Right Training Trumps Wrong Instinct

Many riding faults are instinct driven. Humans are eye-hand oriented. Think of the thousand and one things we do every day where our eyes direct our hands to perform a task. Now we`re on a horse, and to some extent we use our hands to position his head. So what do we do? We look down to see what`s going on down there. The classic “ear, shoulder, hip, heel of inside foot” straight line has been broken, because as the eyes look down, it`s like dominos. The eyes look down, the head tips forward, the shoulders round, the upper body inclines, and, instead of looking like Isabella Werth, the rider looks like Quasimodo.

Or what`s the instinct driven thing riders do so often to “help” the horse jump? They lean. In running, when you want to go faster, you lean. Same for skating, riding a bike, why shouldn`t it work for jumping? But then we see all the photos of the Praying Mantis look, the rider half way up the horse`s neck, her heels back by the horses hip.

What happens, instinctively, when a rider gets nervous? The rider tightens. Theoretically, the rider needs to stay MORE supple and elastic, to help the horse remain supple and elastic, but when instinct rules, the opposite happens.

General Sid Shachnow, my friend and So. Pines neighbor, was formerly in command of all US Special Forces, men who are incredibly well trained to perform under the highest pressures. Sid told me that the most instinctive reaction soldiers have when suddenly ambushed, is to turn and run away, which greatly lessens their chances of survival. Sid went on to explain that his men were trained, instead, to run directly at the ambushing force, firing their weapons.

Sid`s point: If soldiers can be trained to run into live rifle fire, then it follows logically that riders can be trained to look up, and to not jump ahead of the motion. Correct, systematic training, to people who are motivated and disciplined enough to accept the training, will overcome wrong instinct.

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