Two of my younger dressage enthusiasts, Sheba and 10+ Jordan prompted me to come up with a way to explain lateral balance in a way a young rider could digest. It was either that or continue watching them canter around corners like champion barrel racers!
Lengthy dressage analysis tends to make the rider’s under the age of 65 eyes glaze over. Mine included. Not only are they overly mechanical in their explanation but usually don’t inspire any logical reaction physically. I think “”knowing” the definition is important but using it in an internal dialog with your horse is confusing.
In searching for a kid friendly way to describe a laterally balanced horse and rider combination, I was reminded of a conversation I had with a dear friend and accomplished equine artist Jean Abernathy. Jean has, among many other artistic achievements, illustrated a book for Monty Roberts. When I expressed envy at her drawing abilities, she explained that everything was just geometric and gave me many examples that were available where we were sitting. It very much reminded me of the elementary how-to-draw books we have all seen, with the circles and rectangles connected to make horses and people, etc…
I told the girls to think their horse Prince like one of these drawings, his body a three-dimensional rectangle, like a shoebox, with some cylinders and the like coming out for legs. The girls torsos were also like little shoeboxes, only they are sitting up on end with little heads on top. When they were going around corners his shoebox was tilting in as if balancing on its edge, and the girls were also tilting onto their “shoebox” edge. The goal being to get the horse to distribute weight back on its outside legs thus making the shoebox flat again. In order to do this the girls had to concentrate on keeping equal weight in each corner of their “shoebox”.
I don’t know if that made any sense to them at all, but the lateral balance improved and I could open my eyes again.