Fixing The Rider, Silver Lining Lesson


Awareness of the outside world. Was watching a track meet and got to wondering. News article, The Oregonian: You thought your air travel was bad? Try flying with pole vault poles, Greif, 2016. Athletes weigh in, MV Rocket: How do pole vaulters transport their poles? 2014.


Lesson with Dakota at Silver Lining Equestrian Center. Coach Hanna was out of town, so I had a lesson with head trainer Stephanie Counts.

Was concerned. Years ago, I was on a course walk with Amy Tryon at Rolex. The crowd walked up to an enormous pile of lumber. She made a comment along the lines of ‘Just kick over this’ and walked on. Eventers are an enthusiastic lot. I was concerned that Coach Stephanie would be cheerful, confident, and not take into account my extreme weenieness.

Naturally, the lesson went great.

Helped that we stayed with flat work. My brain knows the jumps in the ring are small. My stress system completely shuts down at the sight of them.

Also, helped that Dakota is a large, comfy horse, who thinks we need to go stand over there so that I can talk with my instructor some more.

Coach Stephanie is big on biomechanics, which I have always believed in. Fixing the rider fixes the horse. In other words, 75 to 90% of riding is staying out of the horse’s way and letting him get on with it.

Talking Points

Discussing my arm position. Photo by Stephanie James Counts.

These were my take-aways from the lesson. There were more, but these were the two I decided to concentrate on remembering.

One. Keep your helmet level when you post. Instead of standing up and sitting down, think of moving your belt buckle toward the front of the horse. I’m not sure how this works, given the fulcrums involved. I’d need to be better at visualizing. However, if I say these words to myself, I post lower and more in rhythm with the horse.

Two. Hands belong to the horse; elbows belong to you. I’ve heard this, or variations, before. This time the explanation hit just the right way.

Move the hands forward. Bring the elbows back to the seam of the shirt. Of course, moving your hands one way and your elbows the other way is physiologically impossible. Balancing the two forces is where riding happens.

—–> Throwing the hands forward to the horse. This is my go-to move. Positive. Ineffective.

<—– Pulling the hands back. You will have an effect on the horse, it will not be a good one. Negative. Effective.

<—— effective & positive——>

At least, this is how I understood what what said. All errors mine.


It occurs to me that I need to start keeping track of the breeds of my valiant mounts. At Stepping Stone, it’s easy, everyone is an American Saddlebred, except Snippy who was a National Show Horse (Arab x ASB). Furls brow to think if I missed anyone. Greg drove Wilco, a Fresian. [Photo]

Silver Lining horses so far.

Tuesday is a Thoroughbred. [Chestnut Mare Fanfare]

Freddie is a Holsteiner. (Egad, a Warmblood!) [Freddie Reintroduces Me To The Concept Of A Course]

Dakota is a pinto of unknown heritage. Observation would suggest parentage other than straight-up Quarter Horse. A touch of Gypsy Vanner maybe?

New Barn, New Barn Cats


5 thoughts on “Fixing The Rider, Silver Lining Lesson

  1. Ooohh, I love that- “hands belong to the horse and elbows to the rider.” Never heard it put quite like that before, but I’m going to add this to my list of visualizations. I have a long-standing habit of straightening my arms and locking elbows, particularly in moments of tension. I feel like I am riding along with you as you share your lesson insight tidbits! And I laughed when I read your “awareness of the outside world” piece- ha, ha!

  2. If I were still riding, I would find this very helpful. Staying out of the horse’s way. Sometimes it’s not that easy.
    Love hearing about the different breeds you ride. I’d be interesting to hear about how the horse’s breed (and personality) affect your riding, if at all.

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