Balance, rhythm and tempo are the keys to riding in harmony with your horse. You cannot have any of these without relaxation.
Here, in part 3, now that we understand more about how to be a thoughtful and tactful rider, we can work at achieving the relaxation necessary to ride in balance with correct rhythm and the right tempo.
At the beginning of your ride, as stated in How To Ride A Horse In Better Harmony – Part 2 you should “give the horse a chance to stretch, find his balance and relax. While the horse is doing this you want to allow yourself to relax and follow the horse’s motion.”
Relaxation will eliminate tension, which is the enemy of rhythm.
During your warm up, focus on your horse having a loose swinging back (which will only happen if you have a loose swinging back!) and feel what your horses feet are doing.
Shift the attention in your seat from feeling when each front leg moves to feeling when each back leg moves. Feeling what your horses legs are doing will be necessary for timing your aids. Riding is all about feel!
Rhythm can be defined as a repeating pattern of beats, and tempo is how fast or slow the rate of repetition of the beats is, as in “speed.”
The correct rhythm in the walk is 4 distinct hoof beats. The tempo should not be slow and dragging or quick and “running.”
The trot should have a regular, clear 2 beat rhythm. Again, you don’t want your tempo to be sluggish or quick, but you DO want it to be energetic.
You can almost see the regularity and energy in the trot of the horse ( my baby, Gemini 🙂 ) in the above picture.
In the posting trot you can slow or speed up your posting to help your horse achieve the ideal tempo. Your goal is to find that tempo and then keep it regular, no speeding up and slowing down.
The canter is a 3 beat gait with a moment of suspension. During this moment of suspension all four of your horses feet are off the ground.
Achieving good rhythm and tempo in the walk and trot will help with both balance and relaxation. These things are critical to learning how to ride a horse in better harmony.