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Posts Tagged ‘linda benedik’

It was over 25 years ago, but I can still close my eyes and immediately feel the pounding of hooves on the hard dirt road in my head, and the rawness of my skinned and abraded hands as they desperately pulled to one side, then the other, on what were, at the time, fairly useless reins. I can hear breathing—heavy, labored, both the horse’s and my own. And I can remember how the ground looked from where I crouched on the back of the runaway: it throbbed and swayed in corner of my eye, momentarily closer, then seemingly distant, a blurry heartbeat, pulsing in time with the horse’s manic strides.

The decision to abandon ship arrived in a moment of clarity. We were racing toward home, and the dirt road turned to pavement not so far ahead. I was 10 and overpowered. I feared the mare’s shoes slipping at this speed—there was a sharp turn at the bottom of the hill. I was afraid of her falling, crushing me, or losing my weakening grip there, tumbling to the concrete in the path of oncoming cars.

I’d been taught the emergency dismount when I started riding as a five-year-old. My pony then had been much closer to the ground, but the muscle memory kicked in nonetheless, and I had my feet out of the stirrups, my hands on the pommel, and my slight body pushed up, over, and clear of my horse’s flailing legs before I could overthink the maneuver. I landed at a run that turned into a tumble in the (relatively) soft shoulder at the side of the road, and seconds later I was back on my feet, shaky but thankfully unbroken, and headed after the mare, hoping she, too, had survived her panicked flight.

While being able to stop a runaway or out-of-control horse from the saddle—using the pulley rein, for example—is certainly preferable in many cases, knowing how to use the emergency dismount is an important skill, too. Simply practicing it on a horse that is standing motionless can improve your courage and athleticism. And having it in your riding toolbox provides a viable option for handling a crisis by promoting safe and controlled landings, and helping avoid rider injury.

Here are four steps to performing a safe emergency dismount. Try it at the halt before attempting it in motion. Perform it first on the left side, then on the right, as described here, to ensure symmetry—and to make sure you’re prepared should that be the safer side to dismount during a potentially hazardous situation.

 

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1  Take both feet out of the stirrups. Inhale to prepare, stretching up, straightening both legs, and swinging them slightly forward to generate momentum for the next step, which should occur in one smooth, synchronized motion.

2  Exhale and fold down from the hips, bringing your belly to the horse and taking weight onto your hands, on the withers or pommel. Look forward through the horse’s ears as you simultaneously swing both legs up behind you over the hindquarters, touching your heels together. Practice swinging your legs a few times, returning to the basic seat in between.

3  To dismount, as you’re exhaling and when your legs are at their highest, slightly rotate your hips toward the right, pushing off and away to the right side of the horse, keeping your legs together.

4  As you land near the horse’s shoulder, keep your feet parallel with knees and ankles bent to absorb the impact. Look forward the entire time. Inhale as you straighten into an upright position, and then exhale. You did it!

Note: When vaulting off a moving horse, always face the direction of travel to maintain balance, and “hit the ground running” by taking a couple of walk or jog steps forward upon landing. If you lose balance, “tuck and roll” away from the horse: Tuck your head into your chest, wrap your arms around bent knees, and do a somersault.

Riding instructor Linda Benedik teaches the emergency dismount as part of a series of lessons for the rider on the longe line. For more lessons to building a confident rider with a balanced and effective seat, check out LONGEING THE RIDER FOR THE PERFECT SEAT, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to buy this book on sale now!

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

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ThoughtsonCR

To help TSB celebrate the 30th Anniversary of our first horse book CENTERED RIDING, this month some of our top authors will share their Sally Swift memories and “aha” moments. Here, TSB author Linda Benedik (YOGA FOR EQUESTRIANS; YOGA & RIDING DVDS; LONGEING THE RIDER FOR THE PERFECT SEAT) tells us why CENTERED RIDING was so important to her riding, teaching, and writing:

“Baby birds in the hand. Barbershop pole as rotating spine. Energy directed as water through soft garden hose arms. Dropping a heavy, anchoring chain from the center. Legs so long that riding boots reach the ground. The iconic spruce tree and the growth it inspires.

“Creative images like these from Sally Swift’s CENTERED RIDING are indelibly committed to my memory, as well as the collective conscious of a new generation of riders and teachers. Easy to perceive and precisely descriptive, these visuals give shape to the mounted movements and feelings that riders experience. The concepts and images introduced in CENTERED RIDING illuminate the process of becoming a rider. They also provide effective tools for guiding both students and teachers in mutually positive directions, and demonstrate that ‘feel’ is more achievable and teachable than one may believe. In my (soft) eyes, Sally Swift has been an influential and groundbreaking equestrian educator. By integrating her own personal experiences in bodywork and practices from outside of the riding arena into her methods, she led by example and showed the horse world that, as riders and instructors, we are all bodyworkers.

