FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
~ What effect does rotating out-to-in have on the horse’s way of going?
It basically works like unscrewing a jar that’s starting to cross-thread. When I feel a horse starting to get stuck or unbalanced, I change the rotation of my torso (in neutral posture). When I do this, the horse will start to rebalance and I change rotation again. When I rotate left, I’m asking his left hind to activate and this makes the right bend more possible as I allow his bend to stay right. Then I can access more energy of the hind legs. When he starts to push, he moves better and then you feel like you are gliding along on the energy you created. My rotation helps him rebalance and engage. I use it as an aid when I feel I lose power in the hind legs or feel tension in the back. It also helps to release tension in the horse and rider through the process of the horse learning to carry himself. It doesn’t throw him off balance; it supports him in finding his legs so he can push off the ground. It’s important to remember that maintaining “Neutral Pelvis” is essential to this process. Rotating is different from weighting seat bones or leaning to mechanically get a response from the horse. When a rider “weights" a seat bone it stops the natural movement of the bones and joints, thus blocking and inhibiting the movement in both horse and rider. This prevents the horse’s movement from going through the rider and back to the horse as this body use takes a rider out of neutral and interrupts the movement. The whole premise of Connected Riding® is to allow the movement of the rider’s bones and joints to support the flow of movement of the horse to move through the rider and back to the horse.
~ What experience do you have of rehabilitating horses?
Connected Riding® is about bringing out the best in the horse and retraining their posture so that they can be weight-bearing and find true self-carriage. Most ridden horses need this training and I have worked with many horses which need total rehabilitation. At the back of my book “Connect with your Horse from the Saddle” you will see pictures of horses like Jumper and Sky who have been rehabilitated with Connected Riding® programs. When I first met Sky he was extremely down in front and out of balance. Moving forward, stopping and turning were all major issues for this horse. He was like riding a deflated basketball. He had no energy. The walk to trot transition was nearly impossible in the beginning. A year into his Connected Riding® program, there are photos showing him moving quite nicely, balanced, forward and relaxed. Sky is stretching into the contact and the rider does not have to work to get forward movement. His posture and way of going have changed remarkably and both horse and rider are happy in their partnership.
~ Why do Connected Riding® riders sometimes carry their hands high above the withers?
When a horse is seeking balance and he stretches forward by telescoping his neck, a rider must adjust her hand position to allow rather than block that action. A rider may carry her hands high in order to provide an appropriate connection that supports the horse in his effort to reach and extend into the contact. If you carry your hands too low, it doesn’t support the horse to telescope & reach forward. Lowering your hands actually creates bracing at the base of the neck and the poll because the horse will push out against the bit. Many riders misunderstand this. In the dynamic process of riding, adjustments need to be made stride to stride. Again, a rider must maintain “Neutral Pelvis” in order to have independent use of her arms and legs and be able to make adjustments without disturbing the balance of the horse. To be clear, this motion of raising the hands is only done very briefly so the horse can feel supported to shift weight and rebalance. It is not a “riding position” per se, it is an exercise to support the horse to find his balance in the moment.
~ What is the right length for stirrups in Connected Riding®?
I find that many riders ride with too long a stirrup. If you have to reach for your stirrups, you take yourself out of “Neutral Pelvis” and lose your “Surrounding Leg”. The length of the stirrup must allow the rider to surround the horse’s rib cage and enable all the joints of her legs (the hip, knee, ankle and arch of the foot) to receive the motion of the horse without disturbing her posture or balance. The rider is also able to employ her legs as needed to access and create energy in the horse’s hind legs. Riders need to vary their stirrup length to fit the horse they are on at the time. The rider’s calf must fit the rib cage in such a way that mobility is maintained in all the joints of the leg. I also find that I ride with a shorter stirrup on horses that lack forward motion and that haven’t learned to soften their rib cages and backs. In this way horses can respond to my “Surrounding Leg” to make changes in rhythm and movement. This makes the use of spurs unnecessary.
~ What about a rider’s heels – should they be down?
No. Forcing the heels down takes away the freedom of mobility in the joints of the rider’s leg. This creates tension and takes the power away from the leg. Riders then “use” their legs ineffectively and work hard to get horses to move with little or no result. This is why so many people resort to whips and spurs. If the stirrup iron is placed just behind the ball of the rider’s foot, it makes the foot level. Then the foot can oscillate in motion rather than be rigid. A level foot is able to move and act as a shock absorber.
~ What do you want people to take away from reading your books?
I want people to use these exercises to achieve more body awareness and realize how effective it is to use their bodies biomechanically. By experimenting with the exercises, both on and off the horse, they will find a way to learn how to find the sensation and movements, the feel, required to be in sync with their horse’s movement. Connected Riding® teaches riders to receive the forces of motion and function with ease because the methods are biomechanically sound and this is much more effective and easier than sitting against the forces of motion in riding. And there’s an extra bonus. Riders will discover that these exercises not only help them with riding, but also help them with postural challenges and habits they have in everyday life. Incorrect or dysfunctional posture creates stress in all bodies. I’d like riders to understand that often those dysfunctions are transferred and shared with their horses. Now they have tools to change that by using functional postures to act as a support system and aid for their horse’s way of going.