How can arena mirrors improve your schooling sessions? We speak to the riders using them.
As arena mirrors become more and more affordable, the opportunities to use them or install them become wider. We asked a group of riders what their thoughts were on using mirrors and how they improve their schooling and riding. They’ve been used extensively with both Dressage and Jumping training and will certainly continue to do so, as their availability becomes even more widespread.
Dressage rider Bria and Becca both agree of their uses when working with lateral movements. “I think they are great to get another perspective on the horse, especially when there isn’t anyone around on the ground to help. Being able to get a side view or front view can really help with lateral movements,” says Bria. “I’ve found them helpful for checking my position and straightness, as well horse alignment and position generally and with lateral movements,” explains Becca.
“Mirrors are a great way to see if the horse is actually picking up the hind legs properly. It’s good to feel and see what is actually happening. They help you to see the correct tracks of shoulder-in or leg yield and travers”. Priscilla
Lateral movements are a particularly important tools as they encourage better balance, suppleness, and responsiveness. If they are not performed correctly, (the horse is ‘blocking’ one side, feels forced into a position, head too low/high), rather than maintaining rhythm, relaxation and straightness, they will create more problems than they solve. Asking the horse to move their legs further under their body will increase impulsion and help to build muscle evenly on both sides, thus improving movement and stride technique.
Getting a true vision of how others see you and your horse is vitally important as well – it’s the closest you’ll get to seeing the view of the judge without sitting in her car. This is where mirrors give you the advantage as Kathy agrees. “Mirrors give you a real perspective of how you look. Sometimes we think we look differently than reality.”
Marion Watt, eventer and Bowen therpaist/biomechanics expert, said “Mirrors are excellent for giving you immediate feedback on your position.”
Our posture when riding, and our influence on the horse’s way of going is a vital part of the process of good riding. It’s the difference between ‘riding’ and being a ‘passenger’. Channelling the energy created from the horse’s haunches straight towards the bridle cannot happen without the rider communicating how they would like this done. It’s a gymnastic movement that requires core strength and gentle power from you alone and can only be done if the body is in the correct position. It’s the rider’s responsibility to use their body correctly to limit the swing of the horse’s ribcage (which can dull the energy from the hind leg) and the hollowing of the horses back (resulting in loss of thrust and overall control).
If your horse is pushing you from side-to-side with his ribcage, or tipping you forwards by hollowing his back, so that your weight is causing a balance issue, none of your aids will work properly. Once you can see that your body is in the correct position, then it becomes easier to guide your horse into using his body to everyone’s advantage, and develop his structure correctly for maximum fitness. Think how much more you will both enjoy your time together when you can move together as one.
There are of course times though when it’s important for both you and your horse to chill out in the school. Charly said “I find arena mirrors very helpful but they can sometimes be distracting. On occasion, our schooling is about the bond between horse and rider without the constant battle of ‘is this perfect?’ and ‘is that perfect?”
If you’re looking for arena mirrors, Mirror Installs have recently launched their equestrian collection after 30 years experience in the industry. Do visit their website for more information: http://mirrorinstalls.co.uk/equestrian. Alternatively contact them directly for their latest offers.
Take the opportunity after some hard work to give your horse a long rein, walk out and stretch, and then stop admiring your reflections! Good luck and enjoy!