Our position has an enormous impact on the way our horse moves underneath us, and our spinal alignment influences every aspect of our riding. One of the common problems that I see is the rider inadvertently stacking their weight more over one side of the horse than the other. As a general rule your horse will follow your weight, which makes weight aids the most powerful of all aids but we need to make sure we are using our weight correctly, otherwise our inadvertent usage can not only be confusing to our horse it can actually be detrimental to the horse’s physical well being!
Of course this imbalance is frequently caused by the positioning of the pelvic girdle but the spine and rib cage can also be responsible. Your spine can have curves in the wrong place and your rib cage can turn, shift laterally and tilt laterally out of alignment!
Postural scoliosis – or non-structural scoliosis – is caused by muscular imbalances, and as such can benefit tremendously from exercise. Of course, first of all you need to be aware that you are crooked, and when your crookedness is your norm, your body may well lie to you and tell you that you are straight even when you are not.
One of the best exercises for helping align the spine is the Mermaid Stretch. This stretch is particularly effective at targeting lateral curves in the upper region of the back. Depending on how far you feel comfortable side bending, it can also be very useful at targeting lateral curves in the Lumbar (lower) region. With time, the muscular imbalances begin to correct themselves through doing more opening exercises on your closed (collapsed) side – amongst other corrective exercises – and any compressed inter-vertebral discs will begin to decompress and strengthen.
Obviously for the exercise to work you have to do it properly and in alignment, so it far better if you can go to a rider exercise class or a pilates class but if you haven’t a class near you, this is how it is done.
- Sit with your legs in a 90/90 position.
- Inhale to prepare, think of lengthening your spine towards the ceiling
- As you exhale raise the arm on the side of the front leg overhead and reach over as far as you can in a side bend:
- The hand closest to your back knee can pull on this knee to increase the stretch in your Quadratus Lomborum.
- Try to keep both hips firmly planted on the mat.
- Keep the spine long to avoid excessive disc compression. It might help to imagine reaching towards the point that the wall meets the ceiling.
- Hold the stretch and breathe in.
- Exhale to return to the starting position
- Repeat on both sides approximately 3-5 times, then change leg position and repeat on the other side.
If you are not sure if you collapse to one side or if you would like some help with the Mermaid Stretch and other exercises why not book a place at the Posture & Alignment Awareness Clinic at Pengraig on 26 February or come and join us for a whole weekend at the Bodywork & Posture Clinic at Brandy House Farm on 17 to 19 March.