As riders our aim is to be equal balance and strength front to back and side to side. This gives us the best foundation for absorbing and working with the force of the horse underneath us.
We also want an equal connection and reaction time from the top to the bottom of our body.
You see if we give aids we want them to be instant, clear and concise and of course to get the desired reaction.
If you need to give an aid for say Shoulder in. You put your inside rein on and your inside leg on to create the bend at the shoulders and then the outside rein and outside leg then also act at the same time to support the movement and stop the horse falling in at the shoulder or turning and the hind from swinging out.
Now when done well this all happens simultaneously, but if we do not have equal strength and reaction time what may actually happen is this: Inside rein comes on and creates bend at neck, inside leg kicks in and has to try and create bend from the rest of the horse. The horse starts to turn before the outside rein kicks in so in fact it has to now try to turn the horse back whilst the outside leg is basically a lost cause! You see what happened here was not one aid of bend at the shoulder, stay on the track moving forward but in fact a series of smaller aids one after the other-I know the scenario will sound familiar to many of you!
This is why equality and harmony from top to toe and side to side is vital! We very rarely give an aid with just one part of our body, with a right hand aid the right leg, left hand and leg support and vice versa etc. If the support act doesn’t kick in at the same time as the aid your horse will do exactly what that aid asked him to do-in the above example turn his neck………as your leg didn’t support and tell him shoulder.
This of course doesn’t just apply to shoulder in, it applies to any aid in fact. It applies to your ability to ride straight lines – what if the left side asked for forward first before the right side came too?
Then of course circles, lateral work and so on.
Then back to front and back equality. This is a big area in the ways it presents and causes problems so I may write about it in more detail another time as it is commonly misunderstood, however the basic premise is that your should be equally working the front and back of your body the entire time you are riding. This not only creates a good neutral alignment but it also enables you to absorb the movement of your horse more effectively and therefore give better aids and in many cases prevent the many cases of back pain, shoulder pain, hip pain etc.
Let’s try this really simple exercise to see whether your top and bottom, front and back, left and right can fire at the same time.
Starting on your back. Try lifting your left arm and leg up at the same time-does one lift quicker than the other? Now try the right side? Now try opposite sides so left arm right leg. Notice if it is consistently say your arms that lift first, can you make arms and legs lift at the same time?
Now try the same exercise on your front. Notice if this feels easier or harder than on your back. If it feels harder you perhaps favour your muscles on the front of your body and of course vice versa if it was easier on your front you favour your back muscles. Again can you lift top and bottom and left and right at the same time or does one always fire first?
This will give you an idea as to how you give aids on your horse.
I always lift a leg first, my left side was much easier and more equal and I favour my front muscles. How about you?