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The Women & Horses Newsletter - August 2003
All-Discipline Riding for a Lifetime

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              ~~~~~~~From Mary D. Midkiff~~~~~~~

     1. Reminder: Upcoming Events
     2. Article: All-Discipline Riding for a Lifetime
1. Upcoming Events - Please come if you can.

    You'll find the complete Calendar here:

    * August 23-24
      Women & Horses™ Clinic 
      A horse and rider experience for all disciplines, breeds
           and skill levels of riding
      "Finding the Rider's Performance Edge Through Body 
      Wright’s Arena
      Hwy. 41
      Moriarity, NM
      To register contact Mary Midkiff: 303-544-0333 
        or in NM call Cheryl Pozzi: 505-286-3355
    * November 6-8
      Equine Affaire New England
      2 seminars daily 
      West Springfield, MA

2. All-Discipline Riding for a Lifetime 
   By Mary D. Midkiff

How can a biomechanics approach possibly address all of the 
various disciplines and styles of riding? It’s hard to imagine
that one vision can suit everyone, when there is saddleseat 
equitation, hunt or forward seat equitation, equitation over 
fences, dressage, "park" seat, endurance and racing sports, 
gaited breeds, and in the western disciplines, pleasure, roping,
reining, trail and barrel racing, all featuring different 
clothing, a variety of tack and saddlery and a "certain winning 
look" in competition.

I get this question a great deal because I teach riding from a
biomechanical standpoint that applies to all riders and all 
horses. People ask if this approach will somehow look odd or 
diminish their chances of doing well in a particular 
competition, change them too much or maybe even embarrass them 
in front of their friends and trainers.

In fact, the opposite is true.  Riding with a biomechanical
approach means to ride in balance, in alignment, in harmony with
your horse's movement and with power.  You actually gain power 
and strength through riding with your natural biomechanical form
and ability.  It doesn’t matter what type of clothing you wear 
or what breed of horse you ride; understanding, feeling and 
implementing positive movement through your body, your joints 
and your aids or cues is what matters to you and your horse.  If
you want the best performance from your horse, you must ride 
from a biomechanical or "body movement" foundation.

Riding using the biomechanics of your body means making very 
subtle but significant changes in your joint to joint alignment.
When you first learn about the biomechanics of the female and 
male bodies as they apply to riding activities, you realize how 
very different the sexes are from a structural point of view. 
Alignment changes of a sixteenth of an inch can make a huge 
difference in how light you feel and move.  With just a slight 
shift in angle, your body is freed up to travel forward with the

Think of the inner workings of a watch, where there is a large 
center gear or wheel that sets all of the other gears and wheels
moving to keep a steady rhythm and ultimately the correct time.
Our hip joints are the center gear or hinge of our bodies.  All 
other joints depend on the hip joint to be free and moving 
properly, supporting the pelvis and thereby all joints above and
below it.  If the pelvis isn’t in a neutral position (this can 
vary from male to female and from individual to individual), the
hip joint is limited in its range of motion and function, and 
the rest of the body has to take over and work harder.  Injuries
arise quickly from this syndrome -- sore backs, tight necks, 
aching knees, chafed crotch and on and on until riding isn't fun
anymore and you’re spending more time at the doctor’s office 
than you are at the barn.

The basis of all riding begins with finding your neutral pelvis,
which can mean a tiny adjustment in the saddle to obtain the 
most supportive place in your ischial tuberosities (seat bones).
With the help of a knowledgeable professional, you can find 
neutral pelvis in your exercise work off the horse as well.  
Pilates is the most complementary form of body awareness and 
exercise available to horseback riders, in my opinion.  You 
learn to find and work with a neutral pelvis, develop a straight
tall spine, a strong deep inner abdominal core and lengthen the
leg muscles.  It will give you the tools you need in the saddle 
better than anything else I have found in practice.  

In each "seat" or riding style there are unique considerations. 
One discipline may demand a shorter stirrup, another a longer 
leg with a forward position, another holding the reins with one 
hand, another with very low heels in the stirrup, not to mention
all of the different saddles used which put the rider in a 
variety of body positions. 

Despite all these variables, the basics are the same. The pelvis
is the foundation, the hip joint connects to the femur or thigh 
down to the knee, the ankle and the toes. All of the hinges have
to operate without interference or tightness for the rider's 
body to "come through" with each stride the horse takes.  In the
upper body, the movement also emanates from the pelvis and the 
hip joint.  The spine travels from the pelvis through the coccyx
and the sacrum up into the head.  There is no break in that 
connection.  Forget about your waist. The spine is one long 
moving supportive alignment system.  Our tendencies to collapse
forward or arch our backs are lazy or weak faults we can work 
out of toward the goal of complete uninterrupted movement. 

Riding using your biomechanics is like finding a fountain of 
youth!  You decrease the wear and tear, the injuries, the com-
pression, the tightness, the mixed signals and the amount of 
work.  You increase your longevity to ride for a lifetime in
comfort, safety and health.  

Why wouldn’t everyone want that, regardless of discipline?

Happy Riding,

Mary D. Midkiff
           Women have a special magic with horses...
Equestrian Resources, Inc.
PO Box 20187
Boulder, CO 80308
Phone 303-544-0333
(c)2003 All rights reserved.
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