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Cavallo Rhythm of the Ride

Patterns of repeated sounds and silences create rhythm.  A rhythm has a steady beat.  Since you have surely listened to music if not also played an instrument or sang, you’re very familiar with the nature of rhythm – long and short beats, fast and slow tempos. A single piece of music can incorporate many different rhythms. Rhythm isn’t man made; like some other patterns, it’s born out of nature.

There is rhythm in falling raindrops, the waves of the tide rolling in, the bark of a dog, the beat of your heart, the pulse in your veins, and the gallop of your horse. The patterns are a movement – be that the movement of sound or things, or both. Rhythm is flowing movement.

When I was first learning to ride I noticed the rhythm of my horse. When I was able to connect to his rhythm the ride was easier. If you connect to their cadence when you’re riding, you give your horse a lot more freedom of movement and fluidity is created. If you can’t, or choose not to realize that rhythm then you force your horse to adhere to your own movement with bits, legs, strength and muscle. I urge you to try not to control him. Give him some freedom. If you can surrender to the natural rhythms of the horse and his nature, riding him is like dancing with your partner. Sometimes to get into the flow of that dance, I find it beneficial to listen to music while riding.


A great example of connecting to the rhythm of your horse can be seen in the discipline called Dressage Kur. Dressage Kur is a more formal English style of riding where the rider moves together with their horse in a dance movement to music. It is stunningly beautiful.

I’ll never forget the time I was at a reigning competition called Super Slide. It was several years ago and I was at the event with a booth to promote my therapeutic saddle pads. All these western riders were involved and the ride included fast spins, sliding, maneuvering horses in different patterns and showing off their abilities. While it is a more western style, it is based in dressage – control and movement together in a certain rhythm that is trained. At the end of the night, the three dressage riders wanted to show the western riders what they do. One of the dressage riders stopped by my booth. I told her all about my saddle pad designs. She shared with me that her horse seemed really stiff in the shoulders. She was frustrated because he was a big investment that she had flown over from Holland; he was supposed to be a fluid mover. I gave her a saddle pad to try, and to my surprise she tried it in competition right then. Most people don’t put on a new piece of equipment in competition, but she did.

When the rider put on the saddle pad, her horse found that he had freedom of movement in the scapula. He was a big Dutch Warm Blood, bred to perform and move. Saddled up and ready to go, just as this rider started her dance, her horse moved out, realizing he felt freedom of movement for the first time since he had been with her under the saddle she was using. He immediately remembered what he used to do. The rider wasn’t ready for it and she fell off!  Even though I didn’t see it happen, she came back to me at the booth afterward with her saddle pad in hand and with a stern look said, “I fell off my horse.” I felt terrible. Thankfully, she then giggled and went on to say, “All of a sudden I realized that my horse was moving properly the way he was meant to move for the breeding and money I paid to import him. Now I know he can really move and I got what I paid for…but I had to fall off.” That’s the difference that a freely moving horse can make!

The scope of movement is limited for a horse that is hitched in cadence or if you’re not in balance with him. If you’re moving with him and he is free, you can have a lovely dance. But sometimes we have to learn the hard way.

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