Question: “I was reading Alois Podhajsky and am wondering if the question “Where does the rider’s weight go on lateral moves?” has historically been answered differently in English/western disciplines. My recollection is that in Craig Cameron’s cow horse book he says that he has never seen a horse not do better when the inside is weighted freeing up the outside leg to move in the direction of movement.
Alois says “When the weight of the body is transferred into the direction of the lateral movement, it will support the effect of the outside leg because the horse will try to step under the centre of gravity of the rider. A man carrying another on his shoulder will step to the left side and not to the right if the burden leans to the left”. I think I saw something similar in Klimke’s book.”
Answer: This is a great question and it isn’t just a simple answer one-way or the other. I actually see it in stages where both answers are correct with one important point. I find that moving to the inside or the outside is very slight in either case.
This is how I go about it:
The first stage is teaching the horse to simply move over laterally (sideways). He is just learning and has very little self-carriage at this time. Think of it like you’re standing still with no power in your body. When you want to move left, you need to take your weight to the right foot to free up the left foot to move over. In this case you are slightly off the side you are moving towards.
Second stage is one where a horse is in self-carriage and has power. If you were to sprint forward with power, you would lean into the direction of travel slightly. Or if you were a basketball player moving quickly to the left, you need to lean in that direction to get there. That would help you power with the outside leg. But more importantly, it would allow you to go fast in balance. In this case you are leaning towards the direction of the movement.
With many of these types of questions there is no hard-and-fast rule. Some writers make you think there is because they speak from a very specific place – one might be thinking in the early stages of starting a colt and the other might be assuming this is already a highly trained Dressage horse. So in different stages both answers are correct.
As riders we must be able to adapt to our horse and the stage he is at. Always maintain that the answer is with your horse more than anything else. Your horse will tell you. As quick as it takes him to make a stride he will tell you. Feel his whole body right down to his feet while you ride.
Study in-depth these questions with great riders and writers like you mentioned, then become really good at experimenting with your body position and your balance to become an adaptable, excellent rider that helps a horse move with ease. Because that is all we are really trying to do – Stay out of our horse’s way.
Hope that helps!