Why do you move your body?
When I have asked riders this, the generalized response is that any movement that occurs throughout the day is borne from a place of necessity, rather than a mindful practice that has a purpose. We rarely stop to think about how we perform certain tasks each day (who has time for that, right?!) and it tends to be only when something stops working, or we are in pain that our attention is called inwards and we are forced to take notice.
It is similar to remembering your windscreen wipers don’t work, as soon as it starts to rain.
If I then asked you:
Why do you move your horses body?
The answer to this question is more likely to be along the lines of developing skill, getting him fit, keeping him supple etc. Riders tend to move their horses body with a much more evolved sense of purpose and importance; they have a goal in mind for what they want their horse to be able to do.
My quest is to get riders thinking the same way about their own bodies.
The Concept of Nourishing Movement
If we are what we eat, then we are how we move too.
The idea of movement that is nourishing is to think about it providing the body in its entirety with the movement it needs for great health and optimum function.
Performing the same activities every day, in the same way, inevitably leads to some structures receiving too much nourishment (over eating is never a good thing) and others that receive very little; they are, if you like, malnourished with movement.
This leads to patterns of joint immobility, muscular and joint compensations, poor recruitment of correct muscles, dysfunction and ultimately pain, injury and debilitating situations. It is all a bit gloomy.
The Foundations of Nourishing Movement
All good movement comes from an aligned foundation; that means that posturally, things must stack up as best they can. For the horse, this means he is travelling straight, into an even, forward seeking contact. For the rider, finding Neutral Spine and practicing it throughout all the mundane tasks of the day is an incredibly powerful way to begin the unravelling process (consult your health care professional and look out for my video on the website, coming soon!)
As riders, often the only time in the day when you are really conscious about your body is when you are riding. The precious time that you have carved out of your day for your favourite activity can be dominated by frustrations such as the inability to sit straight in the saddle, maintain posture, keep the legs long, elbows in etc. The problem is, your body has been in a compressed position for most of the day and some structures haven’t received enough nourishment. The only time this jumps up at you is when you get on your horse and try to ‘sit up straight’.
If this does sound like you, don’t panic, you are doing great! The very fact that you are AWARE of your faults in the saddle makes you way further down the path than someone trotting around in blissful ignorance. Awareness is key, try to take a personal inventory of your body every day to see how things are feeling.
As a bit of a cheeky motivator, up to 50% of lameness can be attributed to the rider. If that doesn’t make you sit up and suck your core in, I don’t know what will!
‘Practice makes Perfect’ right? Wrong. DELIBERATE practice makes perfect.
Deliberate practice refers to the execution of a technique/skill that is done mindfully and with the intention of improving that technique. For example, if I were to do something every day for 5 years I won’t necessarily be better at that ‘thing’ unless I deliberately try to improve my technique every day. In riding terms, riding a 20m circle every day for a month won’t make it an award winning circle. It is only when you are mindful of improving every step on that circle and the positioning of each step that progress is made.
When left to its own devices, the human body will consult its ‘cheat sheet’ and perform each task in the easiest way it can. This means that it will mould its way around a dysfunctional area and strengthen that dysfunction, if it is not challenged to address it.
The same principles apply to your horse; if training doesn’t nourish their body with variety, alignment and appropriate stress, your daily riding practice will only be serving to strengthen the dysfunction. The health of the overall ‘whole’ is dependent upon the nourishment of each of the ‘parts’.
So, why do you move your body?
Join our Movement Journey over the next few weeks to get tips and strategies for making sure you are nourishing your body with movement and you are riding with deliberate practice!