Foot fall ““ The front outside leg stepping over inside leg while inside hind leg is used as a pivot point. Ideally, the pivot foot should be directly below the rider’s seat, thus supporting the weight distribution more evenly or perhaps more on the hind end to free up the front. The smaller the area of movement of the pivot foot the more effi cient and consistent the turn. The remaining hind outside foot is free to supply balance when needed.
Head and neck position – Typically, a horizontal neck, traveling perpendicular out of the shoulders is ideal. Some slight bend may be needed for some horses. The head should be near horizontal but only as a result of a balanced spine. Simply pulling the head and neck into position will not accomplish the balance needed; we must strive to attain self carriage of this position as a result of a balanced body. The head and neck position is mostly a symptom of body position; therefore, poor head and neck position is the symptom not the problem. A vertical position front to back and left to right is a good sign of balance. Head left or right will usually tell you the position of the shoulders (head left-shoulder right and vice versa). Nose out tells you the back is down, nose in (behind the bridle) usually indicates that the horse is heavy on the front end.
Shoulders, ribs, hip – For a performance horse, this alignment is where all of the power is gained or lost. If a shoulder is leaning out, the opposite hip must lean out to counter balance. This leaves the line of power on just the other two legs. The difference would be similar to the stability of a four wheel ATV and a dirt bike with someone leaning off the side! The straight alignment also allows the hind quarters to support the front end and distribute more weight from the front thus making it easier to perform stops, lead changes, turn arounds, lead departures, barrel turns, dressage maneuvers, jumps, etc…. Also, much of the head tossing and heaviness on the bit is a symptom of improper body position. One does not exist without the other unless there is mental or physical distress. Mechanics can affect mental or behavior problems and must be understood for optimal performance.
Also, an occasional visit by a good equine chiropractor can help you understand body mechanic needs or problems. It often takes a well rounded understanding of physical and mental balance to help us and our horses succeed. The smallest change of position can make the biggest changes!
For a more detailed description of body alignment stay tuned to www.cowhorsproductions.com. Aaron Ralston was born and raised on his family’s ranch in Western Colorado. Horses have influenced his life from his early rodeo career to his accomplishments in reining and working cow horse competitions all over the world. Aaron was the 2004 AQHA Sr. Reining Reserve World Champion and in 2006, he was part of Team USA at the World Equestrian Games, held in Aachen, Germany. Riding Smart Paul Olena, Aaron led the Team to a Team Gold Medal and took the Bronze medal in the Individual Reining Competition.
[published in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 4, Issue 4.]
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