Thursday, October 29, 2009

On the question of balance...

I was giving a lesson to a student the other day and we happened upon the topic of balance as it pertains to the horse rather than the rider. I must mention at this time that my student is a very balanced rider, yet her horse is lacking the balance that she needs to do well in the performance aspect of her training.

The question that she asked was simple enough, how do we get the horse to be more balanced?

The student that I am referring to does show hunters and jumpers,( I know, JR, you are a cow horse trainer), but the basics are the same.

The answer is really a two part answer.........

1) Balance is achieved fairly early in training, and that training starts as soon as we start to ask the horse to turn on his hind end and turn on the forehand. Remember when we ask the horse to turn on the hind end, or pivot, or ask the horse to turn on the fore hand, the horse is not balanced. We are only asking the horse to move one end of his body. Balance comes when we ask the horse to move laterally, such as side passing or two tracking. At that point in the horses training, both ends are moving in sync. That is when we end up with a balanced horse that can use his hind end and front end equally.

It is important that we do not allow the horse to be heavy on the fore hand, which will occur if we spend to much time turning the horse on the fore hand. The same goes for the hind end, we do not want the horse to become too light in the front end, because we are turning the horse on the hind end too much. Remember.....balance!

2) Balance is also visual as well as physical. While we do not want the horse to side pass or move laterally down the rail, we do want there to be some roundness in his movement. If we allow the horse to just move straight down the rail with out the use of our legs, especially our inside leg, then the horse will just start to become heavy on his front end and 'strung out' behind. However, when we apply light leg pressure with the inside leg and light contact with the inside rein the horse will become rounded giving us a more balanced appearance.

Another visual clue as to whether the horse is truly balanced is, if one end of the horse is more developed than the other. If the front end of the horse is more developed that the hind end, then the horse is heavy on the fore hand etc.

Like I always say, a head does not necessarily mean that the horse is balanced, and if you have a horse that is more balanced physically then you will not have a horse that jigs every where you go.

On a separate note.......Phillies 1...Yankees none! The final score in yesterdays World Series game Phillies 6 Yankees 1. Yeah Phillies!


BuckdOff said...

On Balance, I've got nothing..sorry! On the ballgame..being from Mass. It's, go Phillies..Baby!

Cut-N-Jump said...

Good to see you back Buckdoff!

And JR, I am sure glad you aren't talkin about me! Or are you? In either case I will just sit in the corner and keep my mouth shut.

fernvalley01 said...

I think the fact that you are a cow horse trainer , should not matter , balanced is balanced. And unbalanced horse can niether jump , nor effectively work cattle.JMO

GoLightly said...

Go Phillies GO!

What's a Philly?

Yup, what FV said. Balanced is balanced.
It takes time for them to learn to balance, with this weight on their backs..

What about the naturally unbalanced horse, JR?
Conformationally speaking?
Won't it make the rider's job a little harder, if she/he's riding a horse with an over-sized front end, for example?
Or is it up to us, as the rider, to make sure they are as balanced as possible, within their own limitations?

Oh, sorry, I mean this as a hypothetical question. I'm sure there is no such thing as a conformationally challenged horse;)

BuckdOff said...

Thanks CNJ, missed you guys..

Crazy3dayer said...

OK..Question. Speaking of Balance. When working with a young horse or bring a horse back into condition.
When is enough enough? If the horse doesn't have the ability to carry itself (mainly re-conditioning)

I know there is the natural balance but what about when you add a rider? Even if the rider is well balanced?

Just curious

JohnieRotten said...


When bringing a young horse along or bringing a horse back. Enough is enough when the horse, for leack of better words, lets you know that enough is enough.

Usually, when I work a young horse or a horse that has been off for a while, I figure that I have a small window in which to get the most out of that horse, and that is usually only about 15 to 20 minutes.

The rider does play a big part, if the rider is out of balance that the horse will be out of balance. And perhaps I should have addressed that when I did this post, but I was not really thinking about that at the time, I was only thinking about the question that was asked of me at that particular time.


You ask what a Philly is?

Well I can tell you this, a Philly is not a Yankee, and that is all that matters.

How did the Blue Jays do this year?

So far in this game. Phillys 1 Yankees 1....Top of the 5th!

GoLightly said...

Uh, oh:(
never let a Toronto person cheer a major league team.
It's the kiss of death.
sorry, JR:(
Don't ask about our teams. they LOSE.

I will never cheer them again, promise.

Waving madly at BuckOff!

kestrel said...

The twins are just about the perfect age to become instructors...have the rider carry one around on their shoulders around the arena (no, not while on a horse, walking on their own feet fcs!) while the toddler reaches out and grabs for things, wriggles around and has fun. It's about the same weight difference ratio as horse and rider and quite an education to realize how much a small kid above your center of balance throws your own balance off.

I find lots of trail riding, with a loose rein and hills, are perfect for letting a horse find it's body with a rider. My personal observation is that too many horses get pushed into artificial balance before they find their own balance.