What this episode is all about & how it can help you:-
- Know how you are riding the centre line at the moment
- Realise that you and your horse are one ‘container’
- Understand what a channel is in your riding
- Use your centre line to develop your overall riding skills
Do you see the centre line as being a means to an end? Somewhere you have to travel in order to take you to somewhere else? Imagine if you began getting a little more strategic about each journey down the centre line…
Every time you ride your horse in an arena, there is a good chance that one of the most ‘worn’ paths is the one down the middle of that arena. The centre line is used to change rein. It is used to ‘test’ channels. The centre line is also an important element in many different exercises and school movements. And, of course, it is often the easiest path from A to B (or A to C as is the case here!).
In this episode of the Daily Strides Podcast you will learn how to make each trip up or down the centre line really work for you and your horse. Rather than it being a ‘connecting piece’, it can become the exercise itself…
Get Clear on Your Centre Line in a Sand Arena
The first thing I am going to suggest doing will help you see how things actually are right now in your riding. This versus how you ‘think’ things are. Knowing where you are really riding every time you ride the centre line will allow you to see where improvements can happen.
If you have a sand or fibre based arena, try to ride when the arena has been freshly harrowed or levelled. This will let you actually see the track you are riding, which can be eye-opening in and of itself. If it is not possible for you to ride in a freshly manicured arena, prepare yourself for a little manual work! I am going to suggest grabbing a rake and just giving the centre line a quick ‘going over’ before you jump into the saddle.
Knowing where you and your horse are actually making your path or track can often allow you to see where any current or potential weaknesses are hiding in your training.
Ideas for a Grass or Wood Chip Arena
Knowing the exact track you are riding can be a little trickier to figure out when working on a grass or wood-chip arena. It is often difficult to see what line you have ridden, especially if there are other horses regularly using the arena as well. If this is the case, I am going to suggest using poles or markers to help keep you on the straight and narrow all the way from C to A (or A to C).
If you find yourself continuously coming up against poles or markers, you know that things are not as straight as you thought they were!
Another pretty simple way of seeing how accurate your current centre line journeys are is to video yourself. Use your phone propped up at A or C and ride towards and away from it. The great thing about this method is that you will actually have a record over time of how things are improving.
Keep in mind that all of the above are only beneficial if you are willing to take appropriate action on what you discover. This is where your riding and training comes in…
You & Your Horse Are One ‘Container’
One of the first suggestions I have for improving how you think about your schooling is to start thinking a little differently about you and your horse. Rather than seeing the two of you as separate bodies, couple things together so that you are ‘one’.
The energy that is created when you and your horse move must flow through both of you, unhindered, if it is to work correctly.
Think of you and your horse as being like a ‘piggy bank’. An empty container or space that has just one outline or outer shell. As you are riding on the centre line, notice how the energy moves through between you and your horse. Is it leaking out in places? Or is it failing to connect through or being blocked? Maybe there is not enough energy to even fill the container to begin with…
Your aids should create a channel which the ‘container’ that is you and your horse has to stay within
Begin Noticing the Weak Points in Your Channel
Seeing both yourself and your horse as one container, will allow you to more easily see where any weaknesses are hiding. The channel you create with your aids is like the banks of a river or canal. They help to keep the energy flowing in a specific direction and way, just like the banks do for the water.
However, it is often only when MORE water gets put into a river or canal that the weak points of the banks become apparent. Your channel in riding is the same.
As you begin asking for ‘more’ energy within the container, you will begin to see the weak points. Falling out through the shoulder is a common one. Becoming heavy and falling out through the front end is another.
Anywhere the energy is being unintentionally leaked or lost is a weak point in your channel that needs to be address with training and schooling.
Benefits of the Centre Line over the Long Sides
The centre line is great for really getting to explore your channels strengths and weaknesses. This is because there are no ‘crutches’ or supports for you and your horse to use. I know, it sounds a little random; your horse using a crutch! However, often the sides of the arena can become just that for horse and rider combinations.
Moving away from the sides of the arena is a little like taking the stabilizers or training wheels off a bicycle for the first time. Things can get ‘wobbly’ initially!
The quarter lines will work equally as well to help you really begin to see how effective your channel is. Or how dependent you are on any crutches or supports! However, for today and the purpose of this episode we are working on the centre line.
Aligning to the Ends of Your Arena
Once you understand your channel, begin thinking about how aligned you are when actually travelling down the centre line itself. Adjust your shoulders so that they are parallel to the end of the arena you are travelling towards.
The reason I am suggesting adjusting your shoulders rather than your seat initially is because you can ‘see’ your shoulders. Any adjustments made to the position of your shoulders will affect your hands, which are clearly visible as you ride.
Simply put, try to square your shoulders to the end of the arena you are travelling towards
So many riders spend a lot of time in the saddle leading with one shoulder. Usually the rider is not aware of it, however I can guarantee you that the horse is! Squaring the shoulders allows the rest of the body to align underneath the shoulders.
Shoulders are a lot more accessible for a rider to be aware of because they are ‘visible’. Straighten the shoulders first and allow them to begin straightening the seat and hips.
How Your Horse Will Align with You
As you consistently remain aligned and straight travelling down or up your centre line, magic will begin to happen. Your horse will begin to align his body to yours. Meaning that he will also begin to straighten and use himself more correctly.
Consistency is key to this happening. So too is ‘allowing’ your horse to align with you, rather than ‘forcing’ your horse to align.
So many riders fail to recognise the power of consistently and calmly doing something in the saddle. Horses will almost always ‘come round’ to your way of thinking and doing things if you are relaxed and consistent.
Pay Attention to Your Entrance and Exit
The final thing I feel is often overlooked when riding the centre line is how you get onto it and off of it! If you find yourself tending to over or undershoot the turn, this is costing you valuable strides to ‘fix’ each time.
Remember that how much bend you can ask for when turning onto or off of the centre line will depend on you and your horses level of training and development.
Obviously suppleness plays a big part. But so too does rhythm, relaxation and forwardness. It is also worth remembering that if any of the above are ‘lost’, you will lose contact and connection.
Plan wider swings or bends onto and off of it initially. Allow your horse the space to get there while maintain the gait he had before the turn or bend. You must also allow yourself the space to adjust and change your position and aids as necessary.
Become Intentional with Your Centre Line
To close this post out, I just want to encourage you to begin getting really intentional when riding your centre lines. See them as a point in each ride where you can assess how things are going.
Use them to see how well your horse is developing and can ‘carry on’ without the stabilizers or training wheels.
Once you begin to become aware of the centre line, you may be shocked at how often you travel up or down it. Make each of those trips count in both you and your horses training.
Other posts, episodes and resources that relate to this topic:-
- Using Your Legs to Create a Channel when Riding
- Understanding the Balance of Your Aids
- A Simple Exercise for Straightness
- Maintaining Straightness Throughout the Ride
- The Daily Strides Podcast on iTunes
- Daily Strides Podcast on Google Play
- The Daily Strides Podcast on Stitcher Radio
- Join Daily Strides Premium
Daily Strides Premium
Straightness is one of the key elements in riding. Couple this with suppleness and you have two of the keys to really improving your horses training. If you are interested in learning more about these, and more, I am going to suggest joining Daily Strides Premium today. In there, you will have instant access to audio trainings, which will take you step by step through different exercises that will move things forward in your riding.
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