Part One: Seeking Balance
by Alice Trindle
First off, I am quite excited to be writing for the Northwest Horse Source once again. When I look back over the volume of articles and topics discussed in articles written for this publication over the past nearly 10 years, I am very grateful for the opportunity it has afforded me to talk on true horsemanship principles. Let’s get started with a new series that examines the importance of balance in achieving the ultimate ride with our horse.
Here is a brief outline for where we are headed: We will begin with this article to establish the discussion about balance as the key element for enabling movement with our horse. Next, we will actually observe balances by watching and applying various ground exercises. The third article should examine how we influence the balances. This is the “where to be…when to be…why to be there” discussion. Our final installment in the series will talk about achieving that marvelous state of equilibrium, that place where everything is in balance and all movements are in harmony.
No matter what the discipline, the hallmark of a great performance is seeing horse and rider achieving amazing results with seemingly effortless communication. Whether on the dressage court, in a trail class, or no-dust roping of baby calves at branding, what makes a beautiful picture is working together with a willing attitude in both parties. The key ingredient necessary for the human to stay out of the way of the horse is balance, which comes from positive attitude, clear focus and the application of good posture. When we become out of balance it is so easy for us to resort to pushing, pulling, and prodding to “make” things happen with the horse. It is truly our responsibility to set things up so that the horse is seeking balance with their human as the positive reward for doing a good job.
What do I mean when I talk about balance? It is a pretty big concept to be labeled as the key ingredient in the foundation of our relationship with the horse. It is more than the simple weights and measures scenario. While it is incredibly important that we understand balances fore and aft, on the diagonal, side-to-side and up and down, it is equally critical that we find a balance in positive attitude. So, let’s divide balance up into two segments: physical balances that are affected by bio-mechanics and the environment and attitude balance that encompasses our mental, emotional and spiritual relationship.
Most of our interactions with the horse require some type of movement. Therefore, seeking balance becomes a very dynamic and fluid proposition. It follows that in order to set it up for horse and rider to be in balance, together, we need to understand how each party moves. We need to understand and study bio-mechanics. In simple terms, it is difficult to move a body part if you are sitting on it! In the most rudimentary of terms, the physical balances are achieved in finding that place of equilibrium as it moves aft and fore (tail to head), up and down (posting, jumping, changes in environment), side-to-side and on the diagonal (true lateral movements). Wow. That is a lot of bio-mechanics for us humans to keep track of and be in balance with!
Attitude in Balance
Humans have an unflattering tendency to blame a poor performance on nearly everything but ourselves. We look for reasons why we were late on turning back a cow, or not achieving a flying lead change as something the horse didn’t accomplish rather than focusing inward. So, perhaps the most important of balances is checking in with a positive attitude, one that considers building the relationship between horse and rider to be paramount. An attitude that draws on a ‘Horseman’s Protocol’ that requires us to become present, think, focus, allow, and most importantly, reward the horse. We create a positive environment by seeking mental, emotional and I believe spiritual balance. This sets up a mindful application of physical balance to create a picture that is beautiful.
Over the next few months we will explore this relationship in balance. Take time to think about how your attitude influences the ride. Experiment with physical balances and have fun with the reality that it will not always be perfect. Find out what it means to be in a balanced relationship with your horse.
Published May 2014 Issue
Alice was born on a ranch in eastern Oregon, the only daughter in a family of five brothers. She learned to ride behind the back of the saddle holding on to her brother’s belt loops. In the past 15 years Alice has studied with horsemen such as Tom Dorrance, Ray Hun, Dennis Reis, and Bettina Drummon. Her focus is on building a balanced relationship, applying Classical Dressage and Traditional Vaquero principles, via multi-day horsemanship retreats at her ranch in eastern OR.