dressage horse and rider

ARE YOU RIDING “WITH BACK”?

Riding education – whether dressage, eventing, show jumping – follows a certain pattern. Once the rider develops an independent seat, is able to stay out of the horse’s mouth and does not disturb the horse in its movement, the rider learns how to “ride with back”. 

Besides our rein and leg aids, there are seat (back) and weight aids. A well-educated instructor will familiarize their students with the concepts and applications of these aids in an easy-to understand format. This takes time and feel and lots of experimenting (until the ‘light bulb’ goes off…). 

As riders, we need to effectively apply seat aids and control the suppleness and rigidity of our backs at will. So, our back musculature must both be strong and supple enough to support our spine and ‘do our bidding’. 

“To effectively apply seat aids and control the suppleness and rigidity of our backs at will, our back musculature must be strong and supple enough to support our spine during movement ‘do our bidding’.”

Ride With Your Back!


Have you ever heard this instruction during a lesson?
What did it mean?

If we were asked to collect the horse, it meant that you should engage the ‘erector‘ muscles. These muscles straighten the spine and make you appear and feel taller.

In our illustration* to the right, these muscles are called “Rückenstrecker”. The literal translation of this German term is “back stretcher”.

* this illustration of the back muscles is from “Das Reiter ABC” by Siegfried von Haugk

back muscles of the rider

The erector muscles

Strong and Supple

Just like in the horse, where strength and suppleness must go hand-in-hand, the rider also needs to be both strong and supple.

For the back muscles, this means, enough strength to

  • support the spine
  • engage muscles as needed and maintain this engagement through movement

and enough suppleness to

  • relax muscles when an engaged back would bother the horse in its movement
  • allow other anatomical elements to maintain their independence (think independent seat)

 

The Rider in the images above (Alois Podhajski on Nero) demonstrates the action of the erector muscles.

On the left:

The rider has a relaxed, natural spinal posture, we clearly see the “S” shape.

On the right:

The rider now engages his erector muscles to lengthen the spine (back stretchers…). We see how the hollow of the back has now “filled out” some, because as we lengthen the spine, it becomes straighter, also visible in the shoulder area.

NOTE: When we talk about filling the small of the back, there are TWO ways to do this. A) For collection and B) for driving or encouraging forward movement. Above is an example for collection.
Stay tuned for part 2 of “The Rider’s Back” soon…

The Rider’s Back – A Precision Instrument

We must take our backs seriously. They have a profound influence on how the horse moves under saddle.

In the best case scenario, your seat is a precision instrument, enabling you to have fine-tuned communication with your horse.

In the worst case scenario, an uneducated, weak or stiff rider back (or one locked into the wrong saddle) has a detrimental effect on the horse’s well being and soundness, up to behavior issues and lameness.

For most recreational riders, it is important to understand that we are ‘somewhere in between’. We do our best but may still have situations, where our riding negatively effects our horses, usually resulting in stiffness and tension.

The good news: As riders, we are all engaged in a process of continuous improvement. Let’s stay aware and work at it! As we improve our backs and seats, our horses well being and suppleness improves!

“Life’s too short to learn how to ride right.”

Master rider & instructor Felix Bürkner

In Short

  • As we advance in our riding education and learn how to ‘ride with back’, we learn to use our seat aids, engage or disengage the back.  We can have a collecting or driving seat.
  • In order to use our seat aid – our backs – effectively, we need to have both strong & supple backs.
  • As we develop our own riding skills, we may inadvertently cause tension and stiffness in our horse’s back.
  • During this learning journey, it is important to
    • develop our back musculature
    • relax and release any tension in our back muscles
    • do the same for our horses by ‘riding right’ and providing relief from tension & restriction

Ready to Ride with Back?

Take these steps:

Get a massage, go swimming, visit the sauna, roll on a foam roller, whatever it takes to massage the tension of stressful every day life right out of your back muscles!

