Ride Your Horse Like…a Helicopter Pilot?

Can riding your horse be like piloting a helicopter? Surprisingly, it can. Clinician Julie Goodnight tells how in a recent blog post, where she shares what her dad, a pilot, said about the differences between flying fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. From that, we learn how riding a horse—with finesse—is actually like piloting a chopper.

Credit: Heidi Nyland Melocco When you ride, each of your hands and legs must be able to act independently for continuous, subtle communication.

Helicopters are more complicated than regular planes, Julie’s dad explained. “You have to make constant adjustments to attitude and altitude with two hands and two feet—each adjusting in a totally different way.” Those adjustments require a lot of subtlety, too: “There’s no room for jerking, no room for sharp reactions.”

And isn’t that how we want to ride our horses? Julie points out that once you’ve mastered the basics of riding (balance, rhythm, using aids), then you’re ready to begin working on the horsemanship that results in true connectedness, subtlety, and lightness.

As Julie says, “When you watch a highly trained horse and rider perform or see a helicopter land and take off in the most precarious situations, it’s as if you’re watching a dance between pilot and vessel. Subtle, perfectly timed corrections are at work, and the two are moving as one.”

What will advance you toward this worthy goal? For starters, anything that helps you develop an independent seat, such as riding without stirrups.

Even just thinking about using each of your hands and legs independently—like a helicopter pilot—can help you learn to be a more effective rider.

“Keep the imagery in mind,” says Julie, and you’ll naturally pilot your horse with more precision.

Give it a try!

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