Although we know we need to ride in alignment and know the importance of good posture, most of us don’t automatically think about our ribs when it comes to riding. We are aware of the importance of our pelvic girdle being level (anyone who has read Sally Swift will be know of her analogy about visualising your pelvis as a bowl of water – when you are sitting with a neutral spine the water doesn’t spill out), but very few of us consider our rib cage. But our rib cage is important! Basically if we imagine our body as a set of building blocks, each block should be stacked one over the other. And the rib cage block should be aligned over our pelvic girdle block. In addition to the front/back plane of leaning or collapsing forward or leaning behind the vertical (my own weakness) we also need to consider the side/side plane. Our rib cage can all too easily slant to the side, collapse on one side or have one side in front of the other. All of which will have an affect on our horse.
Having actually thought about our rib cage and considered where it actually is in relationship to our hips, the next question is can you line it up with your pelvis? If you have a front/back discrepancy this may involve you bringing your rib cage over the top of your hips so that are in a straight line. For some this requires a shortening of the front of the body while lengthening the back and for others visa versa. A session on PI (my Posture and Alignment indicator) can be really helpful as she will tell you if your weight is too far forwards, backwards, left or right.
If you have a side/side discrepancy you will need to adjust your ribs appropriately. As I mentioned above your ribs may tilt sideways and rotate, and possibly even shift all at the same time. The variables in the stacking pattern of our building blocks are virtually unlimited. So how can you tell what your rib cage is doing and more to the point, how can you deal with it. The answer here is easy – your elbows. If your elbows are the same height as each other (try rubbing the inside of your elbow on your belt) and neither one nor the other is in front of the other then your rib cage is stacked correctly on a side/side plane.
Our rib cage is actually very mobile and it moves much more than we think. If we wish to keep it correctly stacked and be able absorb the motion of our horse we need to be able to activate the appropriate muscles. Try rib cage slides, lifts and circles to increase your awareness and tone, along with Bow and Headlight Dazzle, Side Plank and Oblique Strengthener.
Another great tip is to practice lining up your blocks (ribs and pelvis) when you are sitting at your desk and driving your car. The more you practice this, the easier it will become when you are on the horse.