CENTERED RIDING posed introspective questions, prompting equestrians to develop the mind-body awareness essential to riding. It also provided a direction for that awareness by offering a pathway that led to a powerful grasp of the physical language of equitation. With this deeper self-knowledge, riders could more compassionately communicate with horses. Building foundation skills in any language is necessary before conversing, and through the CENTERED RIDING system, which is clear-cut, well-illustrated, imaginative, and inspiring, Sally gave riders a tangible way to become fluent in this language. Achieving fluency in personal bodywork enabled riders to then more effectively work the body of the horse, prompting horses the world over to join together in communal rejoicing!

“As a career-based teacher of rider body language, CENTERED RIDING taught me that creating an environment conducive to eliciting feel in a rider is accomplishable.  As I reflect back on my long-lasting relationship with this book—an enduring work that continues to benefit horses and riders—I am reminded of how strongly Sally’s principles and images impacted my personal experiences, inspired me as a rider, trainer, and author, and paved the way for my own contributions to the universal equestrian library. To this day, CENTERED RIDING resonates and supports my perception that the rider’s body is a symphony of parts, and not only must a rider master each part—each instrument—but they must also conduct the symphony. While this may sound like a monumental task, CENTERED RIDING offers manageable steps toward developing this dexterity and provides coherent tools for connecting and conversing with horses.

“My gratitude to Sally for these teaching essentials is immeasurable, and I am honored to have the opportunity to express my appreciation during this 30th year anniversary celebration.”

 

Share your own CENTERED RIDING  memories and “aha” moments online and tag them #CenteredRiding30! And remember, all CENTERED RIDING books and DVDs are 30% off, the entire month of November.

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of horse books and DVDs, is a small, privately owned company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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Color is coming to the VT hills...here Rob the Quarter Horse looks over the town of Woodstock.

Color is coming to the VT hills…here Rob the Quarter Horse looks over the town of Woodstock.

It’s official: kids are back in school and for those of us in the northern regions of the riding world, temperatures are dropping, horses are friskier in the morning, and jackets have once again become a necessity.

It was a great summer of riding though, right? Whether you’ve had a busy competition schedule or just lots of time on the trails, here are three ways you can spend some quality time with your horse while taking care of him, taking care of yourself, and taking a little breather in between seasons:

 

1 Take Care of Your Horse

The range of motion in your horse’s forelimbs becomes restricted when the muscles that are responsible for moving the front legs forward and backward accumulate tension and are unable to release. Releasing this tension allows the horse to step out further and leads to a more fluid and extended gait. At the end of a long riding season, you can release accumulated tension in your horse’s front end with these easy exercise from BEYOND HORSE MASSAGE by Jim Masterson.

  • Stand at the horse’s left shoulder, facing forward.
  • Pick up the horse’s left foot.
  • Rest the horse’s ankle in your right hand and place your left hand on the horse’s knee.
  • Allow the horse to relax the leg and shoulder as much as he is able.
  • Slowly guide the leg down and back, straightening the leg and lowering the foot as you go.
  • Encourage the horse to rest in this position as long as he can by keeping your hand on the leg or foot.

 

2  Take Care of Yourself

Like our horses, after a summer of riding, we can actually experience limited mobility in our hips and excessive contractions in our adductor muscles. We can reverse the resulting “clothespin effect” with a simple yoga pose called Happy Baby from YOGA FOR EQUESTRIANS by Linda Benedik and Veronica Wirth.

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Take a few breaths and feel your spine contact the floor. Exhale and bring your knees up toward your chest.
  • Extend your arms along the inside of your legs, taking hold of the arches of your feet with your hands. Open your knees and drop your thighs to the sides of your torso. Bring your shins perpendicular to the ground, the soles of your feet facing the sky.
  • As you exhale, feel your sacrum, shoulders, and knees drop down into the floor. Bring your attention to your hips; let them relax. Let go with each breath. Relax into this stretch and hold for at least four deep breaths.
  • Release your feet and slowly bring them back down to the floor.

 

3  Take a Little Breather

We don’t always need to climb on board our horses to spend quality time with them. Sometimes, just a quite hour hand-grazing can be the best team-building exercise there is. Another idea is trying your hand at Wild Agility, as Vanessa Bee, founder of the International Horse Agility Club describes in THE HORSE AGILITY HANDBOOK.

“Wild Agility is an enormously companionable thing to do,” she says. “Friends and I go off with our lunch in backpacks and with our dogs and horses—and just travel….These are golden times for us: The dogs, humans and horses all seem content as we move along with all the time in the world.”

All you need for Wild Agility is a halter and a lead rope, and an afternoon to “play.” Move across country at whatever speed suits you, playing with obstacles and challenges along the way: jump ditches, logs, and banks; weave through woods and trees; pass under low branches; cross streams, swim in lakes…you name it!

TSB Managing Director Martha Cook enjoys end of summer on Buster, her Morgan.

TSB Managing Director Martha Cook enjoys end of summer on Buster, her Morgan.

However you choose to spend the first weekend after the unofficial “end of summer,” we at TSB hope it is with your horse, and it brings both of you relaxation, friendship, and hope for the autumn ahead.

You can find all the books mentioned in this post, and many more, at the TSB online bookstore. CLICK HERE TO VISIT NOW.

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