If you live in or around Texas — or if you’re familiar with the giant green radar blob that seems to have taken up residence over our fair state, you understand why I thought of this particular piece of riding advice today when I arrived at the barn.
Stepping away from the literal (and the impulse to do a web search for flippers for my horse) I slogged my way over to our thankfully covered and reasonably dry arena for a quick and muggy ride before the next deluge. (I know, I know, I should be grateful that our lakes are finally getting full, the terrible drought may be over, we may actually get to water our lawns and gardens this summer, and hay prices may return from their astronomical romp — assuming, of course, that hay folk will be able to get tractors into their fields to cut it — but still, a girl’s gotta ride!)
But I digress. The advice to “ride like a duck” comes from Wendy Murdoch, and her fabulous book, 5-Minute Fixes to Improve Your Riding. Wendy, one of my favorite go-to sources for rider biomechanics information — and a heckuva balanced human being in general — is among the panel of experts in my upcoming book, Riding Through Thick and Thin, due out this summer. In her book, Wendy offers a lot of sage wisdom on balance and “finding your spot” of perfect synergy with the movement of your horse, but this one is among my favorites. And pretty much any time my balance feels a little wonky, this is the first thing I do to settle into my "spot." Now, granted, this may seem a little silly at first, but there's some solid science behind it. (Which Wendy explains very well in her 5-Minute Fixes book and "Ride Like A Natural" DVDs) It's only when you try it for yourself, however, that you realize how powerful this deceptively simple "fix" can be.
By spreading your toes inside your boot — imagining your feet to be wide and webbed like a duck’s — you can not only feel more of the surface area of the stirrup, but this “fix” also sends a signal to your brain that actually helps relax and make more supple your ankles, knees and hips. Try it! (and do try to resist the urge to quack as you look out across endless puddles in outdoor riding areas!)
Let us know if this is a help for you — and please share your own visual cues or reminders that help you remember your favorite tips and tricks for better balance!