Shoulders
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Thursday, January 1, 2009 02:13 PM
I'm working on a new page for my website. I was thinking of creating it for quite a while. I feel that I have enough information from theory and experience to create an informative and helpful presentation about some interesting aspects of our shoulders and arms and how it influences the softness of our hands. As part of the process I would like to share some of it in my blog.
Until a rider develops stability and suppleness in the seat there is no way to have independent and quiet hands. Unstable rider by virtue of human reflexes will use his/her hands to help stay in the saddle. Before you can achieve quiet hands you need to develop supple and stable seat which includes strong core, control of pelvis and thighs and supple hip joints. Plus you need a saddle that fits you and supports well the base of your pelvis and thighs.
Our arms attach to our skeleton through shoulder girdle. This is a very mobile system with great range of motion. As you can see from the picture on the left the joint between clavicle bone and sternum (breast plate) is the only bone connection of the arm to the skeleton (see the red circle). Our shoulder blades (scapulas) have only muscles and tendons that keep them on the back of the ribcage. This gives them mobility which is necessary for our daily activities but can be a handicap during riding. On a horse we do not move our arms a lot, especially during schooling on the flat. We do not need scapula's great mobility to stay soft and quiet with our hands, or to do a half-halt. Actually quite an opposite we need stability there. I see many riders trying to be soft and yielding in their hands end up with their shoulders blade drawn forward. This usually leads to the upper body leaning forward too, balance is compromised with the result opposite of what rider was aiming for in the first place - stiff hands! Stable shoulder blades allow our arms and hands be independent of our body and easily follow horse's mouth without compromising the balance of the seat. Before you can start working on scapulas stabilization you must know how they move. We can move our shoulder blades independently of our ribcage and spine, however, this is not easy. Usually when told to bring their shoulders back people arch their backs, this is called a chain reaction. When shoulder blades move forward they trigger another chain reaction of rounding the back and dropping the chest. All this must be sorted out with exercises off the horse. You need to know how to move your scapulas independently of the rest of your body, how to feel when they are stiff and how to stabilize your shoulder blades without making them or your arms stiff.
Next time I will give you a few exercises for your scapulas. Some of them enhance mobility and awareness and others stability and control. For now, I would like you to focus sometimes on your shoulder blades and muscles around them. You can do it during daily activities and during riding. Your job is not to judge but observe and notice your peculiar habits and preferences.
Happy riding...
 
Comment by katie keenan on Sunday, January 4, 2009 08:09 AM
came upon your site recently and find it applies to some of my challenges. i have a scoliosis that wasen't identified until my early 40's-i'm almost 50 now. this appears to have contributed to many patterns that i have that you mention and i believe, has prevented me from being the rider i've always wanted to be. my right shoulder blade is often prominent and prone to instability more than the left because of the scoliosis. i'm looking forward to your addition of "Shoulders" on this web page. Thank you!
 
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My blog is about teaching, riding and training. I share what is important to me in my work with horses and riders. The writing helps me to think things over and have a better understanding of training ideas and priciples.
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