We had a great time at the Balance Rider Clinic last weekend. We had a group of about fifteen people between teachers, riders, and auditors. The sessions were informative, with each rider using the Balance Rider with Jim for about thirty minutes, then immediately mounting their horse and doing a lesson with me for about thirty minutes. Each rider made significant improvements to her riding in these sessions.
A fun and interesting detail of the day was that I taught variations on the same concept to all nine sessions of riding instruction. The idea was "Seat Feet," a concept I take from my riding instructor certification group, Centered Riding. I chose this as the overarching concept for the day because the Balance Rider works to increase a person's awareness of seated balance. Recognizing the Seat Feet is one way to identify your seated balance. The idea is to imagine your seat bones as little feet. When you sit in the saddle, can you identify them? Can you feel them individually? Can you tell when one Seat Foot is taking a step and when the other one is? At the walk do they tend to move together, individually, or a combination?
The answers to these questions varied depending on the person riding, and the horse that she rode. For example, my lesson horse Cole the Connemara has a very distinctive walk, with both side to side and front to back movement. The riders on him noticed their Seat Feet moving very individually, and could identify when the left and right seat bones had more or less weight in them. Jubilee the petite Arabian mare has a much more springy and compact walk, and her rider felt the Seat Feet as moving together in a pair. Fergie, the Thoroughbred/Clydesdale, was a combination of both types of movement, and her rider felt that both seat bones moved together, yet they would alternate which one moved more dramatically. We also had a Haflinger, cutting bred Quarter Horse, a Paint Horse, and a Thoroughbred to work with. This made for a diverse and interesting series of individualized lessons!
This was a great lesson plan to use for the Bit of Honey Training sessions. There was so much variation in the way people perceived the concept of Seat Feet, I was able to tailor each lesson to that rider and horse pair. Because of this, each of the nine lessons that day were slightly different, despite the basic concept being the same. All the riders who audited each other's rides learned something from observing and listening to different lessons, because I presented the information slightly differently to each. When you learn the same information in a variety of modalities you tend to absorb the concepts better.
We had a few display tables for the weekend, too. There was the anatomy table, with the human skeleton, the horse skeleton, diagrams showing how humans and equines have mostly the same body parts, and a human pelvis for people to get a hands-on look at their Seat Feet.
One of my favorite images from the day was when one (adult) rider exclaimed, "I can SEE them! My Seat Feet! They are bright purple sneakers with sparkles and turquoise laces. If I want the horse to take bigger strides I empty the weight out of my Seat Feet to make them lighter and they take bigger strides. If I want the horse to take smaller steps I imagine the Seat Feet are heavy, like a kid waddling around with a full diaper."