Alixa Sutton's Clinic. Part II.
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Monday, April 23, 2012 07:32 PM
Before you continue I need you to read the blog on - flexibility for riders. This will give you a better idea about the principles Alixa stresses in her work with human athletes.
We had a small group of three participants and the stretching session lasted for 1.5 hour. The work was very interesting and intense, the time went by very quickly. I felt I could go for another 1.5 hour easily. We started with exercises to stretch hip flexors. I always thought that my hip flexors are long enough because I can easily do many standard stretching exercises for these muscles. However, Alixa's standard is much higher :) Her exercises revealed quite severe tightness in the Rectus Femoris muscle. The challenge is not only position of the legs for stretching but also squareness of the hips which instantly want to twist and collapse to get away from the stretch. Little extra changes, like the foot not on the floor but on the prop (which in our case was a carton box from flat screen TV), create very unusual stretching poses. Most of her exercises can be done easily at home, all you need to do is to have a little imagination to help yourself with positioning. In this session Alixa used stools, boxes, dressage letter holders, walls, etc. to create extra hight, or support, or lean into device and so on. The goal is not to hold stretching pose but to relax into it.
Another point that Alixa stresses in her stretching work is that left and right sides of the pelvis should be able to move separately. This is possible if a ligament that attaches wings of Ilium to the sacrum is supple. Many times due to our life styles we never require to move these parts of our body separately and these ligaments "glue" themselves to the sacrum and make pelvic bones one inseparable unit including sacrum. This is not very good for riding because the left and right sides of horse's back move separately. Immobility of the rider's pelvis prevents good motion absorption and sends a wave higher into the spine and shoulders, especially, visible in some riders in canter. I am aware of such pelvis mobility and work on it on regular basis. However, at first Alixa found my hips quite glued to each other. I guess driving to work and several hours of teaching before clinic didn't help my hips to be supple :) Alixa was pleased how quickly my hips unglued themselves after she worked with me. I was pleased too, the exercise was great. Though, I cannot really describe it here. It will take the whole blog and I am not sure I will be clear enough so readers can reproduce it. Plus assistance is required with the exercise.
I loved shoulder stretching exercises. At the last workshop and this time Alixa stretches shoulders by fixing the hand pressed into a flat surface with fingers stretched and spread. The hand can be positioned level with the shoulders or higher, the fingers can point upward or away from the front of the body. The body can be positioned sideways to the wall or back to the wall. All these variations give different stretches to different muscles. In the stretch the shoulder is rotated back and forth, body can go up and down, or lean left and right, the head can bend or turn. There is a limitless number of variations. I use these group of stretches for my shoulders all the time. It is like having your personal massage therapist at your disposal any time you want. Alixa found my shoulders stiff. That wasn't a surprise to me. I am trying to solve this puzzle but it is a long journey.
Alixa mentioned several times that she used the principles of stretching for humans to develop stretching exercises for horses. I think I am starting to see the connection and this helps a lot with how I approach stretches for horses.
Happy riding...
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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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