Saturday, March 9, 2019

Connecting to the Feet—a daily progression to better communication

By Mary Gallagher

Lily and Joia in step...
Why: To time your aids to best complement your horse’s movement, communicating in a simple way that enlists your horse’s cooperation. 

We are all looking for that special sense of connection, that moment when our horse effortlessly responds to our wishes, and we are one with his movement, in perfect balance with each step.

Do you achieve that feeling as often as you’d like? Is it a ‘superpower’ you two share? If yes, I salute you. If no, I’m here to help!

You and your horse can begin this wonderful journey to connection and communication right now. In this series of articles, I will get you started, breaking down the basics for you in a series of simple exercises.

Side by side pole walking. We’ll start by having the horse walk across a series of cavaletti poles. For an average-sized horse, set them about 3 feet apart—a bit closer for ponies, a little wider for large horses. When you’ve got them right for your horse’s stride… fall in! You’re going to walk them, too.

As you walk alongside your horse, match his stride and step over the poles with him, in step. The idea is to be precise, get in sync: time your feet to leave the ground as your horses’ foot leaves the ground, then return to the ground at the moment your horse’s foot returns to the ground. This may seem easy— until you try to be exact!

Keep at it, circling back to the poles, and do not rush or skip ahead. Once you are sure you have a feel for your horses stride, continue straight out of the cavalettis and see if you can maintain the same rhythm and cadence together as you walk forward. If you lose it, head back to the poles for another go. And as with any exercise, be sure to switch sides/directions for balanced performance.

Mounted Walking warm up. Let’s have you repeat the exercise, this time in the saddle. You’ll be going for the same result, but since your legs are occupied, you’ll used your arms. No, really:

As you ask your horse to walk across the poles, gently alternate arm movements to match your horses front leg extensions. Remember to engage your core, hips tilted forward, feeling for the length of your horse’s stride. Again, don’t rush to the next thing; take time to get it right and feel for your horse, recognizing when he feels for you and you are moving together.
The right hand moves with the right foot...
Again, when you think you are in sync with your horse over the poles, go straight ahead, maintaining the same feel without the poles to help.

Pay it forward. Now as your go about your normal ride, whether schooling or on the trail, review this exercise throughout, to keep bringing your awareness to the connection you have with the horses feet. It’s a skill that will add to the quality of everything you and your horse do together when in motion.

As this blog series continues, I will add more activities to get you thinking of and connecting to the feet!

Read Part 2!

Want more of this kind of training, with coaching and fellow students? In August 2019 I’ll be leading a clinic at Freedom Farm in Port Angeles, Washington called—you guessed it—Connecting to the Feet. Let me know if you’d like to reserve a place! - MG 

No comments:

Post a Comment