Horse-riding – Remember the basics

Horse-riding – Remember the basics

Friday, July 15th, 2011

Keeping the Basics – They’re Important For A Reason

It doesn’t matter if you’re a rank beginner, or a CCI*** eventer, the basics of horsemanship still apply…though they can be easy to forget.

Part Two – Keep Your Balance!

Staying balanced on your horse is definitely one of the basics –  thankfully one most riders don’t forget.

After all, much of riding is impossible without it – try clearing a fence, rounding a barrel, or performing a dressage movement without it, and you’ll either find you aren’t succeeding, or more commonly, you’re on your bum on the ground as your horse relishes in the freedom of a riderless saddle. Balance is second nature to most riders, and something we often don’t consciously think about. However, every now and again, you’re bound to get a not-so-subtle reminder that you need it.

Mine came two weeks ago, when I took a fall off my TB x WB.

I’ve owned him for eleven years, and never once fallen off – but this particular ride proved to be different from the (roughly) 4000 previous rides we’d had together. He was feeling a bit hot this ride. That’s okay though – nothing I hadn’t felt before. However, he tripped slightly, over a small ride in the ground – and responded by becoming something of a rodeo horse – two front feet in the air, two hind feet in the air, rinse and repeat.

This is the kind of drama that, had the trip not happened immediately beforehand, I would have been able to sense and most likely prevent.

But this horse stumbles fairly often – he just doesn’t pick up his feet – so, in the name of prediction, regularity, and laziness, I allowed myself to be pulled forward by the stumble. The movement was only slight – my shoulders didn’t come in front of the saddle – and yet the shift in weight rendered me momentarily unbalanced. I simply wasn’t paying enough attention to the minute changes in my balance & seat position – and thus my problems began. I was off-balance when the rocking horse routine began, and there is rarely ever regaining of your balance when this kind of activity starts. A few valiant attempts on my behalf later, I succumbed to the inevitable and let go of the reins, allowing myself so slide off his rear end (That description makes it sound so graceful and planned…I assure you, it was not. Hindsight is 20/20, but at the time, it was a true case of ditch and dump!).

I neglected the basics.

I didn’t realize it at the time, of course – I didn’t realize I had allowed myself to be pulled forward throughout the trip, no matter how minute the weight shift was. But, as with all things balance, the tiniest change in weight distribution can make a huge difference – in this case, it was the difference between a working and non-working wrist.

No matter what the situation, the basics are important – they’re there for a reason.

They are the first things we learn, the lessons we repeat over and over again, because they are the most necessary of things to know. Sadly, they are also the things we tend to forget or let slide – we figure we have them down pat, and don’t need to practice them, or focus on them. Nothing could be farther from the truth. No matter how good you are at something, you can always be better. Skills are like muscles – without constant use and work, they will recede, dissolve, and regress.


Next time you jump on, try to remind yourself, specifically, of how to ride.

What are the most important things to know? What do you do without consciously thinking about it? What are the basics? You may not even realize you’re neglecting them –  I didn’t. But by deliberately addressing them, and physically reminding yourself of the actions they require, you can further develop and improve them. Simple things, like not allowing yourself to ever be pulled out of the saddle, not matter how small the movement, can infinitely improve your riding – and possibly save you a wrist or two.


Ellie Fraser