Monday, August 2, 2010

The Supreme Importance of Balance

As appealing as a horse's back looks to sit on, it wasn't designed to carry people--or anything else for that matter. If somebody built a table the same way a horse is put together chances are you'd think they needed to go back to carpenters' school. As a piece of furniture, it'd be too tippy. Doubt me? Just give one of your Breyer horses a little nudge and see what happens (yes, I know you still have them).

On the other hand, when the real deal is moving he's a wonder of grace and power. Until a human climbs on.

Putting a rider on top alters the balance of the horse. If you've ever been the first one to ride a young horse, you know all about that wobbly, unsteady feel and how many months it takes a horse to adapt. The more skilled the rider is in maintaining her own independent balance, the easier it is for the horse and the faster he regains his natural elegance. A good deal of a horse's first training has to do with helping him rediscover his natural way of going while being ridden. This is why it's so important that a young horse is brought along by an experienced, skilled rider. Put a beginning rider on a green horse and they'll both be scared--and develop some really bad habits, all in the name of survival. In the same way a skilled rider helps a young horse, a well seasoned horse will help a beginning rider.

As we acquire more skills and confidence, we sometimes forget that balance is still an issue. Even at the highest levels, the basic lessons of maintaining accord between our own center of gravity and the horse's is vital if we are to achieve that effortless, relaxed performance we chase like the Holy Grail.

So what is the message I've taken away from this horse-taught lesson in kinesiology? The value of patiently maintaining one's equilibrium while someone else is trying to gain theirs. Sometimes the very best help you can offer is to pay close attention to your own balance while the one close to you regains theirs.

Eventually, you will dance together.


  1. WOW! I love this.
    First I'm thinking of all the times I've fallen off a horse without out once appreciating what the horse had already learned just to figure out how to scrape me off using a tree, or a low hanging roof.
    Then the lesson penetrates on how much there is to balance, to remember, in everything.
    You are some Teacher!

  2. Thanks, Kath! Horses give you more than enough to contemplate. Glad you could stop by, and thanks for following, too!

  3. My daughter learned to ride on a wonderful old guy names Charlie. He was a magnificent and patient teacher to all the young girls at the barn learning hunter jumper. I don't know if she would have learned to ride as well if Charlie hadn't been her first horse/teacher.

  4. Know what you mean, Kaye. School horses are worth their weight in gold. I had a mare (who I'd bought as a 2 year old) who never showed well, but turned out to be the most wonderful school master. She taught many people to ride before she retired at 30. She was much loved.

  5. I think Charlie retired at around 30,too. I have no idea how long he'd been there. He was about 25 when Jess started riding him.

  6. Susan, this is a wonderful analogy. Confidence is such an important trait to instill in horse and rider, and I agree, balance is necessary to ensure the guide is equipped to help the learner excel.