#MasterclassMonday is a collaboration between Horse Network and NOELLEFLOYD.com to empower equestrians. Every Monday we’ll bring you a new lesson from a leading trainer to help you troubleshoot your training, master your mindset and up your game. This month’s featured rider: Ian Millar.
Every rider needs a certain amount of strength.
Riding horses is an athletic activity and we should be fit and strong enough to balance on our own without relying on our horses for help. We also should have enough strength and athleticism to be able to use our bodies purposefully to communicate with our horses.
You need strength in a crisis situation, too. If a horse stops at a jump, for example, you’ll need core and leg strength to stay in the saddle. If a horse gets spooked by something and takes hold of the reins and tries to run off, you might have to ramp up your back and upper body strength to contain the issue safely.
But the vast majority of the time, good, effective riding is about technique, feel, and communication—not brute strength.
When you watch a top rider like the great Beezie Madden, rarely do you see her use a great deal of physical strength, aside from what she’s naturally using to be balanced. The way she influences her horses and accomplishes what she’s setting out to do in the saddle is almost 90% technique.
The same is true of finessed and accomplished riders like Mclain Ward and Eric Lamaze. They’re not really using that much strength, even though they’re strong people, save for a crisis situation. I always say to my students, if you see me using strength part way around a course, realize I’m in trouble!
Should you be fit to ride? Certainly.
But sheer muscle strength is not the goal. Your technique is, and it’s something every rider can develop and improve. If you are hearing from trainers or onlookers that you need stronger legs or stronger arms, in addition to working on your fitness, make sure that you are also setting out to improve your technical skills at the same time.
Check out my new Equestrian Masterclass: Ian Millar Teaches Body Control and Feel.