Category Archives for "Riding For Women"

Aug 06

Horseback Riders and High heels - a modern fascination

Riding For Women

Image-the-true-effect-of-high-heels-158x300As riders, to get the most from our time with our horses, we focus on what happens during our saddle and barn time. Yet, what we do away from the barn has as much, and possibly more, effect on our enjoyment of horses.

A prime example of this is high heels. Wearing them from time to time is no problem. However, spending day after day in them, even if you are mostly sitting versus standing, will wreak havoc with your back and balance. Then getting into the saddle with these injuries, yes I do mean injuries, will not be enjoyable to either you or your horse.

Please consider that work place attire and fashion sense can include attractive shoes that are kind to you. Also, whether you wear high heels or not, spend a moment everyday doing a few of these movements:


  • Sit with your feet flat on the floor;
  • Bring the front of your foot away from the floor a little then return it to the floor;
  • Bring your heel away from the floor a little then return it to the floor;
  • Bring the front of your foot away from the floor a little, and make a circle in the air, go in both directions;
  • Thinking of a peg between your big toe and your second toe, slide your heel right and left.
  • Wiggle each toe individually.

Enjoy – these small movements will make all the difference to your feet, legs and back.

Jun 11

3 Tips to hold the reins without tension

Riding For Women

Horse-Holding-Reins-300x205As humans we are biologically wired to use our hands constantly. Yet we aren’t always aware of how much tension and strain we subject our hands to while participating in activities. Noticing how we use our hands is especially important when riding on contact because horse’s mouths are so sensitive and because when we touch the horse’s mouth we touch the horse’s brain (the limbic system) and body (any tension will prevent the horse from coming through).

To help improve this:

Using your bridle with a snaffle bit pick up the right rein and notice how you do this. Pick up the left rein and notice how you do this.

Then lay on your back, feel which is your dominate hand, bend that elbow pointing your fingers to the ceiling:

Tip 1: Visiting the following movement sequence allows you to find and reduce tension so you can hold the reins not grip the reins.

Keeping the elbow bent, think of lowering the hand as if into a pot of honey then bring the fingers back to point to the ceiling. Take the hand into and out of the pot of honey several times and notice if the wrist is soft or held tightly. Resting between each movement so you can sense how to reduce any tension anywhere in the arm, wrist, fingers. Rest.

Tip 2: Visiting this movement sequence will clarify which fingers are in your awareness and which can be discovered more so that all of your fingers can fold gently around the reins.

Return the fingers to point to the ceiling, and dip your hand into and out of the pot of honey a few times, then leave your hand in the pot of honey. Then move just the thumb, then just the index finger, then just the middle finger, then the ring finger then the pinky finger, then take your hand out of the hand and back in a few times. Is it easier, is there less tension? Rest.
Tip 3: Visiting this movement sequence will clarify if you pull the hand closed from the palm or if you soften the palm and allow the whole hand can fold.

Return the fingers to point to the ceiling and bring your thumb toward the pinky finger, do you tense the palm or do you allow it to fold? Then bring the pinky toward the thumb allowing the palm of the hand to be supple. Then bring the thumb and pinky as close together as is easy and raise and lower the three middle fingers doing only what is easy. Return the fingers to neutral (where you started) then dip your hand in and out of the pot of honey a few times to see if there is a difference in quality and smoothness.

Now, return to your bridle pick up the right rein – is there a difference in the quality of how you reach for and hold the rein? Do this with the left rein and notice differences from before.

Paying attention to these differences will allow you to find and maintain a steady contact that your horse will love.

May 07

What makes the difference?

Riding For Women

brainOften riders rely on physical/core strength to ride. Yet, is more muscle really what is needed to ride effortlessly? Or rather, is it the coordination of the right amount of muscle that brings fluid, effective riding?

Muscle memory is a commonly used term, but an odd term because muscles have no memory – they just do what they are told to do. So who’s the boss of the muscles? Your brain is.

Your brain and only your brain coordinates your movement. So what is available to a rider to boost the brain/body connection so that refined, effective aids can be given instead of forceful, awkward ones? The answer is your awareness, paying attention to how you move.

It is this awareness that develops the brain/body connection. In turn, it is this improved body awareness that allows a rider to give aids effectively and confidently by using just the right amount of well-timed, coordinated movement.

The result is your horse can give you what you are asking because your aids are clear and fluid.

Mar 12

Dressage Seat - Western Seat

Riding For Women

I am often asked about the difference between dressage and western riding. The answer is that apart from the saddle nothing – a good dressage seat is the exact same as a good western seat.

Riding is a movement art based on balance, feel and timing. This is illustrated in the videos below showing two exquisite riders: one dressage master, one western master.

Each rider is cantering, each is using two reins, and each is riding with balance, timing and feel so refined it makes me weep. Also, and most importantly, each horse is happy. The only difference between them is the type of saddle being used.

This video is of Hubertus Schmidt, Olympian:

Hubertus Schmidt on Youtube.




buck brannamanThis video is of Buck Brannaman who needs no introduction:

Buck Brannaman on Youtube.


So what this means for all of us is that our focus should be on honing our balance, feel and timing because it is this refinement that brings endless possibilities.