They say two is better than one.
In horseback riding, nothing can be truer.
It's not that two people should ride the horse - well, unless you want to do that too. It's more about how the efforts of two people combine to make to make the riding experience better for the horse - as well as the rider.
There is no replacement for an educated eye on the ground. Add willingness, compassion and resourcefulness to your ground person, and almost every riding situation can be improved thanks to both your efforts. The ground person might be your instructor or not. The prerequisite is that you both work toward the same goal, one from the back of the horse, and the other from the ground.
Here are five reasons why two people are better than one.
1. Calm the horse and/or the rider.
Has this ever happened to you? Your ride has been going just fine. Then, after passing the same corner of the arena multiple times, your horse decides that his life will end the next time he heads over there. At that moment, your trusty ground person walks over to the corner and protects your horse just by standing there and using a calm tone of voice as you ride by.
The ground person can also be your calming factor. If you feel anxious, unsure or tentative, the ground person can be an excellent source of information and inspiration - the type that reassures and challenges at each turn. If you feel confident, your person can push you to reach higher goals, encouraging you to step just that little bit out of your comfort zone.
2. Increase impulsion.
Your ground person can also be a motivator to help your horse put in that missing bit of "oomph" needed to complete a movement. Although the rider can do much from the horse's back to achieve impulsion and engagement, many horses respond nicely to a ground person. The right body language and verbal cues given in the right moment might be all that is needed to gently coax the horse into working more from the hind end.
3. Set up and take down equipment.
This is when the ground person is irreplaceable! If a person is willing to move equipment during your ride, you can be free to train your horse rather than worry about getting off to readjust things. The ground person can re-set anything that was knocked down or pushed over while you negotiated the obstacle. She can change the level of difficulty as your horse develops the confidence after several repetitions. She can change patterns according to how the ride is going.
4. Give visual feedback.
One of the difficulties of riding (especially without mirrors) is that while you ride, you receive very little visual feedback. While you can see the head and neck of the horse, everything behind you is limited to your ability to feel results. The ground person can be the visual feedback you are missing. She can let you know if you and your horse are straight, if the movement you tried was successful, and what your horse looks like. She can let you in on details such as if your horse is crossing the legs in the leg yield or if the halt was square. Of course you should be able to feel such things eventually, but getting that immediate feedback can help develop your accurate feel and prevent problems from occurring in the first place.
5. Motivate each other.
Sparks fly when two motivated people have a chance to "bounce off" one another! When one person has an idea, the other can take it to another level by adding their piece to it. The same thing can happen when riding horses. Problem-solving becomes easier, brainstorming is quicker, the energy is enthusiastic and positive. One idea leads to another and soon enough, goals are reached and obstacles are overcome.
When two people "ride" one horse, the whole environment changes. Teamwork is useful in all aspects of life, but when done effectively during a ride, the horse is the one that benefits. And the horse's well-being should always be our primary intention.
Do you have a ground person? Let us know how it works out.
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