Theme: "The Rider"

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From Training Strategies For Dressage Riders by Charles deKunffy (1994), p. 95-96

"Because it is based on communication between two living organisms, riding must include not only the rider's 'talking' but even more his 'listening'. A rider's awareness of his horse's mental and physical state, indeed, should determine what and how much he asks of his mount. Therefore, the truly talented riders are recognized as having 'feel,' which depends on the talent for being a living antenna that picks up all communications the horse sends....

A rider should always be fully aware of the horse's well-being and his horse's communications. He must also react to them with knowledge and insight. Knowledge comes by practicing riding, coaching, reading, watching, and discussing. More important, however, is the insight and wisdom gained by empathy toward the horse.... The rider ought to train himself to think the way his horse does."

In case you're wondering, Horse Listening did not model its name or idea from Charles' quote - nothing could be farther from the truth (see our original first post to discover the inspiration for "listening" to horses)! Finding this section from a book of over 200 pages was just another one of those "coincidences" that occur from time to time when everything seems to fall together. In any case, as important as the topic of the post (being an empathic rider) is the fact the the concept of "listening" to horses had already been elaborated upon in 1984, almost 30 years prior to the conception of the Horse Listening blog. So... here we are, reinventing the wheel, although I daresay that it is an important concept to revisit.

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From:  Balance in Movement: How to Achieve the Perfect Seat by Suzanne Von Dietze (2003), p. 174

"There is really no such thing as the perfect rider or, for that matter, the perfect horse. If we want to make progress, it is of great importance to recognize where some difficulties arise and why. Some problems are not immediately recognizable, but they are a serious nuisance whenever more subtle influence is required. Thus, riders can learn to master the three basic gaits even in the chair seat, but they will never be able to develop quick and sensitive reactions for further influencing the horse because they are always behind the movement....

Riding is a game of balance between the horse and rider. Two living beings should, ideally, find such a degree of common balance that it appears to an observer that they have grown together as one unit. The majestic rider sitting quietly on a horse represents the ideal aesthetic picture of riding. Any layman would be able to recognize a good rider by his calmness. As soon as the rider's influence becomes too obvious, a sense of agitation is created which is visually distracting. The sensitive balance of a horse and rider is endangered."

It is well known that good riding can be easily distinguished by its effortless appearance - in fact, the good ride can be identified by its lack of "excitement" - in the sense that the horse appears to be calm, at ease and confident in what it is being asked to do. A good rider is the one who maintains poise and has the tendency to give the horse the benefit of the doubt. Developing a strong and balanced seat is a prerequisite to being able to influence the horse in a way that enables the horse to perform at its highest potential.

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From: The Complete Training of Horse and Rider In the Principles of Classical Horsemanship, by Alois Podhajsky (1967), p. 211

"The best way to obtain the correct seat, especially for a dressage rider, is longeing without stirrups. During this work, the rider need not pay attention to guiding his horse but can concentrate on controlling his own movements in the various paces. This is the quickest way to achieve the necessary independent seat, if the legs and reins are to be employed as aids and not as a means to regain lost balance. Absolute self-control is the basic requirement for every rider. He must not only be able to control his body but also his temperament. Only then will he be able to make the other creature submit to his will and develop his natural abilities. "

A discussion about riding simply cannot be complete without the mention of lunging to develop the seat and balance. Although it is true that in our time and place - with horses becoming more of a recreational pursuit than a form of expression and art - there is an emphasis on "instant gratification" and achieving (perceived) results sooner than later. Riders new to horses want to get on and "ride", get to a show and win ribbons, and resolve riding problems quickly and with little preparation or background.

However, in this short quote, Podhajsky tackled the two most critical components to becoming an effective rider - first, balance and body control, and second, the social/emotional awareness necessary to bring out the best from the horse.

Although the world around the horse has changed over the years, the horse itself remains essentially the same, and therefore the requirements of riding are essentially unchanged. A rider must be prepared to work hard to acquire the necessary skill, and most importantly, be willing to wait for results.

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