Naked Truth of Riding Symposium II
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Saturday, November 1, 2008 09:52 PM
In the previous blog we have assessed the demonstration riders with Mary Wanless' guidance and answered several questions on how their bodies react to the movement of their horses. Now we will look at how Mary has changed rider's position. Mary halted the rider, came up to her with the stool and asked the rider to lift her legs so thighs became parallel to the ground with knees bent. This made the rider aware of her seatbones and helped Mary to manipulate rider's torso with ease. Lets look at the main components of the change:
  • Rider's torso is like a box - The rider was stretched up with hollow back, very common in dressage riders, women in particular. First of all Mary put pelvis in vertical (neutral) position and than she pulled rider's ribcage down to make rider's torso look like a box with front and back of similar length. Mary pointed out that rider's sternum should feel vertical. Mary said that collar bone, sternum, belly button and pubic bone should be stacked one on top another. If rider tries to lift her chest she will arch her back and point her chest way up disconnecting it from her pelvis. The rider told the audience that she felt squashed down even though for us she looked very vertical and solid.
  • Thighs are rotated inward - Mary took rider's leg from the up position and lowered them down rotating the thighs in and putting heels under rider's hips, keeping knees bent and feet almost parallel to the ground with heel just slightly lowered. She said to the rider:"Think of your heels pointing toward horse's hind hooves." Even though the thigh was down only 45 degrees the knees looked down and forward.
  • Thighs are connected to the saddle - Mary wanted the rider to connect her thighs to the saddle from the base to the knee. This is different than gripping. The connection is the same throughout the whole length of the thigh and even though rider must use the muscles to stay connected she is not locking her hips or knees and there is no rigidity in it, just good muscle tone. Mary's analogy is to think of thighs on the saddle like a frame of the capital "A". This makes rider's weight spread around horse's ribs. When thighs are soft and completely relaxed all rider's weight is concentrated under the pelvis and probably most of it under the seatbones. This makes rider fall into "man's trap" (another Mary's analogy - horse's hollow back).
  • Bearing Down - Now comes the difficult concept for most of the riders. I call it Abdominal Push, another name for it activation of your deep core muscles. Mary said that the rider must bear down all the time, this is mandatory for good riding. I agree with her on that whole heartedly. The rider's abdominal context must be pushed against the stomach wall with deep core muscles, the diaphragm must be strong enough to allow breathing. We bear down when we clear our throat, sneeze, laugh, cough, etc.
  • Lacing of the back - Mary wanted the rider to imagine that there is lacing on the lowest part of rider's back (sacrum and back of the pelvis). And this lacing is being tightened across. This creates stability in the pelvis without changing it's position. You should not mistake this with tightening of the back muscles or arching your back. This is elusive concept. When I was on a plane home the idea came to me: this "lacing of the back" is a different interpretation of creating tone in the muscles we are sitting on. Mary doesn't talk about "pinching with the seatbones" anymore and I think "lacing of the back" creates similar effect only more subtle and precise. When I use muscles under seatbones I feel tightening on the back of my pelvis and when I try to create "lacing of the back" muscles under seatbones fire slightly. Unfortunately, I couldn't ask her about that.
  • Being plugged in - Mary emphasized to the riders that their seatbones should stay well connected to the saddle, not pushing, not sliding, but sort of "plugged in". The connection must be so stable that the horses will not be able to toss their riders up, forward, to the side or backwards.
After repositioning, riders were sent out to walk and the changes were very significant. The biggest difference for me was in increase of muscle tone and quietness of rider's seats. All of a sudden they became an easy weight to carry around and many horses stopped fussing with their heads and stretched forward. Horses became more stuffed too, more rounded and full of body. I know that effect on riders and horses. It wasn't surprising to me but many people at the symposium who were not familiar with Mary Wanless' work were shocked.
Happy riding...
Comment by Toby on Sunday, November 2, 2008 05:51 PM
Thanks for sharing your observations from the clinic. I have read "For the Good of the Rider" twice in its entirety and some sections many times more than that. I have yet to see Mary in person - maybe someday I'll be so lucky. :)
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