Ever noticed how still a duck is on top of the water but is paddling like crazy below. There’s a saying that goes something like this….but this is much like riding a horse. So let’s see how this is done on horseback.
Since this is interactive, you will need a chair or a large exercise ball (this being the most fun). Straddle it. Okay now, head up, eyes front, shoulders back, arms relaxed at your side, hands no higher than your navel, back straight, hips directly under you. Knees against the ball or chair, heels pointed downward. Take a deep breath, let it out, relax but do not lose your frame/posture. You’ll note that, aside from arm position, this is also the perfect ballroom posture which is why your hero is also good on the dance floor…her too for that matter.
Now slump, and notice how that feels. This is how a town mayor or other minor character may ride if you want to look them to look frumpy. Back to the proper posture…heads up, shoulders back, heels down….wait, we haven’t gotten to the heels yet.
Now the part below water line, the busy part…
There are four aids to riding…voice, hands, weight, legs. We’ll start at the bottom the feet. Heels are down for two reasons. One, the heel acts as a shock absorber and two, it’s to keep your foot from going through the stirrup. If your rider’s foot shoots through the stirrup, he could fall off and be dragged to his death. (A nice option for getting rid of a villain or victim. ) Ideally, unless being used to nudge the horse along, the foot is best positioned slightly behind the knee. Calves are kept slight back but under your hips. Now, grip with your knees and swing your calves back and forth. Press your left calf to the chair leg or ball.Now your right calf. This is how you nudge the horse forward or sideways . On a well-trained horse, it only takes a slight pressure. By the way….your rider will never kick a horse in the flank. The flank is behind the horse’s belly. Your rider will kick or nudge the belly of the horse.
Now, the knees…. They are everything to riding. AT ALL TIMES, they are kept tight, never shall there be sunlight between saddle, horse and the knees, unless you want your rider to fall off. So, grip the ball or sides of chair with your heels…what happens??? Your knees point out, don’t they? This is why your rider falls off if he grips with his heels.
Why tight knees are important? Knees are the connection to the motion of the horse’s center of balance-its shoulders allowing you to feel each movement of the horse. Knees also keep the rider on board regardless of what the horse is doing. Think of a tight bar running through the horse’s shoulder and bolted to each knee. Lose contact here and off you go. Watch a rodeo bronc rider and you’ll see how important his knees are to staying on.
The second aid…your weight. Shift forward on your chair, up on your crotch. Now, sit up. Now, sit down and back on your haunches. Each of these tell the horse to do something. Lean forward…run. Up …slow/relax. Back and down…stop. The Native American Indian would drop his reins, using his legs and weight to maneuver his horse, to shoot an arrow into a charging buffalo.
Amazingly, reins not all that important on a well-trained horse…Watch this video Stacy riding without bridle or saddle and see what I mean.
So, you can see that riding is much like a duck paddling in a pond…still on top and working like crazy below. More on hands and reins in the next blog…