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Painting of Maestoso II Catrina ridden by Shana Ritter. Painting by Janey Belozer.

Thomas and Shana Ritter perform a Pas-de-Deux to Music during the 2007 Open House Performance, aboard the Lipizzan stallions, Favory Toscana-18 and Conversano Mima. Photo by Amelia Gagliano.

The Horse is Your Mirror
- by Shana Ritter

©2000 - All Rights Reserved

In riding, we have to learn fine control over many parts of our bodies. Crookedness issues are a major focus, and most people do not realize how crooked they actually are. This is a wonderful, but often frustrating, experience for many. When the body says we are straight, we are not. This is where a good teacher and/or groundperson are so important. The body lies, and often we need to over-ride what the body says is happening in order to teach new awareness and patterns to the body. For example, a rider who collapses to the left, slides off to the right. This will feel normal for them. When an educated eye helps adjust them, they will initially feel like they are falling off to the right.

But these are not just riding issues. If we pay attention, we will notice that we tend to sit in the car a certain way, we will tend to sleep a certain way, we will tend to wait in line a certain way, and YES, we will tend to walk a certain way. Often if we pay attention to correcting our crookedness issues in all aspects of life, we will find that it improves our riding, as well.

Yoga and tai chi are excellent suggestions. Both yoga and tai chi, and other activities such as aikido, concentrate the energy in the "hara."

Most people do not have near-enough muscle-control/stability over the mid-section. I am talking about those abs and back muscles. This is the most important part of our bodies, as far as riding is concerned. This is where everything stems from, the seat. There is an area just below the navel, where we need to focus our center of gravity. Most riders, and most people, for that matter, tend to have their center of gravity too high. Lowering the center of gravity to just below the navel, concentrates all of our energy in the seat.

But this goes beyond a physical dimension, as well. The physical side of riding is just one side of a multi-facetted and very complex topic.

Over-achievers, and those that live their lives as over-achievers, will most likely ride this way. This is true. But it also applies to many other things as well. If we are selfish, impatient, superficial, whatever, in life, we will often ride this way, too. (there are always exceptions, so please do not jump on my case here for those exceptions, I am being general here). Likewise, if you are kind, compassionate, and wise in your life, you will tend to ride with the same peace of mind.

There is an old Arab proverb that says, "The horse is your mirror." This applies, of course, to physical issues as well, but it is important to not overlook the psychological issues that it applies to. If we are open to what the horse is telling us, and what our riding is telling us, we will learn MUCH about ourselves and our issues. This isn't always easy. We do not always want to know all of our faults and weaknesses. We don't always want to acknowledge our impatience and habit of shifting blame (for example). BUT... if we take the opportunity this has presented to us, it is an incredible opportunity to DO something about it. Once you are open to it, and acknowledge it, you can begin to work on it. Just the simple act of acknowledging it often dis-empowers it to some degree. Suddenly we realize there is a pattern here. And it applies to how we live our lives, too, it is not just how we ride our horse, but also how we deal with our boss, our relationships, whatever.

By listening to what the horse and our riding is telling us, and by being willing to acknowledge and work on these issues, we will find that it carries over into other aspects of our lives. When you learn patience in dealing with your frustrations in riding, you realize you can also have patience in dealing with your frustrations in life.

Of course, this is not the easy path. It is much easier to stick to our habits of shifting blame and losing patience (or whatever patterns you may have). It takes great work, and incredible humility, to embark upon the task of improving ourselves. is dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the art of Classical Dressage.
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