Position of the rider: Alignment
Good body’s alignment is very important for good riding
Correct alignment is imperative for rider’s body to function at its best and for being an effective and efficient rider. The old ‘ear, shoulder, hip and heel’s line’ taught in all riding schools has been universally adopted for a very good reason.
Skeleton’s bones are light but very strong. Deep muscles close to the spine work to keep the body upright while others help you to move. Muscles have specific actions; they work in pairs and in teams.
When muscles have completed an action, they return to a ‘resting lenght’, ready for action when you need them and waiting patiently to be called upon.
Your position has a huge impact on the way your horse moves underneath you. Your spinal alignment influences every aspect of your riding, from where your legs are positioned on the horse’s sides to how you can apply a half-halt aid. Poor alignement of spinal column, together with a lack of stability and flexibility, affects how well you can absorb the horse’s motion, for example in the sitting trot. If your weight is unevenly distribuited, perhaps loaded forward or back of the vertical line of gravity, or you find more difficult to turn one way compared with the other, your body will be giving signals to the horse to move in a certain way, even if you aren’t aware of it. Tiny deviations have an impact on you and your horse work together. Almost all of the time, correcting rider alignment dramatically reduces the horse’s apparent one-sidedness, and helps enormously with straightness issues, loss of bend or engagement in transition and contact problems.
Once these issues have become less troublesome, the genuine training needs of the horse become clearer to both trainer and rider and progress suddenly seems much more straightforward.
Many riders spend a fortune on having their horses treated by a physiotherapist or chiropractor and having their saddles checked and refitted regularly – all that is obviously very good – yet they are unaware of the huge impact their own riding has on their horse’s ability to move freely and the effect it has on whether the treatment received will be effective in the long term. As one half of the patnership, it is just as important that rider’s body functions to the best of its ability, to ensure that all that he does for horse’s welfare is not wasted.
Understanding straightness and how to achieve it can help you to help yourself and your horse avoid pain, strain, biomechanical dysfunction and poor performance. The horse’s straightness in the scales of training is not gained by rigidly holding him in a shape, but it is the result of the progressive suppling and strenghtening of his body through the work you do with him to ensure flexibility and hind leg support become equally available.