Correct posture when riding horses allows for precise and effective aids from rider to horse.
My dressage trainer has always said that we use posture as an aid. This includes the shoulders, arms, core, seat, legs, joints, etc. Body awareness allows a rider to move joints and limbs independently or together in order to cue the horse properly. Easier said than done!
When I was younger I slouched and jutted my chin forward. These were very bad habits and after years of hunching muscle memory had taken over. As my riding advanced it was more noticeable that my poor posture was a hindrance and my riding was suffering. I tried to correct my posture by using muscle to force my shoulders back and bring my chin up. This was not helping but instead causing tension in my body. I was in the way, too attached to the horse, and too rigid to allow the horse to move through, be collected, and in carriage. What really needed to happen was a retraining of those body parts to change the way they functioned.
About ten years ago I began seeing a massage therapist. I tend to hold tension in my neck and jaw hence the jutting of my chin. The good news…my condition was not chronic! My therapist could manipulate my muscles, fascia, and ligaments to release and be correct. But…they would not stay that way at first. I needed to bring awareness to my face and neck to soften and lengthen and sit properly. It took work to constantly remind myself daily and readjust my posture. I still see my massage therapist regularly. My posture has greatly improved and my chin and shoulders are no longer an issue while riding.
Roughly seven years ago I began seeing a Rolfer who also incorporates Feldenkrais into his practice. Rolfing is a form of bodywork that reorganizes the connective tissue called fascia that is found throughout our bodies. The fascia releases, realigns, and balances the whole body, potentially resolving discomfort, reducing tensions, and alleviating pain. Feldenkrais is an exercise therapy that uses gentle, mindful movement to bring new awareness and possibility into every aspect of your life.
This regular bodywork almost brings an elasticity to my movement. It has taught me self-awareness and improved my body’s function. It helps all my joints move independently from each other. My posture is no longer forced but comfortably natural. My riding has greatly improved because of it!
If you’re having issues with your posture while riding you may want to give bodywork a try. I have focused on massage, rolfing, and feldenkrais but there are so many therapies and techniques out there.