Body Position Really Matters

Novels for Horse-Lovers

The Tipped Z Ranch books feature fictional stories but real horsemanship.

Tipped Z - 3 Covers Learn More

A few nights ago we watched Richard Caldwell’s Jaquima a Freno (part II).  It was a really great video.  So many of the exercises we have seen before, but it is always nice to hear how another great horseman lays everything out there.  And like so many others, Caldwell rides like he grew right out of the back of the horse.  It is amazing to watch.

See more wonderful pics of Caldwell and other amazing riders in this album.

One of the things he talked a lot about was how his body affects the horse’s body.  He demonstrated how during groundwork dropping his shoulder would often lead the horse to do the same thing.  Under saddle things are more magnified.  He showed us what it looks like to side-pass with an inactive body, and then he did it again shaping his rib cage up to match the horse’s.  The difference in energy and lightness in the horse was like night and day.

It got me thinking more about my own body.  Particularly my tight, right hip.  I know it has caused me some problems in many a turn.  And no matter how much I try to open it up, it doesn’t really help.  But something Caldwell said made me shift my focus to my left shoulder.  Another problem area in my body, though in a very different way.  Still, I’m sure they’re connected, and over the past few days I’ve really focused on keeping that shoulder up and back.  I’ve been doing this while walking, doing the dishes, typing at work, during clean and presses, and of course, on the horse.

I have to say, it has a really nice impact on how my hip and the rest of my body feels.  It is a funny feeling, too.  I always think I’m exaggerating my posture, but in reality I have probably gotten in the habit of pushing my left shoulder forward more often than not.

All this helped me have a tremendous ride on Zoey.  She is a little girl.  Just over 14.1 and also very slight.  As a result, my mass means an awful lot to her.  If I shift my weight in a way that she’s not ready for, it can take all the wind out of our sails.  Ultimately this is good for me, as it keeps me riding very well.  Better than I have to ride on the other guys.  But it is a lot to think about.

Onto the ride.  She was interested to see me in the pasture and I put her halter on with no problem.  She was extra relaxed during grooming, and I decided to saddle her at the hitching post.  She has a little saddling anxiety, so we’ve been doing it in the arenas where she has space to move and we have space to work.  Today, though, I was able to take my time and get the saddle on her with very little swiveling or anxiety.  I put it on and off three times, but the first had very little reaction, and the last was quite good.

When we get things from the barn she is very curious if we’re coming back

In the arena we moved on to groundwork.  I focused on being soft, keeping my energy even, and of course, keeping my posture even, too.  We had a really good session.  I didn’t push her as hard as other days, but we didn’t need that.  And (surprise) I got more done.

Under saddle she was also relaxed.  We focused on some flexing and easy bending from the start.  A few rides ago on Bear I realized I should consciously keep my weight back when I ask for a flex as it was helping him keep his weight more evenly dispersed between his front and back feet.  The same is even more true for Zoey.

And then we rode.  We did a lot of circles, figure-eights, tear drop turns, and serpentines.  We also did a whole lot of trotting.  The trotting was working really well for us.  We started with smaller circles, then moved out to bigger ones, then to figure-eights, and finally out to using most of the arena.  She was very alert and attentive the whole time.  She also seemed to be happy with her job.

The only thing we struggled with was backing.  The first few times I asked it was great, bu then things really fell apart.  I just couldn’t get her to move off.  I thought I was too active with my body and legs, so I did less.  That got me nowhere, so I did a little more.  And a little more.  And we just weren’t getting it.  Since everything else was going so well, I didn’t worry about it.  We’ll get it next ride.  Or the one after.

Our second mounts for the day were hanging out in the airlock enjoying the fresh grass.

We quickly tacked them up and moved out into the pasture herd lot.  We’d never ridden in there, and hardly even walked through it.  It is a big square with a few flat sections and a few steeper hills in the far corner.  Bear and I started by just walking the fenceline and checking things out.  From there we moved into working some circles.

I’m still trying to be as light as I can with him as I know he hasn’t magically gotten over the anemia yet.  He’s now on his new supplement, so I’m hopeful we’ll see some results soon.  Thankfully we still had a pretty good ride.  He’s getting more and more sensitive to my legs.  I love how it feels to apply small amounts of pressure or just move one leg forward a little bit and feel him respond.

The not so great thing is he’s not very responsive to the bit.  I have no idea if he was always like this and I just have more expectations/a better sense of feel since I’ve been riding him in the hackamore for the past year or if it is related to his general lethargy.  The nice energy I’m getting off my legs makes me wonder.

We also spent quite a while watching Robin and Steen ride.  The double horse rides are pretty long.  Particularly after a work day.  But they’re really fun.  And I can already tell that riding Zoey has helped me learn all kinds of new, subtle things.

0 0 vote
Article Rating

Woh! Hey, look at you reading this entire post!

That's a bit of an accomplishment in our attention-deficient age. Kinda makes me wonder if you like to read things that are even longer than blog posts? Like ... books?

If so, you're definitely our kind of person. Which means you might enjoy a horse-centic read? Click here to read a free sample of, A Man Who Rides: a novel about horsemanship and love.

Notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Suzanne Hodges
7 years ago

I have also been experimenting more with shaping my body after riding one day with Annette Venteicher-Coker (from the movie, Buck) last year. She spoke a lot about opening your hips and shoulder when rolling back on the hind to help your horse swing his front around. Positioning can make or break whether you can move your horse. Martin Black is one of my favorite horsemen. I am glad you got to see him and are implementing some of his practices. Good people out there offering great tools and making things better for horses and people. Keep up the great… Read more »

7 years ago

Interesting. I've been experimenting with the idea of shaping my body how I want the horse to shape his, and had some success there. I'd never heard of anyone else using that idea though, so it's neat to hear that someone who's actually good uses it.