Heads up! Heels down!

Beautifully turned out and positioned, long legged equitation riders head up the placings at top shows this summer. Lessons spent without stirrups and in two point position pay dividends in the show ring. But have you ever considered the line between poise and pose?

There’s an air of assurance that marks true horsemanship. Poise: Dignity, fluidity and confidence stemming from an unmistakable “wisdom” – horse knowledge, deeply understood…and practiced.

But the emphasis put on equitation “HOWS” and not the “WHYS” can amount to pose. A rider who poses has a veneer of correct position, without the underlying foundation of understanding.

That’s why I love to teach “equitation science” –  how horses think and learn – even as priority to teaching correct diagonals and straight backs. It makes for happier horses and cooler heads.   It’s natural to lose it when we think of the horse as a machine that’s come pre-programmed with all the buttons in place. Riders coached to think like a horse, to sort through “horse puzzles” by carefully considering every signal or aid they send to that horse inspire more harmony and encounter less hassle. More synchronization, less stiffness. What do I intend to say when I use this cue? What does it feel like to my horse?