Harmony  ~Steve McClure

I recently saw a post by our own Sara B. regarding her recent lesson riding Pal. She expesses her initial fear but eventually she breaks into that moment when she and Pal "blend" and become one. It is an exciting moment when energy, motion and timing become one and I firmly believe that it is those unique times that make us come back and saddle up whether it be a sunny afternoon or a miserable winter night. Sara knows that Jen would not assign a horse that she couldn't handle but what Sara perhaps doesn't realize is that Pal also experiences the same blending and learns (hopefully) that less is more and acting as a team, with trust, is much less work than resisting.

Anyone that knows me well is aware that I am a martial artist. I’ve studied and taught for over forty years. I have black belts in both Taekwondo and Aikido. I see everything through my martial "eye". I am constantly amazed at the similarities between martial arts and riding especially in relation to Aikido. Aikido is a Japanese martial art and literally means "the way of harmony". In this particular art the intent is to redirect, with as little energy as possible, an opposing force and thereby restoring harmony. This is especially important in regards to a one thousand pound horse where absorbing the energy is not a good idea. We use rythmn, timing and feel to blend with the horse's motion to hopefully create a "harmonious" outcome and so does the horse. We apply slight pressure until the hores moves and then we let off when they respond. Soon the animal moves with the slightest cue because they have learned to blend.

In Aikido we normally partner up for practice and the person attacking is called "nage" while the reciever is called "uke". It is uke's job to redirect nage's energy (attack) so it is render harmless. It is unfair of nage to "sucker punch" uke because sooner or later the roles are reversed and the new nage will avenge the sucker punch! The point is that both parties work to better each others skills, in other words both sides gain. It is likened to the "knife" and the "stone". The knife (nage) sharpens his skill on the stone (uke) and then the roles are reversed. Both must do their best so that the practice is successful.

I like to think of our horsemanship the same way. Both the horse and rider must gain for true success. If both horse and rider understand and trust each other then there is harmony. And harmony leads to enlightenment. I took a lot of poundings and bad falls in the martial arts but I would return just to experience that brief moment when less was more and I blended with the energy and simply flung it off.
Sara found that moment when Pal's head lowered and both became one but I think Pal felt it as well. In this, both gained.


To read more by Steve McClure--see below.

Insights By Steve -- Sensei