Tag Archives: balance

HOW TO : Do “more” outside rein, ride “straight” on circles and how NOT to lean in the corners – quick, visual imagery and awareness exercise

This imagery and an experiment/exercise described below might be useful for riders who:

– are often told to use “more” outside rein
– struggle with riding corners and cut them often
– have tendency to shorten or laterally overbend the horse through the neck when riding turns and/or circles
– lean forwards and/or lose neutral pelvis position before the turns
– lean to the side and/or collapse in the waist in corners and/or on circles

Let’s start!

Imagine…that from the wither all the way to the poll your horse’s forehand is alike a really long bonnet of a car. You sit in your “driver’s seat” and have a little bit of a car (the very important little bit – the engine) right behind you, in the same way you have your horse’s hindquarters behind you. Got the image? 

imagery turning in balance

Now, let’s turn that beast…

Imagine…as you approach the corner on your horse, just at the quarter marker, that you need to turn the forehand really well from outside-in. You need to “wait” in your “driver’s seat” for the forehand to do its necessary rotation while you keep everything behind you active, short and rhythmic. You can’t just turn one wheel (use one rein), you need to turn both sides well (with your seat and both reins/both shoulders).

At quarter marker, you indicate (i.e. ask for inside flexion at the poll) and continue straight for the next couple of steps. As you start turning you stay in your driver’s seat, you let the forehand do its job, you focus on turning the wheels (shoulders and neck of the horse) not the very bumper (horse’s head).

You stay quiet right bang in the centre of the saddle, right at the centre of the horse, in neutral pelvis position. The equine spinal column only moves in millimetres so you keep your own spine nice and quiet on top of the horse’s spine. You know that the bigger movements you feel come from the horse’s hips so you keep your own hip joints relaxed and supple (or as supple as you can). Like this, you make sure the horse’s spinal muscles don’t have to “catch you” as you wobble from one side of its spine to another but instead, they are focused on effective, forward propulsion.  

Many a time the instruction for “more” outside rein, “more” straight, less leaning etc are addressing the symptoms rather than cause. The cause is often down to the rider trying to sit on the bonnet to make the turn better…or trying to turn one wheel (pulling on the inside rein) or indicate more/faster (i.e. play with the reins, see-saw, squeeze-release many times etc distracting the horse) in order to turn better (straighter, with impulsion, rhythm etc).


Grab a yard broom and astride it like a witch 😉 Make sure the head of the broom and most of its length is in front of you. Now, eye up a square and walk around it taking your turns well. Notice how early you need to prepare your turn so your broom’s head doesn’t hit the wall of the square…notice how you need to direct your hips, upper body/shoulders and head for the turns to be fluid and accurate.

Next time you ride, keep your horse’s shoulders and neck right in front of your belly button and take your turns giving the forehand all the time it needs to turn well. Stay in your driver’s seat, feel the hindlegs of the horse through your seat bones and enjoy the feeling of your horse being “in front of you/in front of your leg”).

Happy experimenting! Let me know if you found it helpful.

All the best,



Two simple proprioception exercises for young and/or balance challenged horses using poles

pro·pri·o·cep·tion  n.

The unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from stimuli within the body itself.
[Latin proprius, one’s own; see per1 in Indo-European roots + (re)ception.]

STEP 1. Warm up: about 10min (5min if your horse is very settled and happy to get going)

Picture taken by Pure Essence Photography during my clinic in Yorkshire; 4-5 October 2014

Start from walking with your horse around the arena or area where you will later set up the exercises. Your aim is for the horse to walk quietly next to you without rushing forward or lagging behind. You want him to be relaxed but attentive in a ground covering walk. The picture above shows a 3 year old ex-racehorse recently taken off track walking next to me in a nice, relaxed frame. Avoid moving on to any exercises until the horse is calm and pays attention to you – working tense muscles (and mind) only leads to further tension, possible disobedience and resentment.

STEP 2: Exercise 1

Pictures from my clinic in Yorkshire; 4-5 October 2014

This is a very nice exercise that teaches the horse to move away on cue as well as coordinate each limb as they navigate the vertical line of poles. Place the poles on centre line of the arena near C (or A). Walk your horse down 3/4 line from opposite end and gently start moving him across shallowly leg-yielding towards centre line. Keep the movements slow enough that the balance of the horse is challenged and you don’t encourage forehand heavy way of going. Keep leg-yielding over the poles giving the horse time to get his feet out of the way. Repeat a few times on each rein.

This exercise not only helps with proprioception, balance and offers gentle shoulder and back end stretch but also teaches the horse to place the weight on one or the other front leg/shoulder on the cue of the handler which is later very useful when riding balanced turns and circles.

