Part 2: The Horse's Habits
In Part 1, I introduced you to Gina and her bay Arabian gelding, Piper. Gina was frustrated that Piper resisted bending, especially to the right.
Gina’s trainer had demanded that she use stronger, more insistent aids, but that just created more conflict and unpleasantness between horse and rider.
When Gina consulted me, I noticed that she sat heavier on her left seat bone, which made it difficult for her horse to bend. This unbalanced sitting can cause back pain, stiffness and tension in both horse and rider.
I led Gina through a Feldenkrais® exercise that improved her body awareness and helped her to sit balanced on her seat bones. Happily, it also got rid of her back pain and sciatica!
But the next time Gina rode, she was disappointed to discover that Piper still didn’t bend easily. She was sitting in balance, so why wasn’t her horse bending...
Sarah, a 43-year-old brunette with the tan, toned arms of a longtime equestrian, was visibly frustrated. She had hit a disappointing roadblock in her training.
Despite working with a respected dressage instructor, Sarah was beginning to feel as if her imported warmblood would never do well in dressage.
Her horse, an eight-year-old Dutch warmblood named Ace, had lovely conformation and an impressive pedigree. Generally easy-going and amiable, the bay gelding became tense whenever a rider asked for any degree of collection.
A tenacious researcher, Sarah had already explored medical, diet, training, turnout and saddle-related reasons that could prevent a horse from rounding his back and engaging his hindquarters. But despite all her expensive efforts, her horse was getting more resistant. She constantly worried that his back might be sore and tight. No wonder Sarah was frustrated!
When Sarah heard about my work, she figured that one more opinion couldn’t hurt. And less than five...
Does your horse pin his ears when you tighten the girth? Does he get grumpy, swish his tail or threaten to bite or kick when you cinch him up? Does your horse seem to hold her breath (“blowing up” or “bloating”) when you’re tacking her up?1
Any of those reactions would fit the definition of a “girthy” or “cinchy” horse. Cinchy horses are so common that many equestrians think nothing of it. But resistance during tacking up can set the tone for your whole ride, and lead to diminished equine performance too.
Tying your horse up short may prevent you from being bitten, and disciplining your horse may discourage the biting, kicking, or tail swishing, but neither method will improve how your horse feels about saddling. In fact, punitive measures usually increase tension in your horse’s mind and muscles.
That’s no way to build a trusting relationship with your horse! Plus, it can lead to diminished performance and a...