Engage in daily, purposeful exercise that engages the back muscles and respective antagonists. (Careful! Do NOT create bulge… you do not need it!)

Release tension & restriction in your horse, so you can ‘swing’ together! 

  • Recommendation: Schedule a Horse Wellness evaluation and/or bodywork session for your horse. 

horse bodywork

And/or learn safe and effective techniques yourself! I recommend learning the Masterson Method® of Integrated Equine Performance Bodywork™.

Questions?

Please contact me or leave a comment below. Would love to hear from you.

Enjoy your horse!

Stefanie Reinhold

 

ReinholdsHorseWellness.com
HorseHaus.com

 

Please note: I may earn a small commission from any purchase as a result of readers following links to other e-commerce sites, such as Amazon.

horse attitude gratitude

…In the Barn & Beyond

Gratitude. It’s been quite a few years that this powerful concept – thousands of years in the making – has moved into the spotlight of our consciousness. From Oprah & Dr. Oz to gratitude journals (I love the Tiny Buddha’s Gratitude Journal: Questions, Prompts, and Coloring Pages for a Brighter, Happier Life), gratitude rocks, and jars – you name it, it’s there!

Gratitude – A Deep Human Need

From Stone Age to Rocket Age, humans have been practicing collective and individual gratitude (e.g. Thanksgiving Holiday, Thank You cards, Prayers and Offerings, etc.) and there is good reason for it: Gratitude is Good Medicine!

Gratitude is Good Medicine

Have you ever felt warm around the heart when expressing gratitude to someone? Then you did it right! That’s the kind of heart-felt gratitude that feels good to you when expressing it and to the receiver – whether human or not…

No Lip Service, please!

In our brain-centered, head-heavy world, we tend to rationalize, organize, streamline, multi-task – all brain-based ‘surface modes’ that do not get to the core of feelings. To express gratitude so that YOU & the RECEIVER FEELS IT, please let it come from the heart.

Let it come from the heart!

Try this exercise at home:

  1. Stand in front of a mirror (or talk to your dog or an imaginary friend 😉 and say “Thank you for [fill in the blank].” How do you feel?
  2. Now let’s try that again: Feel you heart area. Really direct your consciousness to this area. Then imagine, you heart had lips. Relax you shoulder, soften you gaze, smile a little and say (with your heart lips) “Thank you for  [fill in the blank].” How was that?
  3. In step 3, you ‘lip synch’ with your heart. If you do it right, you will feel your heart area and other parts of you body – perhaps your hands – warm and feel pleasant. This is the kind of FEELING you want to convey when expressing gratitude.

5 Ways to Show Gratitude in the Barn & Beyond

  1. Simply say ‘Thank you for […]’ whenever you feel there is something to be grateful for. Example: I say “Thank you for providing such caring help to Regalo.” to my helper and friend Bettie – either in person or even via text! Important: You must look the person in the eye (when in person), smile, and ‘lip synch’ with your heart. Then it’s a real gift!
  2. Leave a little note. That can be a sticky note with a smiley! Example: I have a little book that my dog walker and I use to communicate. I draw little smileys next to my thank yous and often say “I really appreciate that you….”. Find opportunities to express your thanks to others with little notes they find in unexpected places.
  3. Share a little. Baking something? Got a little too much of something? You certainly have experienced an overabundance of something. Instead of putting it in the freezer or the cupboard, why not attach a little ribbon and a thank you note and express gratitude by sharing. You can find plenty of opportunity! Example: When I buy a big bag of Forage First horse treats, I put a few in a little bag and leave it for a helpful barn friend’s horse with a little thank you note.
  4. Picture that! You may have a smartphone or a phone that takes pictures. These can be easily shared. Taking a picture of something someone else loves or has helped you with and sending it to them with a ‘Thank You’ is a great way to show gratitude. Example: Take a picture of your friend’s horse (“Thank you for […]. I saw your horse in the pasture and thought you’d like to this picture.”)
  5. Book it! Accidentally bought the same horse book twice? You may have done this before, if you are like many horse people on a horse book buying binge… This book will be someone else’s treasure! Write your heartfelt thanks into the cover and give it to or leave it for your helpful barn friend.

