We talk a lot about the need to ride a balanced horse, and justifiably so. But often we neglect to talk about the need for the rider to be centered on the horse. A centered rider is balanced and thus helps a horse become balanced also. Together they become synchronized.
It's very easy to make a horse's job more difficult that it needs to be. I'm always seeing riders leaning this way and that and the disturbing thing is that they mistakenly believe they're helping their horse by doing so. The horse must then not only balance themselves but must try to stay in balance with their ungainly rider.
Leaning in turns, pulling downward on the reins, leaning back in a stop or back-up and leaning into a spin are just some of the examples I see of interfering with a horse's balance and making his job more difficult. It also makes it impossible to teach him to be correct in those manuevers. Other obvious faults are leaning forward when loping, not sitting down in the saddle, having more weight in one stirrup than the other, and my favorite pet peeve is riders leaning over the side to check their lead or diagonal. Remember, your body will always follow your head so stay centered! If you must check leads, learn to do it looking down between your horse's ears or even better, make a real effort to "feel" your leads rather than look for it. And relax, a stiff rider can never truly "feel" their horse nor can they follow a horse's action and a stiff rider will never be in complete balance or unity with their horse.
Sometime, watch a really good hunter rider take their horse around a course. You'll see a centered rider who is allowing their horse to perform to the best of the horse's ability. I love to watch my friend Angie Wilson ride Rosies First Gold ++/ ("Tilly") around a hunter course because they are a balanced rider and horse combo. You can also watch any "working western" class with good horse and rider combos and you will see centered riding. See you next week! JD