|Guest blogger Harvey Gould riding One-Eyed-Jack|
by Harvey Gould
For those of you who might have just finished getting your fill of the Olympics, all equestrian events (dressage, show jumping and cross-country) are the only Olympic sports in which one human and one animal athlete are part of the same team. It’s also the only Olympic sport in which men and women compete evenly against each other - now there’s true equality for you!
Somewhat late into our working years my wife and I started taking horseback riding lessons. Done correctly, both horse and rider will get a solid workout. In addition, you can’t ride effectively without concentrating on what you’re doing, so you leave behind your mental burdens.
If you’re show jumping, for example, you better not be thinking about that upcoming conference. Perhaps more accurately, you’re an idiot if that’s what you’re thinking about because you need to be concentrating about a whole sequence of events that have to happen to complete the task successfully and safely.
You need to have your horse approach each jump as much in the center and as squarely to the jump as possible. You need to adjust his gait, slowing or speeding up between jumps, so that he takes off at exactly the correct spot. You also need to know when to stand in your stirrups to take weight off his back, move your hands up the horse’s withers as he’s about to launch—to give him the freedom he needs to take the jump without getting hit in the teeth by the bit.
While in mid air, you can’t be looking down. A rider’s mantra is “look down and you’ll end down—in the dirt.” Instead, in mid air, you should be looking at the next jump to calculate the angle at which you’ll need the horse to move while anticipating all other necessary adjustments for the next jump. Not a good time to be thinking about that conference.
Jumping is dangerous if done foolishly or without proper training. However, when done correctly, nothing can match the exhilaration of the momentary sense of weightlessness while you’re vaulting over an obstacle on a 1,200 pound animal.