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46/ JUNE 2010 THE RIDER Equine Canada Seeks a Manager of Recreation

Ottawa, Ontario— Equine Canada is very pleased to announce that they are seeking an energetic, well organized professional to fill the newly created posi- tion of manager of recre- ation at the national office in Ottawa.

The new, full-time position was created as a direct result of Equine Canada’s

national reform process, and will enable the federa- tion to directly serve Cana- da’s recreational equestrian community, the largest group of horse owners, rid- ers and drivers in the coun- try.

“This is a milestone in Canadian equestrianism. For the first time, our coun- try’s national equestrian

federation will be able to set aside the human and fiscal resources to advance the interests of our largest constituency. Approxi- mately 80 per cent of all Canadian equestrians are involved primarily in recre- ational pursuits, rather than competitive or commercial activities,” said Akaash

Maharaj, Equine Canada’s CEO. “Our new capacity to serve their needs will be a fundamental leap forward in our ability to serve Canadian equestrianism itself.”

Under the leadership of the chief operating offi- cer, the manager of recre- ation will create a new

department of Recreation for Equine Canada. The successful candidate will plan, lead, coordinate and evaluate the operations and delivery of the Equine Canada’s recreation activi- ties. They will also spear- head the creation and development of new recre- ation programs, initiatives

and procedures; recom- mend, implement and mon- itor recreation and equine health and welfare policies; and serve as the primary staff liaison for the Recre- ation Council and the Equine Health and Welfare Committee.

Please visit the Employment section of the

Equine Canada website at for a complete job description and application deadlines for the new manager of recreation position. About Equine Canada For more information about Equine Canada, please visit

Applying Natural Aids By Faith Meredith

Director of Riding, Mered- ith Manor International Equestrian Centre

WAVERLY, WV—Riders use a combination of influ- ences to communicate with their horses. Within eques- trian tradition we refer to these influences as “aids” and we further subdivide them into “natural” and “artificial” aids.

The natural aids are influences on the horse that come from the rider’s body. They include the legs, the rider’s weight, the hands, and an independent seat. Whips and spurs are the artificial aids most peo- ple are familiar with and these are used as exten- sions of the natural aids to help reinforce them.

The leg is primarily a driving aid. Ideally, the leg lies quietly against the horse’s side at all times, softly following the horse’s motion. The rider then influences the horse by using the lower leg with variable pressure and by applying this pressure either unilaterally with one leg or bilaterally with both legs. At the simplest level, unilateral pressure asks the horse to step more under himself with one leg or to move sideways. Bilateral pressure asks the horse for more impulsion. The rider’s goal is to apply the leg with the right degree of pressure and the right tim- ing to achieve the desired

response from the horse. This takes a lot of practice, paying attention to the horse’s feedback, and try- ing again. The feedback of an observant instructor is essential to reach the upper levels.

The anatomy of both the horse and rider deter- mine how easy it is for the rider’s leg to lay against the horse’s side. Riders with long legs and thin thighs have an advantage. To help the inner thigh lay flat against the saddle, rid- ers with less-than-perfect anatomy can reach around and pull their thigh muscles back and up. As riders move back and forth from narrow to round-barreled horses, they will need to change their stirrup length and the degree of knee bend to find the length that allows them to rest their lower legs against that horse’s sides.

If the rider’s seat and upper body are in the cor- rect position, the leg will fall into place more easily. Rider fitness comes into play here. Strong abdomi- nal and back muscles make it easier to keep the upper body in correct alignment. The rider’s weight sets the horse’s rhythm, the basic skill that underlies all of the horse’s progress up the training tree. The rider softly weights and unweights both seat bones to help the horse find and stay in a particular rhythm. Increasing the weight in

one seat bone encourages the horse to turn in that direction because he wants to keep you over his center of gravity. Horses respond to very small weight shifts. Most people try to do too much, pumping with their seat or physically leaning to one side. Bending side- ways and breaking the straight line of the spine at the waist is a common fault of lower level riders.

The best way to visu- alize what happens when a rider adds weight to a seat bone is that the rider’s leg appears to stretch a little longer on that side without the upper body position changing. To help you develop a feel for what is correct, think of using weight aids as “burden- ing” or “lighten-ing” the seat bones rather than merely sitting heavily. Bur- den a seat bone by exhaling and allowing your weight to settle deeper as your lower pelvis tips forward. To make a seat bone lighter, imagine that a rope attached to your head is lifting your upper body as you inhale, helping you grow taller. The hips must stay open and relaxed which, in turn, helps the rider’s arms and elbows to remain relaxed.

The rider’s hands channel the drive created by the leg aids into soft contact with the bit through the reins. To achieve this, the rider needs to have relaxed shoulders, relaxed elbows and relaxed wrists. The elbows are the primary joints that enable soft, elas- tic bit contact. They should follow the horse’s motion, open- ing and closing in motion with the hips, as they rest loosely, not clamped, against the rider’s sides.

The rider’s wrists should lie in a straight line with the lower arm with no break or bend. The thumbs should be on top with the knuckles pointing out. In this position, the pinkie fingers will be held a little closer to the body than the thumbs. The use of the rider’s “hands” really refers to a slight movement of the pinkie and ring fingers toward the body to “take” rein or a slight movement away from the body to “give” rein. Resist- ing means taking a rein and holding it for a moment rather than immediately return- ing the fingers to

their neutral position. An independent seat allows the rider to coordi- nate the natural aids and communicate clearly with the horse. An independent seat means that the rider can remain balanced over the horse’s center of gravi- ty without gripping with the legs or without grab- bing with the hands to maintain position. The rider sits on the horse with- out any tension in the body. All muscles are relaxed; all joints are loose and flexi- ble.

Achieving this means working on balance, fitness and body awareness. Rid- ers must learn to isolate body parts. Their weight should be equally distribut- ed in both seat bones and both legs with their heels angled down and toes pointing fairly straight ahead. Any muscle tighten- ing has the effect of push- ing the rider out of the sad- dle.

Viewed from the side, the ankle should line up with the hip and neck. The riders head, shoulders, torso and hips should be aligned correctly. If the rider’s lower back arches or shoulders slump for- ward, he or she is off bal- ance and will grab or grip to stay over the horse’s center of gravity. In order for the joints to work as shock absorbers, they must remain flexible, held in position by strong but relaxed muscles.

It takes a long time and a lot of work for the rider to develop an inde- pendent seat. Once that is achieved, however, the rider will be able to devel- op a subtle feel for the results when a particular corridor of aids is applied. At this point, he or she will be able to begin using the degree of each aid pressure and correct timing to influ- ence the horse very subtly. Then the rider can listen to the horse’s feedback, inter- pret the effectiveness of the aids, and adjust the pres- sures or timing according- ly.


Faith Meredith coaches rid- ers in dressage, reining, and eventing and has suc- cessfully trained and com- peted horses through FEI levels of dressage. She is the Director of Meredith Manor International Eques- trian Centre (Route 1, Box 66, Waverly, WV 26184; 1-800-679-2603; http://www.meredith-, an ACCET accredited equestrian edu- cational institution.

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