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with your trail horse

part two by PEGGY CUMMINGS


Trail Blazer is proud to introduce an exclusive new column that will help you improve your balance,
ease and lightness in the saddle—and transform your trail ride into a journey of pure joy! Readers are
invited to submit photos for consideration for use in the column, which will appear in both Trail Blazer
Magazine and on TrailtownUSA.com. Please send your high-res jpgs to editor@trailblazermagazine.us
Posture:T he PivotalFactor
When you are “live weight” The single biggest gift we can give our react by “getting braced”, hanging on with
horses is becoming “live weight”—whether tightness to the string. This is exactly what
for your horse, every joint on the ground or in the saddle. happens to the rider’s body if their skeleton
and bone in the horse’s I often hear this: If a person does not is bracing against the forward motion of
weigh much, the horse can carry him/her. the horse.
body has freedom to move. It is not so much the rider’s weight but
how the weight is utilized that makes
If you have contact on a the difference. I have chosen two young
people and one adult for examples in this
R iderO ne
rein or lead line the horse
commentary. The young people, Rider #1
will feel an elastic and Rider #2, are noticeably lighter and This young boy is showing what I
smaller in stature than Rider #3, who is an
connection supporting and adult.
describe as a “pocket-sitter” posture. The
rider’s pelvis is tipped backwards. Men
going with him as he is What is the pivotal factor that can more commonly exhibit this. This posture
make the difference in the way the horses is dead weight on a horse and creates a lot
moving. Your joints aren’t are moving? The rider’s posture. Does your of heaviness and drag. The rider is always
skeleton (your bones and joints) move with
stiff nor is your upper body behind the motion. Notice the brace in
the horse’s motion or not? the left front leg of the horse. Also the
falling behind the motion or Imagine this: You are holding a hind legs cannot “come through”; that is,
balloon out the window of a car while engage and come under the horse’s body
forcing the motion. sitting in the passenger seat. The car is in order to push effectively. The rider is
When you are “dead weight” at a standstill and you can barely feel the also holding on to the front of the saddle
balloon on the end of the string. The car is with a bent wrist, which adds a lot of
for your horse, your horse’s then put into gear, and as it slowly begins torque and drag to his body. In order to
moving forward you feel the
bones and joints don’t have balloon ’s weight in your hand, which
counteract this force, the feet have to push
forward in the stirrups.
freedom to move. If you arch reminds you to hang on to the string. Solution: The rider has to find a way
The balloon suddenly feels much of better alignment during movement and
or slump your back while heavier because the force of the car learn how to bend at the hip joint instead
moving forward applies pressure—force
you are riding or leading of gravity (G forces) on the balloon—the
of curving the lower back. Experiment with
the following: Stand in front of a chair and
with contact on the rein or balloon became a DRAG!And it made you
continued next page
line, the horse will feel like
RIDER ONE
you are pulling. There is no
give and take, oscillations or
“buoy” in your upper body;
you are compressing and
shutting down the elasticity
available.
In this second in a series,
Peggy’s commentaries
reveal how we can be dead
or live weight for our trail
horses and how we can
solve the “posture
problem”.

