“Pretend you are an Oreo cookie” – this is one of the memorable, fun images provided by Verne Batchelder in his lessons.
We were working on zig-zag half pass and Verne was trying to help me use my seat and core without tension, particularly in the change of direction. When Verne yelled from the center of the arena, “pretend you are an Oreo cookie,” I instantly burst out laughing, which of course had the instantaneous result of released tension. Verne expanded on his image by telling me to imagine that I was “crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.”
Luckily Verne often explains his images, especially if you can’t make the leap from being an Oreo cookie to understanding how it applies to riding. As Verne explains: At some point in your rider development, you are asked to toughen up your core and use your stomach muscles to brace and to hold, but once you have developed that ability and your horse has the collection you want, then you need to be soft in your center while keeping the motion and the shape of the movement. Another explanation is that you keep your outlines defined, but soften the center to allow the motion and the movement. When you get more lift and loft, you want to be able to absorb it through your body NOT brace against it, squelch it, or squash it by being a hard shape against the motion. Unfortunately, I am often the hard shape without the soft Oreo cookie center.
As I continued my ride, laughing to myself, my mind was full of pictures: dipping Oreo cookies in milk, carefully separating the cookie from the soft center without breaking it, eating the soft center first and the crisp cookie next, and sometimes just devouring the whole cookie. My final picture was of myself as a huge Oreo cookie bouncing along on the back of my horse. I’m not sure what Verne saw when he watched me attempt zig-zag half pass as an Oreo cookie, but hopefully it was a rider with a crisp outside and a soft inside.