Chelsi! I've done something similar to this at a clinic too- our instructor had us sit (only on the hips more or less, where the thigh bone would provide support to the "riders" weight). It was amazing. Then she had us walk behind our partner (both of us upright again) with hands on shoulders. We had to look around, look down, look ahead, etc so that we could get the feel of what it was like for reins too. Whoever came up with those exercises is a genius. Period.

    Thanks for posting this!

  3. Thats cool, we did a driving excersize something like that with one person holding a snaffle bit and the other the reins and it was amazing the different feelings!

  4. haha that's funny! I should try that sometime....
    I nominated you for a blog award! See what to do with it at

  5. I've seen this exercise before. It works great. Just like the one where they have the rider hold the bit and someone else has the reins to see what the horse feels.