STEP 3: Exercise 2

Pictures from my clinic in Yorkshire; 4-5 October 2014

You will need 4 poles and something to raise them on – we used mini blocks similar to these. Start with all poles flat on the ground and walk the horse back and forth letting him find his own distances and have a good look at the poles. If all good, start raising the ends one by one until all are up and start changing the pattern of crossing the poles – walk over the corners, slalom in and out etc Many horses really enjoy this exercise and the young boy above was no exception 🙂

Keep those exercises short and sweet, the above session lasted 20min including warm up.

Have fun and all the best,


New website in progress HERE

One morning discovery on how to improve the feel for and ability to ride in balance…

We have all heard it – riders need good balance. We heard Carl Hester say about him doing hundreds half-halts per ride. And what are half-halts in essence if not a call for balance in the horse? We all heard that we need independent hands, independent seat, independent legs…Independent from what exactly? From the movement of the horse that unbalances us. From our own loses of equilibrium…

Created with Nokia Smart Cam
[…] And then, a fortnight ago I went cycling with my father…[…]
These thoughts were on my mind as I was trying to come up with ideas that will both explain physically and let the riders feel the “balance” better. It seems that many of us, once sat in the saddle, struggle with refining our balance. We are “fine” in a slightly chair seat or with a asymmetrically held body, one shoulder higher, waist collapsed – comfortably seated on a horse that “catches us” we don’t perceive to be out of balance. Yet, we are as if we removed the horse from underneath us, all the above issues would quickly brought us to the ground.

I have used Pilates balls and various other exercise routines with good results but still wanted something more. And then, a fortnight ago I went cycling with my father…

I am sure I am not the first one to have this discovery but WOW – try cycling with no holding on to the handle bars and you can get the feel for:

1) upper body balance
2) how only small adjustments can cause big differences in trajectory of the bicycle (horse)
3) how it feels to “keep the horse in front of your leg/back” with just enough impulsion for the ground incline
4) how to relax the extremities (legs and hands) while torso remains in positive tension and balance
5) how even rather small slackness through spine or unnecessary tension makes the “no hands” cycling (or balancing) into a big struggle
6) how dominance of one leg (stepping much stronger into one pedal or another) makes you fight for your line and balance
7) how overall tension or “trying too hard” kills the smoothness of the ride
8) how little is needed to stay in balance if we find the right posture
9) how to turn by adjusting weight shifts rather than by active big movements

Now, you might say, the horse is not a bicycle but having compared my “feel” in the saddle for all above I can confidently say that the execution is incredibly similar 🙂 I have always cycled without holding on for years but only that morning I made the connection.

Have you tried to make these comparisons? What do you think?



How to “Sit Deep In the Saddle” – Part 2: Weight Transfer and Body Integrity

Part 1 here: How to “Sit Deep In the Saddle” – Part 1: A simple, magic stretch


Let’s continue the chat about this elusive skill of “deep seat”…The fact how the same words can be understood completely differently by different people has always made me think about how best to describe the feels we are after when riding.

We’ve talked about the upper leg and pelvis position and their importance in synchronising oneself with the movement of the horse. Now, let’s look at the weight distribution and the ability to keep ones body “together” and how those two elements determine rider’s effectiveness and depth of the seat.


We are able to stand, sit, dance with certain ease thanks to intricate influence of gravity on our bodies. It’s a pretty useful force that we often forget to use when riding…

Our weight transfer downwards through our body as long as we let the gravity play the game with us. Our head as the heaviest part is crucial here and I have seen a horse visually changing the level of his uphill posture simply by the change of the position of the rider’s head. The weight distribution is powerful because it is a very natural and instinctive for any living creature to seek balance.

Now, over to the saddle. In my teaching and riding I follow the thought and feel of “dropping the weight of upper body into rider’s thighs” in a pretty similar way to that employed by a skier. The ability to drop the weight of upper body into ones thighs in riding position (i.e. ability to use gravity in the economical way) is one of the elements that transforms a wobbly rider into a stable one.

But that’s not all. The second element here is what you could call body integrity i.e. an ability to maintain whole body control whether in or out of balance…ability to keep all body parts together yet remain relatively relaxed.

One of the best exercises for awakening the feel of this is to me a good old “catch me when I fall” play 🙂


On the slow motion video above you can see 3 riders being pushed between two people. The task was to remain as easy to push as one managed and this was only possible when keeping entire body aligned, connected yet relaxed. You can see that the smallest rider (grey jumper) is actually the most difficult for the “pushers” to manage because of the lack of connection through her body.

The same lack of connection (or core strength as some might prefer to think about it) is also making it difficult for her to “catch” other 2 riders who do maintain good body integrity.

