We watch in awe as the Super Horses break records, thrilling and inspiring us in our respective disciplines. Without doubt, specialized breeding programs have developed bloodlines to seemingly new heights in the various equestrian sports.
At the top levels, horses are more suited to their events: they jump higher, piaffe with more suppleness, run faster and longer, slide further than ever before. Their conformation is nearing "perfection" more than ever in the history of horse breeding.
While we marvel at the exceptional performances of these elite horses and their riders, most of us come home to our "ordinary" and perhaps even less than perfect horses. Many of us own just one horse over a number of years and recognize that we have chosen that particular horse perhaps not for his exceptional physical characteristics, but rather for other qualities such as temperament, rideability or even something as intangible as emotional connection.
It is possible that your horse is too small, or too large. Maybe your horse is built naturally downhill or with a long, weak back. Other common faults could include the horse with the club foot, the winging or paddling front legs, or the horse with the weak hind end.
Yet all these horses have one thing in common - they can be lifelong partners assuming we can become effective and educated riders, always working towards self-improvement and that of our horse.
So, if we are not going to (be able to?) ride that perfect horse, what can we do to enjoy our favourite four-legged friend for years to come?
1. Know your horse's conformation faults. Study the details involved in how your horse is built, and work with a good instructor on overcoming those physical characteristics that might impede his soundness and progress in the long run.
Learn how to get him to work from the hind end, develop his longitudinal and lateral flexibility, and help him become a happier horse through deliberate and kind exercises that enhance his suppleness and strength.
2. Know your own physical weaknesses. Seek help in discovering your own idiosyncracies. Do you have a tendency to lean one way? Are you too constricted in one part of your body and too loose in the other?
Any imbalances on your part will effect your horse in the long run - so find out what you need to work on and take steps to develop strength and flexibility where you need it the most, OFF the horse's back! Then, do your best to transfer the skills while riding.
3. Don't ignore your strengths. What are you good at? What can your horse do easily? Use that movement as your "play" time - after a tougher series of movements, or as a celebratory "game" for a change of pace.
Whether you want to work on your difficulties or your horse's, don't avoid the tough stuff! Get out there and give it a try - just cut yourself some slack and know that you might not ride like the elite athletes, and your horse may NEVER match the top equines. However, you can both definitely improve and develop a little at a time.
You just might be surprised at what you can achieve!
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If you liked this article, you might also enjoy:
In the Beginning (riding): What to expect when you first start riding.
Muscle Memory Matters in Horse Riding: How muscle memory affects your riding as well as the horse.
The Truth About Balance: On seeking perfect balance.
Stepping "Forward" in Horse Riding: What does the term "forward" really mean?