w w w.T R A I L B L A Z E R M A G A Z I N E .U S • March 2010 25


going hollow and tight during movement.
The effect on the horse is not only drag
but also places a lot of concussion on the
front legs. This rider is using the reins to
Find the W iggle
help counterbalance her body and has You can practice finding the
to tighten her legs minute movement at the walk, trot
and back to maintain
RIDER TWO h and canter. When you can initiate
erself. Notice that the movement and change the
h
orse is braced at the
b movement of your bones while
ase of the neck and in
the front feet, and the riding without it appearing that you
h
ind legs cannot come are doing much of anything you will
under. be on your way to connecting with
Solution: your horse in movement and able to
The same exercise override the tendency to brace and
as above: Find the grip with movement. I call this
position of bending t
finding the wiggle in your legs. It is
athe
t hips, only this
imperceptible to someone watching
hime
f the lower back
f tas to soften and but your horse will notice the
difference.
eel straighter and
uller. The knees have
o be wide. Find the
place your hands in front of your hip joints
(instead of your hips); that is, in the crease
tiniest movement in
your bones as if your legs wanted to walk R iderT hree
at the top of your leg. backwards towards the chair. In this case
Begin the action of sitting down, and this is only possible with less tension in
let your knees widen. At this point your the back and legs and more bend in the As you look at these three pictures
upper body will be slightly forward and you joints. Once in the saddle the hand can what strikes you when you come to this
should feel no strain in your back or legs. hold the front of the saddle with a straight one? Does the overall impression appear
The back should feel flat if you move your wrist and no gripping. smoother and softer? This rider is moving
arm up and down your lower back. Pretend Both of these riders are affecting the with her horse! This does not mean that a
that your legs want to slide back and touch horse’s stride quite significantly because rider can maintain this synchronicity every
the edge of the chair, which will trigger a of the way they are using their bodies. This step of the way. The goal should be to find
tiny movement of “MOON WA LK ” inside is hard work for both horse and rider. this freedom at least 90% of the time. Her
your shoes. head, hips, and feet are in alignment, and
If you attempt to do this
movement with your back rounded, RIDER THREE
notice that the movement is more
difficult. Back in the saddle: hold
the front of the saddle by curling
your fingers on the pommel without
bending the wrist and tightening your
hand. Assume the position that you
did in front of the chair and find the
ease of the tiny movement of your
bones doing that “MOON WA LK ”
inside your legs. Your legs have to be
under your hips and your knees have
to feel open in order to find ease
in that movement. Notice that when
you have found the ease in the
movement, you can support yourself
by holding the saddle without
gripping.

R iderT w o
This rider is exhibiting what I refer
to as an “arched equitator” posture.
This means that the rider’s pelvis is
tipped forward and the lower back is

26 March 2010 • w w w.T R A I L B L A Z E R M A G A Z I N E .U S


the angles of the elbow, knee and
ankle are well balanced. Her wrists
are straight so the movement of
the horse can come up and through
W hatthe H orse
her body to the horse’s mouth and
back to build a continuous cycle of
rebalancing and reciprocit y.
W antsfromThe
There is softness in the reins
and straightness from bit to elbow. R ider
Notice how this rider has a nice bend
in the knee, and her knees are wide The horse wants the rider’s body to
because her legs are not gripping move with him and influence him
This allows her bones and joints through rhythm and movement—not
to be shock absorbers, evident in squeezing, holding and bracing. The
the stride of the horse. The horse is rider’s bones and joints have to be
extending (telescoping) his neck and free to move and be in movement in
his nose is extended and parallel to order to appear quiet. The only
the extended front foot. The hind way that this is possible is for the
legs are coming through from rider to have neutral posture. This is
behind.
the place where your pelvis is in a
There is a nice bend in the hocks;
natural position in order for
there is a balance and dynamic
movement between the front and Peggy Cummings aboard Liberale, a 14-year- movement and correct mechanics to
rear legs. The right hind and left forelegs old Lusitano stallion. Photo by Melanie Powell take place. It is the only place where
are in synch. Both horse and rider are (w ww.shybuckstudios.com) you have independent motion of your
mirroring each othe r. This rider is limbs, and your joints absorb the
giving her horse the biggest give of “live Peggy Cummings is the creatorand founder force of movement. This means that
weight” in this photo. of C onnected R iding and C onnected the movement of the horse is going
Ground- work, an approach to riding through your body. Your core
and handling horses that gives both horse muscles also activate automatically to
Photos courtesy of Debbie Hopper and human more freedom, confidence and
stabilize the body. This is where
www.DebbieHop perPhotography.com lightness in any situ- ation. For further
information, visit Peggy at you achieve more performance with
w ww.connectedriding.com less effort.

w w w.T R A I L B L A Z E R M A G A Z I N E .U S • March
2010 27