The interesting part here is that it is pretty impossible to keep your body “together” while collapsing in any body part or generally allowing some larger weakness on one side or the other. I like to think of the energy being bottled in, nothing is allowed to leak.


I would like to really encourage you to have a go at the pushing exercise with your friends at the yard/barn. Clock in that feeling you get as you receive the push but do not yield into it…just remain DEEPLY ROOTED RIGHT DOWN INTO YOUR FEET with your energy enclosed in your own personal capsule… Don’t “help” the pushers by trying to use your legs or arms, help them by remaining integral throughout. Experiment too – do help by pushing off the ground or collapse in your waist or yield into their hands as they push – ask your pushers when it is easier to maintain momentum and pushing rhythm…

Then when you ride try to notice how many times you try to help your horse by yielding into his issues (leaning forward when he goes on the forehand, losing upper body balance when he drops his shoulder, losing your pelvis alignment when your horse pulls on the reins…etc etc) and how many times you actually try to help him by remaining integral and relatively unchanged.

Feel how maintaining consistent, gravity driven weight transfer through your whole body right down into correctly functioning thighs requires that exact muscle/spine/joints integrity – once you get that feel you will also have felt the “deep seat” 🙂 At first it might be for one stride, then for two, three, five…

That’s when you need a level of flexible strength – to remain in your spot when the horse “pushes you about” until your stability/deep seat gives him purpose and rhythm.

But about that, next time 🙂

As always, do let me know if you try these exercises, I would love to hear from you!

All the best,


What lifts You and Keeps You Balanced in Rising (Posting) Trot? (plus Video Exercise)

Let’s start with an experiment. [if you do it please leave a comment sharing how it felt:) ]

Exercise: It will only take you 2 minutes. You can sit on the floor or on your bed. Sit on your heels, upper body straight. Take your arms to your sides and move up so your are kneeling. Repeat 3-4 times. Do it side by side with a mirror if you can or rest your phone somewhere so you can film yourself doing this. Then, read on and see video at the bottom of this post 🙂 And share your views!

Exercise 1
Exercise: Sit on your heels, upper body straight. Take your arms to your sides and move up so your are kneeling. Do it side by side with a mirror if you can or rest your phone somewhere so you can film yourself doing this. Then, see video at the bottom of this post 🙂 And share your views!

Let’s have a think now…

In basketball, there is a clear difference between bouncing the ball up and down against the floor, and throwing it up and forward on a nice arch so it goes through the net. Different body position and use of limbs, back, shoulders, fingers must be assumed for either.

In equestrian, in rising [or posting] trot, there is a similar difference between an up and down rise when we use the bounce of the horse plus push from the stirrups or forward and up rise & sit when hips of the rider travel on an arch and we lift our body without changing neutral spine posture. Different use of back, abdominal muscles, hips, feet and..thighs.

So, which way is the right way, and why?

You might think, hey I’ve been doing rising trot for so long I don’t even remember when and how I learnt it but if you have issues with your horse’s forwardness, impulsion, straightness, back roundedness, connection back to front, consistency of contact to name just a few, stay for a little longer, it would be great to hear your views!

Over the last 20 years I taught over 14.000 complete beginners or novice riders to ride (I am actually slightly overwhelmed by this number as I decided to under calculate it as not to exaggerate!) and sadly, half of those I would have taught by an up-and-down mantra. In 1997 I came across Centred Riding and changed my ways slowly until I was able to eliminate the need for up-and-down instruction from my teaching vocabulary.


Rising by using your back, upper body motion and/or by pushing up from stirrups (standing up on them) has a huge effect on rider’s ability to stabilise own body, achieve independent hand, encourage free, forward movement in the horse, use their lower legs independently of upper legs, ask for greater collection later in training and the list goes on.

Random freeze frames

I typed in You Tube: ‘my horse riding lessons’ . Below are random freeze frames from some public videos showing what most of us assume is a stage “we all have to go through”. But do we really?


rising trot bad 1
To make things worse these frames are from a video titled: how to ride posting trot. You need to be very selective in what you watch if you are a novice rider seeking to learn on You Tube…

Continue reading What lifts You and Keeps You Balanced in Rising (Posting) Trot? (plus Video Exercise)

Balancing your horse. “If you can’t explain it to a 6 year old, you don’t understand it yourself” – A. Einstein

Riding concepts are full of often complicated explanations or secretive silence. The idea of riding your horse in balance might not be easy to execute but should not be made more complicated than necessary.

When I read the below article by Buck Brannaman I thought that’s a good example of an explanation by someone who really understands the idea…

Have a read, you won’t regret a few minutes with the below words whether you are a dressage rider, show-jumper, eventer or happy hacker…: