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Dear Dana: How can I be ‘one with my horse’ and bounce less?

By DANA HOKANA - Horsetrader columnist - May 3rd, 2012 - Q&A Dear Dana

DEAR DANA: I have not been riding long and don’t feel like my horse and I are one. I feel like I BOUNCE too much. I see people who are just one with their horse. How can I sit the trot and lope better?
Catherine Auna, Norco

Dear Catherine: What a fabulous question! There are many people who need this information, and it is important because how you “sit your horse” is a foundation to becoming a great rider — and to being “one” with your horse!

There are two key points that you need to understand in order to become the rider that you desire to be who rides one with your horse.

First of all, your horse has three definite gaits (unless he is a “gaited horse” or a breed of horse that has his own unique gaits) — walk, trot and the lope, or canter. The walk is a four-beat gait, the trot is a two-beat gait and the lope is a three-beat gait. This is very important to understand.

The next key point is that your body is full of joints and movable parts, just like your horse, and you need to learn to move with your horse! Many riders are taught to sit still and pretty but that is not realistic or effective. What you need to do is to learn which parts of your body to move and which parts will remain still. Most riders hold their hips or pelvis tight and end up moving through their waist. That is incorrect. Great riders move their hips and pelvis and move with the horse.

Here is your homework: As you ride, relax and unlock your hips and feel (through your hips) the horses motion and movement. Look for the rhythm – the beats — in the gaits that I described. When you are trotting count one-two in your mind and feel for that rhythm through your seat and body. Keep your upper body fairly still, but move with the horse’s rhythm through your hips.

One problem many riders have is that walk, trot and lope all feel very different and they may prefer one gait but avoid the others. Some horses are smoother at the trot and others are smoother at the lope. If you are dreading the lope, you are probably tensing up your body, which will cause you to move against or miss that rhythm, which in turn will cause your horse to tense up and speed up or become inconsistent in his motion. That causes you to tense up even more!

One really good tip to sit the lope is to know that in the three-beat gait there is a moment of hesitation. In that moment of hesitation relax your hips and go with it — roll with it, so to speak. I tell my beginner riders to sit it like a rocking chair or a swing on a swing set.

Use your body to catch that moment of hesitation and scoop it up! If you are relaxed and flowing with your horse, he will relax under you! You will find each other.

Keep relaxed, keep flowing and moving with your horse and eventually you will ride as if you and your horse “are one”.

P.S. – A great video to help is: Take Control 1, titled ‘There is Power in Your Seat Hands and Legs’!

Do you have a question for Dana? Simply go to www.horsetrader.com and click on the “Dear Dana” section, then submit it! If your question is selected, you will be entered into a monthly drawing for a FREE “Winning Strides” DVD from Dana’s training video series.

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