Wednesday, March 5, 2014

It is really all about me...

I have known for a while that how I use my body directly impacts how my horse uses her own body. If in turn my shoulders, she can more easily turn her shoulders. If I swing my hips, she swings her hips...
But the tiniest things are surfacing...
After my hysterectomy, I clearly noticed 'protective postures'. I would hold my body in a way to protect myself from the inevitable pain of certain movements. This year, I'm learning that these protective postures aren't only a reaction to pain...
I spent all day sitting at a desk. Despite sitting on my awesome, saddle-shaped stool, it wasn't the best day. I was uncomfortable. The ache was radiating from my hip into my thigh. I was debating whether or not to ride. I finally drug myself to the barn and prepared the pony. Unfortunately, she warms up faster than I do, and her trot work started with her feeling like play-doh. But I couldn't keep her soft and malleable.
There is a huge amount of stiffness in my lumbar spine. Part of that stiffness a result of protective posturing. My range of motion has been limited by anticipation of pain. As a result, my stiff back transfers to my horse.
At first, I think: How frustrating! She started out so lovely and now we have regressed into this place of inconsistency!
But when you really think about it, it is such a liberating realization!
How beautifully simple that every aspect of my body influences my horse! When my range of motion returns, when I feel once again like a graceful ballet dancer, we will improve and progress once more!
Less profound is the benefit of walking.
When I woke up, I could almost put my socks on like normal.
After work, there was no way. My feet were out of reach.
At the barn, picking the pony's feet was only accomplished because she picks them up so willingly (with my hands at the level of her knees).
But once in the saddle, we walked and walked. We walked some more. When I felt stiff, we dropped back to that walk. Over and over again. I focused on "plugging in" to my horse. I focused on marching with energy. I followed with my hands as she marched right up into the bridle.
Without even realizing it, I was loosening my back.
When I got off of my horse, I could touch my toes!!
The neatest realization of all!
I've been sitting in the funny stool at work. I don't sit still. I try, but I get uncomfortable. I'm sure it would help if my stool were taller. I find myself stretching my hip flexors in a modified lunge that makes space in my spine. It isn't something you would think much about unless you are the one sitting there in pain. *shrug*
I've been spending a lot of time in my jumping saddle, where my stirrups have shortened quite a bit. When I swung up into my dressage saddle, I realized, "These stirrups need to be lengthened!"
All I can contribute it to is the new arrangement at work that allows me to open the entire front of my body!
I also spent some time during the walk refining my inner feel. I want to find that true neutral position. So, in closed my eyes. When I closed my eyes, I immediately pulled my upper body back!
Now, I want to know: what do you fix when you close your eyes?
I focused of that feeling. Each time I felt that tendency to lean forward, I either closed my eyes again or I returned to the feeling. And wouldn't you know? We even had moments of expressive sitting trot!


  1. Its very cool when we realize how important all these tiny moving pieces are and how things change and we can experiment around :)

    1. I truly love dropping my reins and riding only on my body! One day, I will ride this girl briddleless!

  2. Nice post! You might enjoy checking out Mary Wanless, if you haven't already. :D

    1. I **LOVE** Mary Wanless! Phenomenal insight and so helpful and analytical!
      I really wish I had found her sooner. I would love to clinic with her!

  3. Lovely post! And such an optimistic way of viewing things- I wish I could attain that mindset when my own limitations begin to impact my riding. Something to work towards, I suppose.
    To answer your question, when I close my eyes I tend to focus on the rhythm. Nothing specific, just how the horse feels underneath me and whether I'm doing anything to impact the rhythm. On my mare though I also need to focus on not tensing up my right elbow. She's stiffer right and consequently likes to lay on the right when she gets tired. I respond by stiffening the elbow slightly, so I constantly have to check in that I'm keeping it soft!

    1. How insightful! It is so easy to respond to their tension with an equal and opposite tension of our own! I'm going to check and see if I'm doing anything similar!! :)



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