Pedal to Strengthen Your Vertical Powerline

Purpose: To help put your horse in front of the leg in walk.

Directions: To maximize your Vertical Powerline in walk, imagine that it’s not too different from walking on your own two feet. Your legs support your hips, your torso and your head, just as they do when you’re walking, and the energy goes down alternately—to the left, right, left, right. Try it.

Step 1: Step to the left and the right in the rhythm of your horse’s walk. It might feel like you’re pedaling a bike. As you do this for the first time, don’t let your hips shift left and right. Your walking—or pedaling—movement is very subtle. It should be invisible to an observer: it should never result in gross shifting of weight. To help keep your base of support under you, Sally Swift suggested that the rider “pedal the bike” backward.

Step 2: When you’re pedaling a bike, you never pull your foot up; you always push it down. Here’s how it works on a horse: as your horse’s hind leg leaves the ground, your leg on the same side naturally drops because the horse’s rib cage swings away from it. In this phase of his stride, let your weight drop down into the stirrup. Then, as the other hind leg leaves the ground, let your weight drop down into your opposite stirrup.

Step 3: If you have a hard time feeling when a hind leg leaves the ground and you don’t have a mirror in the arena, ask a friend to say, “Now, Now, Now” each time the inside hind leg leaves the ground.

Step 4: If this doesn’t work, watch for the moment when your horse’s inside shoulder is farthest back, which is the same as the moment that the inside hind leg leaves the ground. This is simply following the rhythm of the horse’s movement; the rhythm is his language and it invites the rider to “speak” in the moment when the horse can best be heard. When you are successful in this pedaling exercise, your supple but strong Vertical Powerline will help keep your horse forward and “in front of the leg.”