You find answers here, why a good sense of feel or body perception of your horses body BUT also your own body is essential for the quality of your riding and the health of your horse.
The sense of feel is called proprioception and is the sense of body awareness.
This sense gives us the feedback of where our bodies are in space (e.g. if we are standing, moving, laying down, having our arms straightened or bended, if we are standing on one leg or two etc.).
Our horses have that sense too. It is interacting with our sense of feel when we are riding.
In riding , the sense of feel is very important as ( within practise) we are able to feel where our horses legs are, whether their back is relaxed or tensed up, how their movements change if we are moving in the saddle or when we apply our aids with the legs, just to give a few examples.
For the horse it is important too, to feel our "communication" with our body , to respond to our aids with the manoeuvre we asked them to. They have learned to canter, stop, walk, turn etc. on certain amounts of pressure with the leg, signals with the reigns or shifting weight of our body when in the saddle.
We are constantly demanding body control of our horses, means we are demanding him to control the speed, walking over pools on the ground, jumping, doing side pass etc. These are very complex tasks for the sense of proprioception. It involves contractions and release of muscles, balancing, coordination of the legs, staying soft on the reigns, and staying focused. All at the same time. Often the horse needs to compensate, if the rider is not balanced and centred in the saddle yet. And this is probably the normal case, as nobody is perfectly balanced or aligned within their body without doing constantly exercises or stretching in a Gym or by doing Yoga or Pilates once a week.
So, the horse needs to work hard but also the rider.
We need to FEEL our own movements very good to be able to balance our aids we apply with legs and hands and the centre of our body, all at the same time. Just if we are balanced and have a good body perception we can achieve good performance, not inhibiting our horses movements and balance and also helping him to become stronger, more balanced, coordinated and easier to ride each time.
Everyone knows, the horse needs to be warmed up, doing stretching and strengthening exercises to prepare the body for the work and to become the "athlete" we need or want. Within training he needs to built up the right muscles to carry the rider and himself balanced without developing soreness or injuries.
BUT what about the riders body? It is as essential as the horses body, for healthy and sound performance.
So, ask yourself:
Riders learn how to strengthening and stretching the horses body, how to jump properly or do certain dressage movements.
BUT riders normally do not learn how to warm up and prepare their own bodies before getting in the saddle. That is not part of a riding lesson.
So, riders hear all the time " straighten up", " sit deeper in the saddle", " move your heels down" etc etc. So, everyone is trying hard to follow these instructions, but what if the body is not capable of doing that? What if there a restrictions in the mobility due an old injurie or present mobility issues?
Due to our " modern" world we are sitting much more and moving less. The modern society is developing all sorts of musculoskeletal diseases such as chronic backpain, high tensed shoulders, neck pain, knee pain, restricted hip mobility due to long sitting etc. The list is long.
The good news: Riders can train their body perception and learn an easy way to warm up their bodies and prepare them for riding! There is a lot available on video like Yoga, Pilates, tai chi, ground exercises etc.
Look for equestrian yoga and Pilates as these address the specific needs of the rider.
If you improve your own sense of feel you can improve your communication with your horse and achieve a better performance. The sense of feel of your horse and your own sense of feel are connected and interacting in a better balance.
The result: Better performance, healthy and mobile horse AND rider, happier riding experience.
If you have questions about yoga or mindfulness practise to improve YOUR body perception, please contact me. I am able to practise Equestrian yoga with you to address YOUR mobility issues and help you to improve your mobility for riding.
Contact Britta on firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook :BB HORSE CARE
Britta Bruns, Invercargill