Have you ever heard of the term “Comparable Parts”? It means that we can take a look at our horse’s body and our own, and see the similarities. We have the same muscles and the same bones. Therefore in most cases the rule applies that what is a good biomechanics for a human to function, the same biomechanics apply to our horses.
So then what is the main difference between how a human uses her body and how a horse uses his? We once got up on our hind legs and started to walk upright. Our horses remained on all four feet. This means that our spine has a vertical alignment whereas our horses spine has a horizontal alignment. But still the same rules of biomechanics apply!
For a healthy use of the body, we want our horses to step under with their hind legs, forward under their point of weight. Because this makes their pelvis tilt, bringing their tail down and their back up. For us, the same rule applies; you want your knees to come forwards while at the same time ‘dropping your tail’, which brings your waistline back and flattens your lower back. We want to walk a collected walk. Look around you in a busy street or at an airport. Most people walk with ‘pushing hind legs’; pushing their bodies forward which makes them move with their heads stuck out and their lower back hollow. Just like we do NOT want our horses to move!
If you want to help your horse move correct, you have to sit correct on your horse. But is goes further then that. You help your horse the most by changing how you use your body in your entire daily life. Horses mirror us and we mirror our horses. Even from the ground. Even when we take them out of the field or brush them in the barn. Just like we subconsciously copy the posture of our parents, our teachers and our riding instructors. You are the biggest change when you can change yourself. It will influence the people and the horses around you when you carry yourself with poise. Your upright posture will give you more energy and more confidence.
Also when you ride, your horse will notice the difference. Sitting on his back with a hollow back yourself, your hips will be blocked and your upper legs will push the horses back down, causing him to move with a dropped back himself. Flattening your lower back will free your hip joints and will enable the horse to move his spine and bring his back up.
You want your horse to be 'round', to lengthen his upper line. By lengthening your own, you help reach this in your horse. In Alexander Technique they speak about letting your head go "forward and up" while your tail drops down. You think your head away from your tail and your tail away from your head. This lengthens your own 'upper line'.
Any tension anywhere in your body will be picked up by your horse and will give a response in your horse. Some horses are more sensitive to it then others, but as your sensitivity and postural awareness develops, so does the sensitivity of your horse.
We call it comparable parts because really, that is what it is. Your back and the horses back are one in this horse-and-rider equilibrium. Your shoulders should move with his. Your legs should move with his hind legs. Your tension is his tension and your suppleness becomes the suppleness of the horse.
In turns and side movements, this means that you will put your own body in the same position as you want your horse's body to be positioned. Your head is placed parallel to your horse's head, your shoulders turn in the direction of the movement of your horse's front legs and your legs follow the movement of your horse's hind legs.
You put yourself in the shape and position you want your horse to move in.
I like to share my thoughts on the Art of Riding with you here. Topics related to training and keeping horses and reports of my own experiences you can find here. Enjoy!