The way a horse moves – how he carries his head, moves his back, and lands with each step – determines his ability to safely carry a rider and determines what that rider feels from the saddle. Whether the horse feels balanced or light vs heavy, rushing, or doggedly slow.
Movement also affects temperament and behavior. Many behavior problems under saddle begin due to the discomfort of a horse who never learned to carry the weight of a rider effectively and so feels unbalanced or uncomfortable, triggering many resistant behaviors such as bucking, rearing, leaning, rushing, or refusing to move.
Our challenge as equestrians begins with the fact that horses were not designed to carry weight on their backs. They are a grazing species with bodies adapted for long hours wandering and chomping grass and the occasional sprint away from potential threats.
When we ask the horse to carry our weight there is a particular way they need to organize their body in order to do so effectively without pain and undue stress on joints and soft tissue structures. This is called a weight bearing posture.
Unfortunately, if you go to a local horse show or event, there are not likely to be many horses moving with good weight bearing posture. Instead you are more likely to see strained lifted necks, hollow backs, and the subsequent struggles between horse and rider… kicking incessantly to go forward, bucking in canter transitions, etc.
Besides the potential behavior problems and struggles with their riders, these horses are also more at risk of injury.
But keep looking at that horse show and you may see a horse rider pair who appear connected, soft, light and effortless in their movement and communication. The horse moves willingly without rushing and the rider remains balanced and quiet. The rider’s requests are almost invisible and the horse is “on the aids”, that destination in riding that each rider, regardless of discipline, knows they want, but isn’t sure exactly what it means or how to get there….
The connection between posture and movement to soundness and temperament may be obvious, but the messages about what correct movement is and how to get there are often confusing.
As riders, we’re told to “get his head down”, “make him round”, “ride the hind end”, “get him pushing”, etc, but a clear picture of what we are actually working towards often eludes us.
Developing this clear picture of weight bearing posture and good quality movement becomes the first step to achieving it consistently with your own horse and in your own riding.
Introducing ABCs to On the Aids, with Wendy Murdoch, where you will learn to distinguish good movement from poor, and you will develop a clear understanding of riding terms such as on the aids, collection, throughness, tracking, impulsion, and more.
Learn through seeing the skeletal system, colored dots marking joints, bells marking footfalls, and slow motion video showing correct and incorrect movement for comparison.
At 27 years old, Wendy had a serious riding accident, the horse she was riding reared and fell, rolling over her and pushing her femur through her hip socket. Weeks later Wendy left the hospital in a wheelchair with no opportunities for physical therapy. But her commitment to understanding the body and the connection between body and mind had begun.
Now, with over 30 years of experience as a professional riding instructor and Feldenkrais practitioner, Wendy has combined her formal education in anatomy and physiology with her time working alongside great veterinarians such as Dr Hilary Clayton and Dr Joyce Harman as well as her intensive Feldenkrais training using movement as a mode of body work. Wendy has also spent countless hours in arenas around the world working with horses and riders to help them discover where they are stuck and how to change old habits and patterns to find new possibilities for movement, balance and ease.
Understanding and recognizing quality posture and movement is the first step, but the second step is equally important to your riding… being able to then transfer that understanding to your feel in the saddle.
Once we have developed the clear mental picture of what we are looking for in movement, we need to be able to recognize if our horse is moving effectively when we are riding. As riding skills increase, we need to be able to feel shifts of balance for correct timing of aids, and we need to be able to feel movement for clues if our horse is uncomfortable and something needs to be shifted.
To help you understand how your horse can move better, develop the visual image for this correct movement, and then find your feel in the saddle, I would like to invite you to join ABCs to On the Aids.
Improve your riding and unlock your horse's potential by recognizing and developing the posture and movement your horse needs to be happy, sound, and healthy.
In ABCs to On the Aids, find clarity on commonly misunderstood riding terms such as engagement, throughness, frame, impulsion, on the bit, and more through Wendy's engaging whiteboard discussions and skeletal anatomy segments combined with photos and videos of a variety of horses to clearly see differences between movements and postures.
I understand the importance of good movement, but how do I recognize it… how can I really tell
if my horse is ‘lifting his back' or ‘using his hind end'?
How can I teach myself to actually see these movements and know if my horse is
carrying his body in a healthy way?
You will learn how to work each element of good horsemanship – saddle fit, rider skill, in hand work, body work – into a plan for your horse! These are questions I hear from students who recognize how important a horse's posture and movement are for soundness, performance, a comfortable ride, and even the calmness of the horse, but are struggling to recognize when a horse is actually moving well.
That's why I teamed up with Wendy to create On the Aids, to teach you how to see and feel when a horse really is On the Aids!
Wendy begins with a concise class on anatomy, and how the bone structure will relate to the horse's movement. Then she gives an in-depth lecture on what “on the aids” really means, explaining common terms like impulsion and collection in a simple and understandable way.
Next, we watch horses on the lunge line and slow down their movement so you can see the different ways they carry themselves, for example favoring one side, landing heavier on a specific leg, or being free through the back instead of tense.
After that, Wendy works with a rider on the spring horse to look closely at rider movements and how these affect the horse's body.
Finally, Wendy will share exercises to develop your feel, and begin simple bodywork with your horse, as well as how to apply the body work as well as the other elements of good horse management.
You will learn how to work each element of good horsemanship – saddle fit, rider skill, in hand work, body work, into a plan for your horse!
As with all of our HorseClass programs, I want you to be completely confident and comfortable joining. If you are not satisfied with the course for any reason, return it for a full refund within 30 days of joining.
I would love to have you join this session of ABCs to On the Aids!
You can also call us at 484-420-1086