Last Tuesday, I had a riding lesson with my trainer and I learned two key concepts that I think every rider should know. As I was riding, I realized that there are so many different concepts that we can learn in riding, but to really excel at one concept we, first, have to have proper teaching and second we can’t give up. Sometimes, it takes a while for us to grasp it and actually understand it, but once we do, there is no one stopping us. I also realized riders sometimes can feel tense or tight in the saddle if we are nervous or anxious. When we do that, our horses get all tense and then the concepts we are trying to learn seem even more difficult. So, today I am giving you a little sneak peak into my riding lesson to show the two concepts I learned and I am hopeful that this will help you to better understand them as well. Enjoy!
Bending and Flexing
Before I had my riding lesson, my trainer sent me a document on the difference between bending and flexing and how to do it properly. I read this document before the lesson so I could really understand what we were planning on doing. By reading this document before, helped me better prepare for the lesson.
Flexing is a bend of the horse’s neck, just behind the ears. When you flex your horse, you should be able to see parts of his eye and nostril. To flex, you should lift your inside rein slightly (do not pull). The neck and body of the horse is not moving, just his head. If the horse is able to flex for you easily, then that helps the horse become looser and ready to bend.
Bending is a completely different concept. Usually lateral bending is the most common. Lateral bending is the bend of the horse’s spine, either to the left or to the right. Bending includes flexion, but flexion does not include bending. To be able to bend, you have to put your inside leg at the girth and again slightly lift your inside rein, while keeping your outside rein along your horse’s neck (not across it’s neck). By gently squeezing your inside leg, you are activating the horse’s hind and eventually they will be able to bend around your leg. Note that you are still keeping that flexion as you are bending.
How to Relax in the Saddle
The second concept that I learned is being able to relax in the saddle. As riders, when we are uptight, nothing seems to go as planned, but when we are relaxed our horses relax as well. When our horses relax, they can become more supple and bend or flex easier. I realized this as I was riding a horse named Kahari. Kahari can get really uptight, but only when I am tense. It is harder to bend her and get her to focus when I am tense and she is tense. So, by relaxing and breathing out, I too can help Kahari relax and just chill. Also, I want to make a point to not hold onto your reins with a strong grip, but with a relaxed grip. As riders, we want to make our horses comfortable and relaxed so by loosening the reins it really helps the horse to relax and not feel like they are being held back.
So, the moral of my lesson on Tuesday was this… don’t give up even when the concept you are trying to learn is hard. It may take us longer to grasp a new concept, but we will all get there… we just have to keep trying. Once we begin to perfect the new skill, our horses will too. Just remember that practice makes perfect. Until next time, bye for now and…. happy riding!
P.s – I have included the bending and flexing hand-out here for your reading pleasure.