Sometimes it is so easy to forget who I am. I’ve now put 30 years into horses and I know a bit of stuff. I’ve already outlined why Rugby Guy is riding Z right now, but let me write now why he can’t continue as her primary rider. Rugby Guy is really good for Z so this isn’t a criticism of his talent; it’s just a comparison that shows the other side of the coin….
RG rides like many self-taught Western riders. His butt is too far back in the saddle, the feet pushed forward in the stirrups. This works for the roping horses he rides but won’t work for the Z’s advanced education at being trained in English and Western (probably as a breed, show horse).
When you ride too far back like this, it puts a lot of weight on the horses back. This ends up with back pain for the horse and of course, it’s not a true centered balanced riding position (classical dressage or Centered Riding). With this position, this rider usually produces a horse with a hollowed back and an upright head with a Ewe neck muscle (underside of neck has muscled up instead of the topline).
To compensate for this the average rider then puts on a tie down (remember I told you that RG had mentioned we could use one) to force the head down or worse, bearing reins which are often tied into place and the horse left in the stall for a few hours (yes, I’ve seen this numerous times at breed horse shows when YOU went home and the trainer stayed).
Now the back is hollowed, the head forced down, and the horse falls on the forehand in order to keep their lopsided balance. It’s a viscious cycle of cause and effect that beginner and intemediate riders don’t often understand. Not because they are stupid -they lack experience and knowledge in seeing how this is all inter-related.
Rugby Guy had mentioned this past week that he could have gotten Z to be at the point she is now, last fall, if I had let him. I just smiled. There’s no sense in discussing it because he wouldn’t have understood the cost of rushing the process. Young people want to hurry up whereas us old folks are willing to wait. If Z is rushed, we will meet even more resistance down the road or put into place behaviors (remember the Ewe neck?) that we would have to later overcome.
These are the trainers who solve problem A (i.e. horse throws head about), only to have a new problem crop up that they have to solve (i.e. after using a tied down, horse is on forehand), which they do by adding yet another piece of equipment (i.e. add whips and spurs to get horse to move forward).
Other things I understand, which my Rugby Guy doesn’t:
Many riders use way too much hand in the turn. They also turn too sharply. A turn should be approached that only the eye is needed to be seen and the neck is curved gradually on the arc of the circle.
I use weight to turn, to signal downward transitions, etc… RG uses his hand and his legs too much, a common rider fault. A young horse like Z is quite capable of learning these subtle cues as long as they are used consistently and the release is immediately given as a reward.
The biggest difference though is that RG is having a difficult time getting Z to relax. He doesn’t know how to ask her to do this without forcing it with artificial equipment (i.e bearing reins, tie downs, etc…) whereas I do. RG’s energy is high, getting her to move forward (which is good), but he doesn’t understand how to scale back and let the horse settle.
We are fast approaching the time I need to be in charge of Z from the saddle. It boils down to knowledge. Which really feels weird at times, especially when you forget who you are – the sum of many experiences.