Where is your energy ball?

“Keep the energy ball in the middle of the horse!” the clinician reminded me. 

My horse tends to be more laid back (very safe and non-spooky) and while he is a willing worker, the idea of having a Big Ball of Energy in the Middle of the Horse was a useful one. Rather than trailing hind legs that I continually nag to “keep up, keep up!” I’ve started thinking about having a crackling lightning ball of energy.

 

Or, as another teacher once put it,

Think of riding a great, big, bouncing Beach Ball. Fun!

 

Calm horses feel like the energy is behind you, so the rider needs to activate the horse and bring the energy ball forward under the seat. Be careful not to rush the horse forward into too fast a tempo in your desire for energy. A horse that runs along in a quick trot cannot balance himself. Half halts and frequent changes of gait, plus lateral work, will help activate the hindquarters. An occasional brisk hand gallop forward sometimes helps, too!

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Here we see Finn’s energy is not yet under my seat.  You can see that I am driving with my seat and legs, but he’s not reaching and moving forward into the contact or bending his hocks.

 

Some of you have the opposite problem: energy that gets out in front of you, a feeling like you’re being pulled along, perhaps, or racing along too fast.

High energy horses tend to have the energy ball get in front of the rider. In that case, using half halts and the seat brings the energy back into the middle of the horse. Be careful not to pull on the horse, as this will just lead to a tug of war. Horses generally win any pulling contest (they outweigh us, in case you hadn’t noticed). Frequent circles, changes of gait, and some use of lateral movements can help a quick horse slow down and focus.

Always we want a sense of energy in the middle of the horse, under our seats, so that we feel the hind legs pushing energy through the back, being softly received into the hand and circled back through to the hind leg again.

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Finn warming up at the same show. He is more engaged, although things are still a “work in progress.”

 

Ideally, there is a sense that you can go forward or slow down at the slightest touch. It is a very elastic feeling when it works! It begins with getting the energy ball in the right place: in the middle of the horse.

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Different show (hot day, coats were waived). But you can see Finn’s energy ball is balanced under my seat as he begins this working canter pirouette.

5 thoughts on “Where is your energy ball?

  1. Clay’s energy level at home is much higher than at shows, where he becomes SO laid-back and almost pokey! At first I was relieved by how wonderfully behaved and un-spooky he was away from home, after so many years of riding hot horses who would fly off the handle at the slightest distraction, but last summer we were getting comments like “needs more impulsion” from judges during our tests and I realized I’m going to need a strategy for hyping Clay up a little at competitions. At home I warm up with what I call a “rip around” (medium canter, me in my half-seat, keeping his poll up and keeping as straight as possible through his body, several times around the arena, both ways) and this seems to really set the energy for the rest of the ride and also has helped improve his canter immensely! I have not done this at shows, though, because I don’t want to set off other horses by galloping around the warm-up ring….Not everyone is sitting atop a reliable, sensible Clay or Finn! 😉

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    • I’m laughing at the thought of you ripping around the arena in a gallop, freaking out all the warmbloods! YEEHAW! Yeah, I know what you mean. Finn really needs that sometimes, and I just can’t because the warmup is too crowded. I do what I can (a short burst if there’s an opening). He’s small enough that he doesn’t scare them as much if I keep it short. Funny that Clay is so calm at shows, hotter at home. Finn has more energy at shows…the first class of the day. Then he gets bored with it and I have to activate him. Well, better that than a nut case, that’s for sure!

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    • Thanks! You are so much better about regularly posting and I do enjoy keeping up with your posts. I have been through a dry spell where I just didn’t have anything to say. Going to try and write more regularly now (maybe every couple of weeks). We’ll see what actually happens.

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      • Well I DO enjoy your posts a LOT, and love to read little updates here and there!

        As for the frivolous posting on my side, it’s easy as I’m working with such a young horse, and she feels like she’s changing a little every week. (Or, I’m DESPERATELY searching for signs of improvement haha 🙂
        So, constant writing material.

        Liked by 1 person

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