Saturday, May 9, 2009

Leadership, by Example, or by Exception?

Many believe that riding a horse is a matter of knowledge. This may be true but it is also a matter of skill. The difference is that skill not only takes some degree of repetitious practice, but also physical capabilities that involve fitness.

This is not to say that a rider must be a fitness fanatic. But it is important for the horse and rider to be a match, not only with regard to training, but also with regard to fitness. Therefore, The Enlightened Rider will not expect his horse to perform like an Olympic Athlete unless he is willing to do so as well.

It should come as no surprise that well conditioned athletes make better equestrians, not only because better physical coordination and control of your body will result in quicker reflexes, but also because this concept of leadership by example is extremely effective with horses. Do not allow an imbalance of fitness to come between you and your mount. Make sure that you engage in a fitness program that meets or exceeds the program set for your horse. By so doing, you will not only improve your own well being, you will also be more in tune with your body and thus, improvements in your riding style will follow naturally.

The kind of fitness program that should be the mainstay of any Equestrian’s lifestyle is not difficult to determine. It should simply be designed to produce the same results that the Equestrian is trying to produce in his horse. We all want our horses to be strong enough to carry us, therefore, we should engage in a fitness program that involves some kind of strength training. Next we want our horses to be agile. So it should not be a stretch of the imagination to require our fitness program to develop agility. We also want our horses to be supple. So exercises that will supple our bodies and promote flexibility are essential. Our horses must also have stamina in order to avoid tiring quickly. So of course put some form of endurance training on the list. And lastly, we need our horses to be sensitive. And so some program that will increase our own sensitivity will be necessary.

The fact that fit riders are better riders is not a novel idea. But there is another and more important reason for suggesting a fitness program. The more fit and conditioned you become, the more the performance of your horse will improve in everyway imaginable. He will be more compliant, more responsive, stronger and more conditioned. This is simply because fit people arrive at their well conditioned state as a result of hard work and discipline. Although one may not start out a fitness program as a highly disciplined athlete, if one perseveres, it is only reasonable to expect to end up that way. As time goes on, the conditioned and disciplined equestrian will become the type of person who offers fewer excuses, and accepts greater responsibilities. This attitude cannot help but improve the relationship with a horse and create an environment that will be mutually supportive and beneficial. And it is in keeping with our principle philosophy regarding horsemanship which is: Become what you want your horse to be, and he will certainly follow.


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