In the saddle, we are directed to “sit up straight and pull your shoulders back.” Without proper body awareness, the physical translation of these instructions may result in lifted ribs, shoulder blades squeezed together, a forward tilt of the pelvis and excessive curve to the lower back. This is not a great position for a healthy pain-free body, balance, comfort or effective riding. Tension is created through the entire body, resulting in excessive wear on the joints over time and damage to the spine. As a culture, we sit too much and have other bad habits such as repetitive and limited patterns of movement. Sitting is essentially flexion of the hips and knees and compression of the spine.
Habitual sitting and lack of movement in proper alignment is wreaking havoc on our bodies. Our muscles are short, tight and unyielding.
Your foot position and body alignment while standing and walking have a lot to do with the health of your hips and knees. By addressing these issues on the ground you can improve mobility, balance and regeneration in tissue in these areas, thereby reducing discomfort and tension in the saddle that effects communication with your horse.
For optimum health and mobility that will keep you in the saddle longer whether training, showing or simply out on a pleasure ride, our bodies need to move more. Having healthy muscles is a big part of the equation and ensures the body’s nerves, heart and lymph system run efficiently. To benefit from movement, bones need to be in the correct place and muscles at their intended length. Take every opportunity you can get to move – choose standing versus sitting, walking instead of driving, and change your sitting position often. Try these easy exercises for your hips and knees, which will improve your health overall and your position in the saddle.
- Stand with your feet pelvis width apart and pointing straight ahead.
- Hinge forward at the hips with straight legs and your hands on a counter/chair.
- Lift your seat bones and put your weight in your heels.
- Maintain the natural curve in your spine with your ribs up and chin back. Try to lift your toes and move your kneecaps.
Progression: Use a rolled towel under the balls of your feet.
Adductor (Inner Thigh) Stretch
- Lay on the floor with the soles of your feet together.
- Keep your pelvis level and the back of your ribs to the floor.
- Put a pillow under your legs if your inner thighs feel really tight.
Progression: Place one foot on opposite shin.
Psoas (Hip Flexor) Stretch
- In a kneeling position, step forward with one foot, keeping your knee in line with your front ankle. Use a pillow if your back knee is sensitive.
- With your pelvis neutral (pubic bone in line with bones of pelvis) press forward slightly.
- Keep the natural curves in your spine, your ribs down and chin back.
Progression: Step forward more and lift back knee off floor.