As a Coach theres one thing I really don't like hearing from people booking for lessons -
"I just want to ride! I don't care for that fancy sitting pretty stuff, I just want to have fun"
This irks me, as it shows a complete disrespect to the horse; the horse is not simply a 'device' to be picked up and 'used' to allow the rider have a good time; horses are living, feeling creatures who deserve our respect and consideration.
Our interactions with horses are much like a conversation. Horses are highly observant and sensitive animals- an essential survival trait for a prey animal. Every interaction we have with our horses is communicating something to them. Through our expressions, tone, and body language, we are presenting either a positive interaction or negative interaction, and our horses are absorbing the information and forming an 'opinion'- if you will, of who/what we are to them. That 'opinion' will then determine how they behave in our presence in future interactions.
How does this relate to position?
When we ride, our bodies and voices are used as methods of communication, a riding session is a conversation with our horses. We ask questions and requests with our aids, and our horses respond and react. Conversations should always be two-way, we need to tune in as horse-people and understand what the horse is attempting to communicate with us and then respond and react apporpriately to that too!
Just for a minute, imagine having a conversation with someone who wont listen to you, who just keeps talking over you and shouting questions and requests that you can't respond to, or that you don't have time to respond to, before they are shouting the next demand!
Even just the thought of that situation makes my tension rise!
So, it is any wonder that we have so many tense, 'misbehaving' horses out there!
Riders generally are not doing this intentionally, they have been taught that you put an aid on and you are to expect a response, however, often when they don't recieve the desired response it is the horse that is blamed for being disobedient before assessing anything else- and this is when the conversation becomes one-sided. More often than not, the incorrect or non-existent response from the horse is due to a lack of understanding, clarity, or ability to perform what they are being asked to do.
How many of us can say they sit totally independent in the saddle and with no disturbance to the horses way of going? ... 0?...
Our aim as riders is to do as little as possible, to be able to communicate with our horses through very light aids or 'whisper aids' as I like to refer to them for the Junior Riders. When a rider is unable to sit in balance, they tend to move around a lot in the saddle and hold tension in certain parts of their bodies. The horse can feel all of this movement and tightness and they feel not disimilar to an aid, therefore the unintentional 'aids' leads to disturbances of focus and attention and the intentional aids are then are somewhat distorted. Riders who are giving this mixed and confusing messages often become frustrated with the horse and use stronger, 'louder' aids, until we again reach that shouting one-sided method of communication.
It is like being in a room full of people all talking to you at once but just having to listen to just one person! It would be stressful and confusing and this is how it would feel for our horses moving under an unbalanced rider.
So! as you can see, a solid and an effective position in the saddle is absolutely essential to effectively riding a horse with clear and consistent messages and aids. For this reason, we ask of you- please take the time it takes to develop your seat and balance before expecting more of your horse and yourself.