Not too long ago, I was riding my mare Joon in the arena at the barn, doing serpentines and was so pleased with her responses to me. It seemed all I had to do was turn my head to look where I wanted to go and she would already be bending around in that direction. It was like she was reading my mind.
After our riding session, my friend Max and I were sitting having a cup of coffee going over what we had practiced that day on our horses. When I told Max that Joon had been “reading my mind,” she told me that no, Joon was just feeling my shift in weight as I turned my head. I was surprised because I thought I had stayed straight in the saddle and hadn’t leaned or twisted – other than my head – in any direction.
To explain what was happening, Max had me sit on my hands while sitting up straight as if I were in the saddle. Then she had me turn just my head and feel the difference in my hands. Try it yourself and you’ll see how the pressure on your seat bones changes with just even a small movement. No wonder horses can react to our slightest moves and be so “in tune” to their riders. Can you imagine how sensitive their backs are to feel that slight movement even through a saddle?
It makes me so much more aware of how much pressure I am exerting on my horses’ backs when riding, and even mounting. I am careful when mounting not to just drop down on their back, and I’m working a lot harder on posting softly at the trot.