Learning How To Go Left....And Other Thoughts While Riding...

by: Erin Shea

Riding is a mental as well as a physical pursuit. When you get on your horse, you don't leave your thoughts and personality behind. They show through your riding. It's quite amazing how much your individual traits shape the way that you ride. I guess this is because you can tell the character of a person by the way that they treat another living thing, like a horse. During my time riding last week, I came to the realization that they way I ride reflects my personality.

I am my father's daughter. I have been told this my whole life. I tend to ride putting the majority of my weight on my right side of my body. Susanna noted this and surpirised me by asking me out of the blue if I was like my father in personality. "Why?" I asked. "Because in Chinese medicine, Native American medicine, and indeed some religions, the right side of the body is traditionally associated with the father," she told me. "And you are very right sided." She suggested I lengthen my stirrup a hole on the left so I would have to reach more for it and asked that I pay attention as I rode this way in the future what happened.

So I was riding Diano in the jumping field a few days later. At first I was having a hard time getting him to go down the outside line without bending to the left too much and drifting left coming to the fence crooked. Remembering my tendency to be right sided. I started to put more of my weight in my left stirrup. We had a much straighter line. Wow! it is amazing what riding properly and balanced can do for you and your horse!

Like my dad, I am a perfectionist. It's a blessing and a curse. It's a great trait when trying to accomplish something. I'm motivated and will work until my project is complete. However, I am often unsatisfied with my work and I tend to beat myself up over things which often are not important. Not the best quality to have when training a horse.

This too showed up in my riding this week. While I was trotting on Pete, Susanna told me not to try so hard while posting. Easier said than done for someone like me. At first, "not working so hard" was really hard. However riding this way, and not stressing about whether you are doing everything by the book, makes sense when you realize that your horse responds to what you're asking. After a bit, I began to feel how to use my seat and body to ask my horse to extend and collect at the trot. When I gave him the correct support from my position. Pete engaged his whole body in his trot making me realize what an amazing responsive horse he is. He's so sensitive, like many Thoroughbreds, and willing to do what his rider asks of him, if asked in a clear way, and then allowed him to do what he does best: being a horse!

Our riding habits may lead us deeper into our lives than we know. That is what I've been experiencing myself this week. So as a piece of advice to all riders, look past the physical part of riding and think about yourself as a whole. Sort out your riding problems and maybe then you will be able to put yourself in balance, both in the saddle and out.