Rhythm and Balance
Rhythm and Balance are the building blocks for better communication with your horse. If you are thinking, "But I only jump, or just want to ride for pleasure, and that sounds a lot like dressage", this is what the US Equestrian Federation defines as dressage: "The harmonious development of the physique and ability of the horse. As a result it makes a horse calm, supple, loose and flexible but also confident, attentive and keen, thus achieving perfect understanding with his rider". Who wouldn't want that from their horse? Imagine approaching your first fence on a course with your horse soft, balanced and listening to your every move. Or being out on a trail and knowing that by subtly shifting your weight you can avoid the unexpected hazards. Learning the basics allows you to ride with confidence no matter what discipline you choose.
Unlike other sports, horseback riding has two separate, living entities, the horse and the rider, each with their own varying balance. Every little movement you make with your body inadvertently affects the way your horse moves. The more aware you become of your balance and weight distribution, the easier it will be to influence your horse.
In order to have good rhythm, your horse must be stretching and lifting his back so that his legs swing in a regular beat, with clear footfall sequences: four in the walk, two in the trot and three in the canter. Speeding up and slowing down changes the tempo of the gait. But once you have a good rhythm established, you can use it to lengthen and shorten your horse's stride while maintaining a relaxed, cadenced gait.