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Horseback 101

On December 7th, 2019, NMCTR hosted a continuing education opportunity for the volunteers: Horseback Riding 101. I knew when I sent out the invite, that everyone would be thrilled to ride a horse! Little did everyone know, the Horseback Riding 101 class was all about YOU, the rider. I really wanted to focus on the rider’s balance, alignment, and position. The rider’s position is so important because it affects the communication between the horse and the rider and influences the horse’s balance. 

We started out the day discussing the rider’s correct position and I demonstrated what it looks like while mounted our therapeutic riding horse, Sterling. We discussed the muscles that should and shouldn’t be used and everyone got homework: Look up psoas muscles and how they play a role in your position. After our discussion, I had everybody group in two’s and that’s when I surprised them all with masking tape! I had everyone tape certain areas on their body to bring awareness on everyone’s personalized body alignment, position, and balance. 

The areas they taped and why: a straight line along the base of their foot (toes to heel) to be able to visualize if the heel is down; a X mark on the heel, hip, elbow, shoulder, and ear to visualize a straight line from the rider’s ear to their heel; a straight line down the spine to visualize being centered; and a straight line from shoulder to shoulder on the back to visualize balance. 

One volunteer would ride and the other would lead one of our therapeutic riding horses. The volunteer that was not riding assisted their partner in bringing awareness on ways to improve position, alignment, and balance. The volunteers then switched and continued to assist each other. It was such a fun and enlightening experience.

The whole point of this continuing education opportunity was to bring awareness to each volunteers riding position, alignment, and balance. In order to become a successful rider, the first component is to be aware of you and areas you need to work on yourself to ensure correct communication and correct use of riding aids. So many riders have a habit of blaming the horse however most of the time it is the rider’s lack of knowledge or lack of communication. Not only did this give all the volunteers an opportunity to learn and grow as a rider, but it also gave them the knowledge to be able to assist any of the riders they volunteer with in our therapeutic riding program.

This class was a hit! Stay tuned to Horseback Riding 102!   

Ashley Fischer

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