pilates on horseback?


i went with a client to watch her ride her horse the other day.  now, just to be clear, everything i know about riding i learned from black beauty, black stallion (every book) and a zillion historical romance novels (i know, i know) or my clients who ride.   and when i say ride?  i don’t mean once a year on a trail ride, i mean ride and jump and show and train with trainers and things.  heck, they wear HAIRNETS!  you take your stuff seriously if you wear one of those!

so, in other words, a riding instructor i am not.  what i am is a teacher of movement with a keen eye and a deep fascination for anatomy and body mechanics.

so i went to this barn where they have this arena.  did you know that a scene in life can occur in a barn without a tryst/rape/hiding from danger+rescue/fire and daring horse rescue wherein the heroine rescues a baby and then gets yelled at+ravished by the hero/boy meets horse/ etc?  yeah, neither did i.

so we went to this barn (which is nicer than my home) where they have this arena and she got out her horse and hopped on and i stood there and watched and waited for her to warm up the horse and then she rode up and we started talking.  i have no idea how long we repeated this.  me thinking things and asking her things, she trying the physical cues i was suggesting and adapting to them.

it was amazing to watch.  when we started she was somehow pulling her horse with her breastbone (long bone in the middle of your ribcage that goes from the base of your throat toward your belly button and ends where your ribs flare out) instead of letting him lift her.

she wasn’t “one with the horse” which is what every single writer who has ever wanted to describe good horseback riding says approximately every third chase or race sequence, particularly one involving the aforementioned hero and heroine.  she was somehow bringing herself up just before the horse was and almost willing him along.

so i suggested that she let the horse and gravity have her, that she let her breastbone fall and that she basically work on relaxing.  interestingly enough her horse was fighting her a little, trying to take his head and he kept spooking or shying. (horsey speak for jumping at shadows)

so over the course of the discussion i wondered if her horse would chill out if she learned to relax into the ride rather than perch on it.  if, as she learned to let gravity have her, to let her thigh bones live in her hips, to connect to her hamstrings and the arches of her feet while riding would the horse be a nicer horse to ride.

she had a couple of moments that were so awesome to see, moments where she just let go a little and stopped using her low back as a spring.  moments where her seat just lifted and her body was in the right place.  the coolest thing that day was that she felt her right elbow “snap into place” and suddenly understood why it was supposed to sit there.

the coolest thing for me?

she came to class a few days later after having ridden again without the creepy audience (aka moi) and was all lit up with excitement.  apparently a lot of what we discussed had kind of clicked in her sleep and sort of happened more easily when she wasn’t trying so hard to get it and her horse calmed down!  that’s amazing!

i have done a lot of work with clients who play sports.  they show me their golf swing, their volleyball spike, their curling take off, their goalie moves or whatever and i comment from photos i’ve seen of top athletes and my trained eye.

generally they tell me that my comments dovetail with lessons they’ve taken but never have i taken it into the field.  well, not in real life, we won’t discuss how i watch sports!

i’m really gratified to know that movement is movement, that a good teacher can actually impact any sport her clients are performing.  i knew this intuitively and because there are all sorts of articles on the internet that say so, but this?  it’s different somehow.

i didn’t give her a pilates lesson, i gave her a movement lesson ON a horse.  what the heck is that?

awesome, that’s what that was.  so fun!

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