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Go with the Flow

- April 1st, 2019 - Trainer Tips

By Sheryl Lynde | Horsetrader columnist

There isn’t one pat answer that will always be effective in resolving an issue the rider is experiencing. What may have worked for you in the past may not work any longer, and you’ll have to come up with a new game plan.

This is a thinking man’s game. All factors need to be considered which includes both the horse and rider together. I do receive a number of texts and emails regarding issues owners have with their horses, and as much as I would love to help, I may not be able to if I am not familiar with how the horse and rider interact together—how they “flow.”

A horse with no go. One of the things I look at is how the rider asks the horse to move off. If the rider is sitting in the saddle as relaxed as they sit in their easy chair at home and kicks the horse to go—the horse may become resentful by a sudden jab in the ribs, which has been delivered without warning. The horse hasn’t been properly cued beforehand as to what the riders intentions are. If you would like to have a more responsive horse, it begins with the rider. Put some life into your body first as a pre-cue. Roll up on your sit bones, raise you shoulders a bit, lift the reins. After you put energy into your body, squeeze with your calves and increase the pressure until you get the result you are looking for. As soon as you do, release.

“Everything is energy, and that is all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy; this is physics.”

–Albert Einstein

If the rider is giving all the proper cues and the horse still refuses to go, he may be bored, burned out or his heart just isn’t into what he is being used for regardless of his breeding or what the rider’s aspirations are. Find the flow, change up his routine, his environment, his workouts. Keep it interesting. Be open to everything. If you are in the round pen, go to the arena. If you are in the arena, head out and ride some hills and different footing. I’ve started colts out in the open that would not willingly move their feet. When it came time for the first ride, they just didn’t want to move forward, backwards, left or right. I have a place out on trail with soft footing. The scenery and new surroundings appeal to their natural curiosity which inspires them to move forward freely. Movement is the fuel that provides a natural flow of progression. Energy is everything, if you don’t have it, find it.

Horses respond to rhythm. If a rider retains a constant grip on the reins, or clamps with their knees, or braces in the stirrups, they block the natural flow of rhythm and communication with the horse. The horse can become irritated or panicky and problems ensue.

A horse that has too much go or overreactive responses call for a rider with a calm demeanor. He must remain calm and be the purveyor of energy he would like the horse to replicate. Just as the upper layer of the ocean is at the mercy of the weather reacting to random storms that create chaos, below in the depths there is a stillness regardless of the storm above.

If the rider is tense, holding the horse back, controlling by restricting movement, their fearful energy will create a fearful horse. They are contributing to the storm. By developing an independent seat which means the rider has balance and moves with the rhythm of the horse, independent of a tight grip on the reins or bracing with their feet, the rider is able to direct the movement instead of restrict it. With an independent seat the rider can use their legs and hands at the appropriate times. Their limbs are tools and able to make the necessary corrections and be the calm example for the horse. They go with the flow. The very essence of give and take—or pressure and release—creates a symbiotic partnership. The rider and the horse each have their own intelligence, and when they work together, they create a union. The rider evolves to serve the horse.

Lasting change can only come by consistent training of the horse and that takes time to accomplish. It is not done by a flashing epiphany, but by hours in the saddle over months and years of riding, by consistent repetition, by developing feel and going with the natural flow of the horse

–Sheryl

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