Importance of Free Balance

Balance is definitely the #1 most important skill for a rider. It is also the most difficult, considering we are riding something that is constantly moving. One minute you will feel great, in sync with your horse and on top of the world! Then something happens, the horse loses his balance, steps to the side, speeds up or spooks and then balance becomes a struggle. I see riders every day, Training level all the way to Grand Prix who rely on their legs to grip for balance, knee rolls to hold the thigh down, and definitely the reins to keep them from falling back in the saddle. How can a rider help the horse balance if they cannot be in free balance themself? A simple test is to ride without stirrups at the walk, trot, and canter. Once that is accomplished the rider should be able to balance without stirrups and without the hands. If they cannot ride without holding onto the reins it will be nearly impossible to create true self-carriage in the horse. A horse can feel when the rider needs the reins, whether they are holding them tight or not. If the rider cannot relax and trust in the power of their body the horse will always hold tension in the neck and back. I spent over a year working on my position on the lunge line. I was lucky to have an instructor (Carolyn Rose) who made me ride without stirrups all the time. I encourage everyone, all ages and skill levels to take lunge line lessons. It allows the rider to focus on their body, feeling the horse and using their seat rather than the reins. A great example is the Spanish Riding School, they keep riders on the lunge line for months and months to help each rider develop an independent seat. Many riders feel that it is beneath them to ride on the lunge line, associating it with beginner riders. But considering that all of dressage is about balance what better way to practice your basics and discover new feelings? A lunge lesson can reveal answers to those who seek the truth about riding and the language of the horse. Here is a video of me riding Gryphon, a Friesian gelding that I had in training years ago in Florida. In the video I am riding bareback at the walk, trot, and canter. If your horse is comfortable without a saddle you can develop great balance riding bareback. It can be a lot of fun on the right horse. To be able to feel all the horse's back muscles and the energy through the topline is pretty incredible! httpv://