Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Saturday, November 8, 2014 10:41 AM
I have received an email with questions that prompted me to spend couple days simply contemplating on
an answer and then get inspired and find the response. I am publishing the questions and my answers in this blog.
I was wondering how you discovered your imbalances. I'm a massage therapist. I have a good understanding of muscles
and how I need to engage them. I'd just like more tools for practicing the engagement of the weak muscles in my riding
posture, and I wondered if you had any suggestions.
For me the best way to discover my asymmetries is doing Yoga, Pilates and observing my habits off the horse and on the horse.
I am still working them out because on a horse things way more complicated than off the horse. Just a few days ago due to my
new custom made saddle for Santo I have discovered what exactly wrong in my left turns/bending :) My left shoulder and hip
are turning often together as one unit. I was advancing too forward with my left shoulder when I wanted my left hip/seatbone
to be forward. My body didn't really "bend" to the left neither did my horse. Mind you I have really started struggling with it when
I started seriously working on half-passes and pirouettes. A new layer opened up to me.
As to engaging weak muscles you must do it first off the horse. If you know anatomy well you should have no problem devising
an exercise to engage that muscle. The weak muscle will not turn on so easily so it will take time to "convince" it to fire. Then you
have to keep firing it up until it becomes a habit and then you can employ it on a horse for a particular situation. Also disengaging
a very active strong muscle is as important as engaging a weak one. The strong ones overtake very easily on a horse and
it is hard to catch that action because of so much that is going on during riding. A bright example: strong glutes - weak core. The
pelvic tilt must happen from core muscles but many rider use glutes to do it.
I have been struggling with the seat/thigh muscle movement combo, particularly at the canter.
Many, many riders struggle with sitting canter properly. They automatically tighten low back muscles and hip joints,
use glutes to push the seat forward, grip with thighs too much, etc. The lower back and hip joints must stay "squishy" and
supple, core engaged with a sense of lift from the pubic bone, glutes muscles soft, thighs are flat and adhesive on the saddle
to aid in sending the pelvis backwards but not with too much force. It feels more like matching the horse's movement and then
slightly amplifying the backward/lifting motion to help him lift the back. Also slowing down the tempo to help him find
better balance rather than trying to follow his motion and end up "chasing" him to faster canter.
I have been (re)learning to ride correctly, and have excellent trainers who encouraged me to look at Mary Wanless information.
I was wondering how you discovered your imbalances. Is that something to be found in Mary's books?
Mary Wanless books do help to become aware of the issues but not necessarily give thorough explanation what exactly going on.
I like her very much for giving me a big picture and then I pick things apart myself :)
Look into Thomas Myers work on muscles. Mary Wanless collaborates with him and his book "Anatomy Trains" is amazing. Thinking more on the
subject I also studied Alexandre technique, Rolfing and Feldenkrais method (from books), all of them are different types
of body work to change habitual patterns of moving. This can give you great insight into how your body organizes itself.
Advice in a nutshell is observation and then quiet thinking/meditating on it, picking things apart, more observation :) and finally
coming up with a solution.