We’re going to help this rider now apply some
of her knowledge of communication with hand and leg to that forward moving horse that
we now want to be balanced, smooth and light on their forehand. Horses inherently like
to go out and do their work in a similar sloppy fashion to many of us in our daily lives.
They don’t always hold correct posture and move in the best way. We have to be their
personal trainers. We have to be the ones that say, “The best way to do this work is
to do it in a most athletic fashion.” We’re always looking at, “Does the horse keep and
maintain their shoulders on an even plane, so that the inside shoulder and the outside
shoulder more or less match?” Often, horses will take this part of their body and let
it drop down and lean into their circles. Circles are the premise of all horse training.
We do many, many circles. So it’s important that a new rider understands that it’s their
job to be sure that this horse is knowing how to maintain that balance through the shoulder.
The rider needs to take control of that horse’s inside shoulder. We also then look at how
do they manage their hind leg, particularly if this were the inside hind leg. We want
to equate and know that the horse’s hind leg, their hock, (or this joint), is the equivalent
to our ankle. I’ll often do this: I’ll stand up next to the horse, place my leg in its
position, to help you understand how important these body mechanics would be to the horse.
If my ankle were stiff, I certainly couldn’t plan my day out and have the same kind of
athletic maneuvering that I would need. So when a horse’s hock is not used in a very
elastic and kind of flexible fashion, he’s going to drag that leg along, very stiff and
straight. That’s going to promote that same kind of shoulder dropping, leaning into their
turns position. A horse could, in fact, slip right out from right under them if they weren’t
careful and using their body with better body mechanics. When this hock bends nicely, and
that foot can step forward and underneath the horse, almost like it were coming into
a tight rope, that’s when that horse can balance itself well and go through the circles. So,
we want a horse that knows how to use their bodies well enough so they can do all of those
quick turns and spins and maintain circles as we take them to those disciplines that
we hope to compete in.