You got this!

These are just some ideas. You know best who to thank and how to do it. Practice is key! Here some tips:

  • Practice heartfelt thank yous at home – you may be in ‘brain mode’ and give ‘lip service’ without realizing it!
  • Grow your gratitude vocabulary – create a little collection of terms and phrases that express your gratitude. Write them on a card or in a journal. Soon, they will be anchored in your gratitude tool box!
  • Say less – mean more! A simple heart-felt ‘Thank You’ is better than a stream of words that come from the ‘head’.
  • Be grateful! For everything. Food, air, your old paddock boots, a cup of Joe, fair weather, YOUR HORSE!

Hope you find this helpful. Please share this article, if you do!

THANK YOU for reading this far.

Enjoy your horse!

SReinhold_sm

Stefanie Reinhold

Continue reading “5 Ways to Practice Gratitude”

white horse kind massage

How to Bond with Your Horse

3 Do’s and Dont’s for a Better Relationship

After many successful rehab experiences with horses that had ‘people problems’, and 7 years of working with ‘airs above the grounds’ performer turned equine behaviorist Anita Kush, I realize that a large range of problems in the human – horse interaction can be traced back to a small set of unhelpful behaviors on part of the human.

Let’s get one thing clear: It is NEVER the horse’s fault. If we can agree on this, you may read on and may find something helpful here.

Bonding with our horse – what a wonderful and noble intention.

Not only do we want to get on, get along and understand each other, we want to forge a relationship that will be strong enough to carry us through the unavoidable moment of crisis – big or small. We want to have ‘something in the bank’ – on the trust level. This topic is rich enough to fill a book. But it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Let’s start somewhere…

Here 3 common mistakes and what to do instead:

Mistake: Feed snack as reward.

Do this instead: Let ‘virtue be its own reward’. The exercise went well? The horse stood calmly for the farrier or while mounting? Praise in a soft voice, be a relaxing and reassuring presence for your horse. Then feed snacks out of that context of reward, for no reason at all, just to socialize.

Mistake: Letting your horse fend for himself

Do this instead: A dominant horse is crowding your horse when you fetch her from the pasture? Your horse’s more assertive friend grabs for his feed bowl? A fellow boarder is loud and encroaches on your space in front of your horse? These and other types of situations require you to take charge. Give your horse the feeling that you are “in charge of everything” and will create a safe environment where your horse’s needs (for instance for space) are met. Be your horse’s ‘Joan of Arc’ or ‘Genghis Khan’!

Mistake: Expect obedience at all cost (i.e. “don’t let him get away with it”)

Do this instead: Look at every interaction with your horse as a conversation. E.g. you want to turn left, your horse turns right. Diffuse, deflect, re-channel – never argue with your horse. In this case: Good idea, but let’s do that my way (turning right, circling around, coming at it again, repeat until desired outcome is achieved – without confrontation!). Obedience in horses is a habit willingly built on trust, never enforced.

Follow this ‘recipe’ for 30 days, then let me know how you and your horse are doing.

Enjoy your horse!

SReinhold_sm

Stefanie Reinhold

horses and riders

Path to Performance “RHYTHM”

with Stefanie Reinhold

AMB Stables
lARSEN, WI

10/27/19
9:00 – 4:30

10 Easy Tips to get YOU Started Riding to Music

NOTE: This article focuses on “Tempo” (the beat). Precondition for finding tempo is relaxation and RHYTHM (regularity).
Please see an article on Rhythm here.

