Balancing and Shaping in Riding

I’ve recently been reading a book by Beth Baumert called “When Two Spines Align: Dressage Dynamics.” You may recall that I previously read her book “How Two Minds Meet: The Mental Dynamics of Dressage” and wrote about it in a blog post titled The Wonder of Horses at Here is a picture of the two books taken from the Trafalgar Square Books website:

It wasn’t too many years ago the idea dawned on me that some riders could actually improve their horse’s way of going. I’m not just talking about successfully accomplishing a task with a horse or getting it to calm down or speed up. Those things can be part of it. But it encompasses so much more.

I’m talking about actually improving our horses’ body shape, outline and movement. Actually improving their physique through exercise. Essentially turning riding into physical therapy for the horse. Much of dressage training is couched in these terms, but these goals are not exclusive to dressage.

Most of us just do good to stay upright on top of our horse, more or less at the mercy of what our horses do or don’t do. We follow our horses in and out of balance. Remarkably, it seems that most horses do okay with this arrangement. Otherwise, no one but the expert horseman would ever be able ride.

But there can also be a physical and mental cost to many of our horses when they are ridden without attention to their movement. We can end up wearing them down instead of building them up.

Unfortunately for me, actually improving a horse’s way of going in a consistent and measurable way at all gaits still eludes me. Even so, I think it’s a worthy goal to try to hone my eye on the ground and my feeling in the saddle. To seek balance in any horse I ride.

When I tune into how the horse that I am riding feels underneath me. When I continue to read riding literature, listen to podcasts, observe others riding. When I’m able to watch videos and view photos of my riding. All these things help me very slowly learn what I am supposed to be heading towards. What I should be thinking about, feeling for and observing in myself and any horse that I am riding.

It’s like a puzzle that sits on the top of a desk in various stages of completion, but never seems to ever get done. My riding often feels like a bunch of pieces, strewn all over the desk. I’ve been trying to fit them together for years and years.

I especially see it in the videos and photos I accumulate of my riding. I’m still often not able to match up well with what something looks like and what I’m feeling in the saddle. But when I am able to get it right- connect a moment where my horse looks beautiful to a particular sensation I remember at that moment in my ride- it’s a magical feeling that makes me want to keep chasing it.

If any of this resonates with you, I would highly recommend both of Beth Baumert’s books. No matter if you consider yourself a dressage rider or not. So many of her concepts are applicable to all types of riding.

While you can buy the book at a variety of stores or maybe find them in your local library, if you purchase them through the affiliate link to Trafalgar Square Book’s equestrian material on this blog, I will receive a portion of the book sales. If you are reading this from The Backyard Horse Blog website, you can find the affiliate link on either the right hand side of the website or at the bottom (where you see the picture of the woman reading a book to a horse).

Or, if watching videos is more your thing, you also may find the following clip from Horse Class to be helpful. It explains and demonstrates what is meant by the phrase “inside leg to outside rein,” an important concept used for shaping the horse’s body towards better movement.

As quoted from a September 2021 Horse Class Email:

“There are many terms in riding that are a bit vague. Commonly used, but rarely explained. Inside leg to outside rein is one of these vague terms. It is a concept, a key concept for encouraging balanced movement from a horse, but many riders don’t actually know what this means or more importantly, what this feels like.

When I teach riding, I prefer to give both explanations and exercises. When we understand what we are doing, why we are doing it, and can feel it this creates true confidence!

In today’s video, I will do just this with the inside leg to outside rein concept to demonstrate what this means with our school horse AppleJack, explain why this is important (even if you are a trail rider), and then teach you an exercise to feel this with your own horse.

Click Here to watch “Inside Leg to Outside Rein” – What this means and an exercise to finally FEEL it:”

While you are on the Horse Class website, check out the other free videos offered. I think many of them dovetail nicely with the information presented in Beth Baumert’s books. In my book, they are all different pieces to the same puzzle. 🙂

8 thoughts on “Balancing and Shaping in Riding

  1. Two spines book is next up on my reading list. I got it just after you put up your earlier review. Yes, you are right , you can improve your horses way of going and physique; building muscles and getting refinement in their way of going. I am certain about this and my coach Belinda Trussell often reminds me that every thing you do on a horse , every aid you give , every reaction to their response is a moment of training. I can see that Biasini has built muscle in his neck and shoulder that help him to go in a more upright frame.

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    1. Good point in “every aid you give, every reaction to their response is a moment of training.” I enjoy watching the riding videos that you post on your Horse Addict blog as you work to shape, balance and improve Biasini. While you ride your horse at a much higher level than I ever will, I think there are general principles that can be applied to all horses at any stage or in any type of riding. Those books by Beth Baumert really speak to that for me.


  2. Thank you so much for sharing! This is wonderful and the video you linked to was awesome and great to see! And to have access to other free videos is awesome too! Thanks again from one horse lover to the other! 💖🐴💖

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  3. Great post, explanation was the biggest thing missing at our pony clubs. It was amazing to see there would be ponies & kids going in all directions until an instructor would say why & there would be a musical ahhhh from, well, everyone. lol. Then most, lol, of the exercise would look like a uniformed dance.

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    1. I think I can relate. It is one thing to intellectually understand a riding concept. It is another thing to actually apply it effectively. I can talk horses and riding all day, but then when I am in the saddle, I struggle to actually do what I know. It is a frustrating disconnect for me. But at least it gives me something to work on for the rest of my life. 🙂 I am pretty sure I will never get bored with horse back riding!

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  4. Your readers who are seeking on-line help with these matters might also be interested in checking out the offerings of . They have a full catalog of courses and often offer free live video (also available on replay) problem-solving broadcasts. People who prefer to read rather than watch will enjoy the available blog, written by Thomas Ritter, who is thoroughly grounded in theory and practice and explains things in a way that even beginners can understand. I recommend his work highly!

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