Lessons Remembered: Keeping your horse underneath you

It may seem rather obvious, but you want your horse to stay balanced under you when you ride. You don’t want to be behind the motion or listing to one side or the other.

The good news is that your horse wants to stay under you and actually will do its best to help you out by following your weight.

Years ago I had the privilege of riding with Dr. Max Gahwyler. He was the first “real” dressage instructor I’d ever had the chance to train with and he used to come to the New Canaan Mounted Troop to teach a few of us. I am forever indebted to his patience and good humor as he tried to explain some of the basic concepts of dressage to me.

Walking horse on a loose rein
While walking your horse on a loose rein, see if you can steer just by shifting your weight. Can you circle to the right by stepping in that stirrup?

He was the one who showed me how a horse will step under your weight as it shifts. To illustrate the concept he asked us to drop our reins and influence our horses by stepping more heavily in one stirrup or by weighting one seat bone. He asked us to make circles and change directions. It was both harder than it sounded and, once you got the concept and your horse was listening to you, easier.

Although we did it at a walk, it’s a principle that holds true at any gait. If you stay in the center of your horse, the way you shift your weight is an important aid. Of course, it still influences your horse even if your weight is shifting unintentionally. The problem then is you are probably just confusing the heck out of them!

It’s still something that I do when I am cooling out or riding in an open space on a long rein. Freedom is quite sensitive to my position and it helps me see how important it is that I stay still and secure so that I can influence him intentionally when I want him to move.



2 thoughts on “Lessons Remembered: Keeping your horse underneath you

  1. Perfect. We do this during cooling out also. I think it keeps us both sharp. Warming up, I pretend I don’t have the reins, not a good idea to drop them on him pre-ride.
    The other day I completely regressed to green rider status and tried to scootch up to the movement at the gallop. I haven’t done that in a looooong time. Boy did I feel stupid. I wish I’d started out with lessons as a kid, so I could regress to basics, instead of self-taught bad riding.

  2. I realized some time ago that I have probably already had so many lessons in my life that if I just “recycled” them at the appropriate time and played them back in my head, I could get double value. The problem is that the sorting function in my brain has become less effective as I age and sometimes I get the wrong lesson!

Leave a Reply