As we follow the Olympics (or not…) or view Youtube videos of the classic ‘Pas de Deuxs’ of yesteryear or spunky dressage Freestyles of today, we may get the idea of riding to music ourselves. Not a dressage rider? Never done this before? No problem! You do not have to wear any special kind of pants to have fun with music.FElixBuerkner

For those, who have never tried this and would like to give it a shot, here some tips

1. Getting the ‘horse to move in the beat’

Hmm… this is actually not how it works. It works the other way around! Find your horse’s natural beat (Tempo) in all three gaits and certain exercises (according to your schooling level) by determining Beats Per Minute (BPM). Thanks to modern mobile technology, that’s easy with a Smartphone app such as the Android App BPM Tap. This video shows how it works.

Have someone tap the beat on the Smartphone while you ride and write down the respective bpm for trot, canter, for example.

Here a similar app for the iPhone: Beat Counter for iPhone

If you prefer to take a video of your horse under rider and then determine the needed bpm on your desktop, this is the app for you: BPM Online Counter for Desktop

Here the average BPMs – your horse, depending on size and breed – may differ from this!

  • Walk – between 50-65 BPM
  • Trot – between 75-90 BPM
  • Canter – between 95-110 BPM
  • Passage/Piaffe – between 60-65 BPM

2. Determine the kind of music you like

What type of music do you like? Classical, Pop, Rock, Reggae? Dig around in your CD collection, on your MP3 player, your iTunes, record collection or on Pandora.com.

Unsure? Let your horse guide you! What type of guy or gal is your horse? Daredevil or sensitive flower? What kind of expression do you have as a pair? Serious, sense of humor, goofy, elegant? Have fun with this!

REGISTER HERE NOW: Path to Performance “Rhythm” on 10/27/19 @ AMB Stables in Larsen, WI

3. Find the songs with your horse’s BPM

Oh my! Just when we thought this was going to be easy. Here a good way to start:

  • Go to Equimusic.com, a free resource created by Michael Matson, creator of the “Dancing Horse Fund” or to the very comprehensive, searchable BPM Database.
  • Enter the desired BPM in the search field and ‘enter’ to bring up search results.
  • Browse the songs and listen to the song (youtube, iTunes, etc.) to develop a feel for the beat.

You can either use the suggested songs or find one with a similar beat in your own collection. In that case, double-check with your BMP tap app.

4. Create a log of suitable music per gait.

A great tool is Evernote. You may just be sitting at Starbucks and hear a song that may work for your horse’s trot, tap the beat, confirm, and want to remember that song later! Evernote will work across all your mobile and desktop devices.

5. Create a first practice routine

Motto: Keep it simple and make it short and sweet! Have fun! Just ride in the arena and experiment, then write down what your’d like to do and practice a few times.

Once your are relatively secure, have a friend time the different sequences or take a video so you can time them yourself.

6. Assign music to sequences

Decide which of your selected pieces would be fun to combine and write down your plan.

7. Be the mix master!

Purchase (if needed) the music and mix to match your routine. A useful tool I like and that is also recommend by Equimusic, is the open source application Audacity.

8. Load and go!

Load your mix on your mobile device, get the ear phones going or hook up to your arena speakers and give it a whirl!

9. Some don’ts…

  • Do not try and force your horse into a beat just because you like the song!
  • Your horse has ears, too! Heavy Metal may not be the best choice.
  • When it comes to speaker volume: As high as necessary, as low as possible.
  • Mix it up and create built-in walk breaks. Be mindful of your horse’s fitness level!

10. Last not least…

  • Don’t be surprised if your horse shows a side of his/her personality that you did not know yet. You will feel different and so will your horse!
  • Riding to music can be addictive. You will never listen to the car radio the same way!

Most of all, make this an activity you BOTH can enjoy and keep in mind that it’s easier to overdo it when you are having fun…

As always, enjoy your horse!

SReinhold_sm

Stefanie Reinhold
Reinhold’s Horse Wellness

 

 

horses and riders

Path to Performance “RHYTHM”

with Stefanie Reinhold

AMB Stables
lARSEN, WI

10/27/19
9:00 – 4:30