Rule Your Ride with Your Visual Powerline

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In WHEN TWO SPINES ALIGN: DRESSAGE DYNAMICS author Beth Baumert explains the four physical “Powerlines”—Vertical, Connecting, Spiraling, and Visual—that she says enable us to become balanced and effective in the saddle. The Visual Powerline influences the horse’s balance, as well as his line of travel.

The trajectory of the rider’s eyes is a Visual Powerline that goes out from your body—that is, outside the physical system. It connects you and your horse to the outside world. Your body spirals onto your line of travel, and your eyes focus on a point—a dressage letter, tree, fencepost, or a jump—and use it as a frame of reference so the horse can be directed on a planned course.

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The rider who is constantly looking at her horse’s neck has a problem similar to the one who clutches the saddle with her legs. She will always be in her horse’s balance; she uses her horse’s balance as a frame of reference because she never looks outside it. The rider who stares at her horse’s neck is committed to being “on the forehand” and can’t influence her horse otherwise. Some riders have nervous eyes; they furtively glance here and there. The horse might experience this behavior in the same way a rider experiences a horse that is always looking this way and that. Maybe it’s distracting; it surely can’t help.

The trajectory of the rider’s eyes has amazing influence over the horse’s balance. It can help put horse and rider in a downhill, horizontal, or uphill balance. The angle of the floor of your seat in relation to the ground and your torso’s position is determined by the horse’s balance, but it is influenced by the trajectory of your eyes. When the trajectory is in a downhill balance, your seat is not only inclined to be downhill, but it actually can’t follow the horse’s back.

When the trajectory of the eyes is horizontal, the floor of your seat offers the possibility of a horizontal frame for the “downhill” horse. It influences the horse’s spine to travel in a horizontal path, thus improving his natural balance. The horse’s horizontal frame puts the floor of the rider’s seat in a horizontal position. When the rider is in self-carriage with the trajectory of her eyes on a horizontal line, she can influence the horse to come into an uphill posture.

If you have problems with the trajectory of your eyes, imagine “half-halting” with your head. This encourages you to inhale and shift your head up, which improves your horse’s balance both longitudinally and laterally. It puts the trajectory of your eyes on the line that encourages your horse to become better balanced. Your seat can’t work when your head isn’t balanced over the place where the two spines meet.

Try this exercise:

Step 1  Hold on to just the buckle of your reins with one or both hands, and keep your hands over the pommel of your saddle.

Step 2  Use your eyes to chart your course. Be aware of how your eyes relate to the rest of your body. Your head will want to lead and misalign your body, but don’t let it. Be sure your hands, shoulders, knees, and toes also point the way.

Step 3  Track left and spiral onto a diagonal line of travel. Weight your left seat bone slightly and turn with your outside (right) aids. Be aware of how your weight works. You might need to use more outside leg than you expected.

Step 4  As you finish your diagonal line, spiral right to turn right. Weight your right seat bone slightly and turn with your outside (left) aids. Be persistent about your horse following your body.

Step 5  When your horse is able to understand your body language, pick up the reins and begin your warm-up. You’ll find that your horse is more in tune with your body language, and you only need very subtle rein aids.

 

Learn about the other three Powerlines in Baumert’s bestselling book WHEN TWO SPINES ALIGN: DRESSAGE DYNAMICS, available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business located on a farm in rural Vermont.

3 comments

  1. Gloria · April 4, 2016

    “Be persistent about your horse following your body.” How?

    • horseandriderbooks.com · April 4, 2016

      Hi Gloria–Thank you for your question! I asked Beth Baumert, author of WHEN TWO SPINES ALIGN, to clarify what she means by this point, and here is her response:

      Yes…This is such an interesting point, because we spend our entire riding lives learning to follow the horse. Follow the horse’s mouth with the hands. Follow the horse’s back with the seat. Follow the horse’s barrel with our legs. That’s harmony, right? Yes and no. When you are following, you are not giving aids. That should be when everything is perfect. If you follow and don’t give aids when the horse is out of balance, it doesn’t feel too harmonious. However, the extent to which you are skilled at following is equal to the amount that your aids will be effective (because your aids will be heard clearly) when you stop following and give an aid.

      The horse will never be in balance without the help of a rider’s aids. Let’s take a half-halt for example: The half-halt will improve the balance of the horse longitudinally. To do a half-halt, the rider STOPS following with the hands (no pulling, however), and pushes with the seat and leg into the fixed hand. Then the hand softens and the rider continues following. Did the half-halt work? If not, the rider does it again. If it still doesn’t work, the rider gives a stronger half-halt or does a downward transition to make the horse’s front end wait for his hind end, thereby closing the frame and the connection.

      So in the beginning when the rider is learning, he follows the horse for the most part–aside from giving aids that hopefully “help” the horse balance. As the rider becomes competent at balancing her horse, the horse is innately rewarded by the rider because the rider makes the horse more comfortable when she improves the balance. THEN, FINALLY, because the horse turns to the rider for help, the horse follows the rider. That’s when a rider becomes a trainer, when the horse follows YOU, you’re training him. THAT’s harmony. The rider follows when everything is perfect, and the horse follows the rider when she gives an aid.

      The horse has to sometimes be strongly encouraged to follow the rider, which brings us to your question: What does the rider actually do, in the suggested exercise, to be “persistent about your horse following your body”? When the rider puts more weight in the right foot, the horse should go right. If he doesn’t go right, the rider should be very persistent with the left leg, and send the horse to the right. The exercise in question is wonderful for helping the horse listen to the seat (weight) and leg aids, because it is done on the buckle so there are no rein aids. Riders often use the hand too much and subsequently, the horse listens more to the hand than he does to the seat and leg. This exercise requires that the horse be obedient to the seat and leg aids with his hindquarters and back. The rein aids are totally out of the equation because the horse is on the buckle. Be persistent with your outside aids in turning your horse in this exercise. It is a lovely, harmonious feeling when your horse learns to follow your weight. You simply put a little more weight in the inside stirrup and your horse steps in front your inside leg and turns right. You, of course, need very little rein aid, and riding is as effortless as it looks!

  2. Pingback: Траектория взгляда всадника | Happy Horse Training

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