The question that I have (and it is not an opinion, I am genuinely asking about this) is if these basic Aikido exercises are really helping a beginning rider? Does Aikido really make this principle of body balance clearer to a rider then say the common way of learning riding a horse? If it does then I would like to know more about it.
Well I have used some of these principles in some riding lessons that I have been giving to a woman in her 70's off and on for the past few years. They do seem to help a lot with the rider getting better balance and connection with the horse quicker than the more traditional methods. She is the only beginner rider I have worked with though as riding lessons is not my main area of interest.
For myself, having 27 years of riding experience including an extensive education at one of the best riding collages in the country. I will say that aikido training has improved my overall balance and connection with the horse as well as enhancing communication. Riding is not really so much an act my directing the horse anymore as it is the two of us going together as a unit. Even when my mare is very energetic she does not disturb my balance with her antics anymore.
I know that many riders do find this on their own through more traditional means over many years of training but I think these aikido principles help to speed up that process.
Mark also has a recently published book on this subject if you are interested in further exploration. The title is Nature in Horsemanship-Discovering Harmony through the principles of aikido. He also holds several aikido for horsemen weekend long clinics throughout the year. Something I hope to attend one day.