Photo By: Marilyn Merrick
Riding Tips From Craig Cameron
Craig Cameron on Horsemanship - Part 2
Experience is the best teacher for feel. And if you want to experience horsemanship, you have to live it. You have to read about it, study it, make it your passion. You have to love it. Even if you don't have a horse, you can hang around a stable and clean stalls. Sit in the stands at horse events, watch and become a part of the horse industry. You can associate with people who're involved in it. Make it your lifestyle. Pretty soon you;ll be able to grow. How can you be better if you're not willing to put in the time and work/ it's your job to get the experience.
If you're lucky enough to have a horse, become a part of his life. Don't just catch him when you want to ride him. Go into his stall or corral, pet him, scratch behind his ears and hanbg out with your horse. Make it so he's happy to see you coming. You don't want your horse to run away; you want him to come to you. Be with your horse like another horse would. All the time you'll be learning from him. That's how you become a horse-man, and your horse becomes a man-horse. Your horse will get in tune with you.
Don't think of a horse as just a thing. He's not a tractor. He is a living, breathing entity, just like you. Learning horsemanship is like learning another language. You've got to become bilingual and speak horse to the horst.
Timing is everything. Your timing has to be good in order to communicate with the horse on his level. Timing is discipline and timing is release. You have to know when to release pressure so the horse has an incentive to learn what you want. It's not the amount of pressure you place on the reins or spurs; it's the release the horse is interested in. it's the release that makes them responsive and light. Bits and spurs work on pressure and if you pull or push hard enough they work on pain. It's not the pressure or pain that gives the horse then incentive, it's the release. Horsemanship, like all things athletic, is a matter of feel, timing and balance.
Realize that time is not a concept horses understand. A horse never thinks in terms of time - of minutes or hours. That's a human thing. I've never seen a horse wear a watch. They live in the moment. Time to the horse is time to eat, time to breed, time to move, time to sleep, length of day or night; that's time to a horse.
Rhythm is a specific pattern of movement. Good horsemanship is getting in sync with your horse's movement. In any of the horse's gaits, there's a rhythm, and you need to move with it. They don't call it sitting, they call it riding.
It's like dancing. You and your horse are partners. Even if one person (you) is leading and one person (the horse) is following ideally you're still moving together as your horse's partner, it's your responsibility to be in rhythm with your horse's feet. It comes down to footwork.
Balance is a state of equilibrium. You shouldn't hinder or impede your horse's movement with unbalanced riding, which would upset his equilibrium. Be in balance with your horse as you sit in the saddle - not too far forward, nor too far back. Don't lean from side to side. Move with your horse and not against him. A balanced rider helps, not hinders, a horse through all movements. You're riding a living entity; stay centered. The importance of balance in all maneuvers can never be overemphasized. It's a key ingredient in all great horsemanship. Riding bareback will help you develop your balance. (to be continued)
Excerpt from: RIDE SMART by Craig Cameron with Kathy Swan. Pages 37-45 Published by Western Horseman.