It is a cold, pitch-black evening where the view out my office window is only a ghostly reflection of my face surrounded by copious darkness. So, Clover, the blog dog, and I sit down to tell you about my trip to Florida. The interesting thing for you, the equestrian reader, about the trip, is not the fabulous cuisine, glamorous new hotel, acres of forsaken, white beaches or abundant sea shells of extraordinary, yet subtle, color. It is the interesting correlation that became apparent when my husband and I rented segways for three hours to explore Clearwater and the nearby islands.
A segway is a fairly new transportation device. A human balances on a small platform set between two wheels. She steers the device with handlebars that are attached to the platform by a moveable arm. The person shifts her weight on the platform to alter speed. To slow down or stop, the person must shift weight toward their heels without pulling back on the steering arm (or falling off). To speed up, the person must shift weight forward to their toes without balancing themselves on their steering arm. The “rider” must balance on her feet to stay in control. Pull back on the steering arm, and you wreck. Just ask Bob…and the light pole he ran into. Ok, horse riders do not balance between our heels and toes and we do not use our knees to adjust our balance (hopefully!) Dressage riders balance on our seat bones. We adjust that balance through the use of our lower abdominal muscles. We should balance without use of our hands. That independent balancing act is the interesting correlation between segways and horses.
Segways punish people who “pull” or “lean” on their hands with complete loss of control. Riders who balance on the reins, should spend a little time on a segway! Horses can be forgiving for riders who insist on balancing on their “handlebars” as horses learn to stiffen their neck and jaw to support their riders. How kind! They make themselves into rigid bicycles so that their unbalanced riders don’t manipulate longitudinal balance. That rigid frame is not so pretty. Horses are dynamic creatures who can change on their own accord. So, a dressage rider has to balance on the seat bones, on the moving creature with a mind of his own. And, learn to influence that creature with those seat bones. That is why they say, “you only sit as well as your horse allows you to sit.” The more advanced a horse is at balancing his rider, the easier the rider can maintain her balance. Well balanced and educated schoolmasters allow riders to balance on the seat bones with relaxation and confidence.
This brings me to a final point: riding a schoolmaster is a very good education. My student, Dana, leased a schoolmaster from me. During her time with the mare, Favie, she had many realizations that were life changing. Last week Dana wrote a heartwarming essay on the topic. It will be published in the April issue of the NCDCTA Newsletter and added to my website. Look for it here, soon.