So, up to now, we’ve spent time learning what it takes to ride a horse. Hopefully you’ve discovered that the bridle and reins are not as important as how you sit the saddle…knees tight-always, heels down, calves lose and moveable, weight centered under torso, shoulders back, and head up….the ballroom posture. And you’ve learned and hopefully seen how these aids communicate to the horse without a bridle. But let’s face it, the reins/hands definitely have a presence and a use. Held no higher than your belly button. But most of all, remember it’s the gentle touch to the horses’ mouths that matter. Doesn’t take much as seen with the water in the coffee mugs.
But to make all this work in concert…or how to make your horse dance. First thing is you can’t take just any horse out of the pasture and make ’em dance. It takes hours of patient training and work. Of course our hero and heroine are offered this time since horses are their entertainment (the hunt or morning rides in the mist) or transportation to wherever they go…tis by real horse power.
No matter how or what they ride, they will use the aids I have shared with you: weight being the most influential, legs second, hands being the most obvious, and voice…the weakest of them all. Yes, I haven’t covered the voice aid so here goes…”Whoa. I said WHOA! STOP, DAMN YOU! WHOA!!” Yeah, kinda like talking to a teenager. That’s why it’s the weakest aid. However, the strength of the voice isn’t in the words but the tone of voice. It is said that horses love the Irish brogue…well so do I and can believe this. If our hero speaks, his horse will turn its ears back to listen and will respond to the tone: frantic, calming, assuring, worried.That will communicate down through the horse to the way the hero is sitting: nervous, alert, ready. And horses are amazing at nonverbal communication:your seat in the saddle, your walk, your touch, your voice. They figure that out quickly and adapt.
Again, ballroom dancing comes to play here….the instant the heroine joins a dancer, she knows if her toes are in danger. It’s the way he places his hands on her, the instant he moves to the music, the command he takes as lead. She also knows how to make him look graceful or like a fool…So does a horse. Oh, the options ripe for writers! To make a horse misbehave, think how your heroine can make her dancing partner look foolish on the dance floor. Or how she can cover for his mistakes/flaws if he has any.
Here’s a new ballroom to enjoy…the show arena full of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. I”ve seen these guys ride and they are fantastic. I couldn’t believe my father’s stating that “It’s the horses doing that, not the riders.” I almost hit him. Remember, horses would just as well be grazing in a pasture, so they are performing to please the rider.(Note how calm the horse is with the drums pounding on his back and the music…thought I was at a football game.)
Here’s a second part of the show that shows even more ‘gymkana” riding that originated in the Roman Legions cavalry.
Enjoy part two if you have time:
Oh, we’re not done …we have to ride sidesaddle and so much more.
So, if you want to make your heros riding like studs, stay tuned and stop by often.
Keep riding and writing,