Jec A. Ballou

Jec Ballou, horse trainer, jec aristotle ballou, western dressage, jec ballou, dressage exercises for horse and rider, equine fitness

Believe me when I tell you that I love freedom as much as anyone. I love trimming away boundaries, living widely in each moment. And yes, I love to watch a beautiful horse running free across a meadow with his legs surging and his expression content. That, to me, is a wonderful sight. On the other hand, a horse careening around a round pen with his neck twisted sideways and his body misaligned disgruntles me.

If you have spent any time trying to train horses to accomplish physical goals, like moving more athletically, chances are good you have discovered that some individuals are more willing than others. Much as I would like to offer science-based explanations for this, I believe a lot of it owes to a less scientific trait that we’ll call “personal space.”

Jec Ballou, horse trainer, jec aristotle ballou, western dressage, jec ballou, dressage exercises for horse and rider, equine fitness

After several years of traveling around giving clinics in which I teach riders to use ground poles in their regular schooling, I have arrived at a fact: most riders quickly understand the gymnastic benefits of group poles, but they will not incorporate them on a consistent basis. It’s not because they are rebelling against my advice but because poles can be a hassle to drag out and set up every day.

Jec Ballou, horse trainer, jec aristotle ballou, western dressage, jec ballou, dressage exercises for horse and rider, jec ballou, equine fitness, beyond horse massage, Jec Ballou

By Jec A. Ballou

Perhaps one of the most delightful aspects of riding is the way it steadies and focuses our human minds in those moments we sit astride. For myself, anyway, I savour the monastic contemplation of the first minutes of a ride as I consider: What does this horse need? Every session originates from how I can improve the horse’s physical well-being, and this requires a good deal of paying attention.

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The search for mastery brings with it the question of specificity. If you are trying to master a particular sport, should you focus on and practice that sport exclusively? Or might cross-training, and using tools from outside that sport, benefit you in some way? Certainly, there is a lot to argue in favour of practicing only your sport in order to get better at it. From a physiological standpoint, there is even more to argue for multi-disciplinary training.

Jec Ballou, horse trainer, jec aristotle ballou, western dressage, jec ballou, dressage exercises for horse and rider, equine fitness

Many of us make our horses stiffer with our attempts at kindness. Aiming for light and forgiving rein contact, we sometimes make the mistake of too much looseness, which feels erratic and unclear to the horse. Rather than improving our horse’s balance and physiology, we cause him to fall apart immediately following moments of correct movement.

Jec Ballou, horse trainer, jec aristotle ballou, western dressage, jec ballou, dressage exercises for horse and rider, equine fitness

The longer I stay in this profession, the more I value experiences that facilitate what Zen teachers call “Beginner’s Mind,” which recently took the form of an early morning listening to Corazon chew his hay.

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Riding Vactions in California with Jec Ballou