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The Women & Horses Newsletter - October 2002
Rethinking Posture: Part Two
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         Women and Horses Newsletter, October 2002

This newsletter is only sent to those who signed up for it at
the Women & Horses web site, or at one of my workshops or
demonstrations. If you do not wish to receive any more emails
from me, just let me know:
              ~~~~~~~From Mary D. Midkiff~~~~~~~

     1. Upcoming Events
     2. Rethinking Posture: Part Two

1. Upcoming Events

I've added 3 events to my Calendar for 2002 and 2003. 

You'll find the complete Calendar here:

   * November 6, 2002, 6-7 p.m.
       Naropa University
       Location: Triple Creek Ranch lounge, 
         Nelson Rd., Boulder, CO
       Lecture: Gender Differences and Body Biomechanics as they
         apply to the rider 
       Contact: Kathy King Johnson to register 

   * January 29-31, 2003
       Pomona, California 
       Women & Horses(TM) "Getting the Most from your Horse 
          Partnership" Lectures and Demonstrations 
       http://www.equineaffaire.com for tickets and information

   * April 4-6, 2003
       Des Moines, IA 
       Women & Horses(TM) "Getting the Most from your Horse 
       Lectures and Demonstrations 
       Contact: Karen Harris 515-279-2173

2. Rethinking Posture: Part Two
By Mary D. Midkiff

As I was looking for information about riderís body issues, I 
was introduced to an enlightening approach to our posture in 
life in general.

Dr. Victor Barker, a physician based in New Zealand, has written
an insightful book called "Posture Makes Perfect." He claims 
that correct alignment relieves osteoarthritis, makes childbirth
easier and safer, enhances sexual performance, reshapes your 
body, sharpens eyesight, retards aging, relieves back pain,
improves general health, reduces obesity, advances sporting
performance, increases industrial efficiency and improves mental

All of these areas are comprehensively explored in Dr. Barkerís
book and it helped me gain a new respect for and insight on how
important body awareness and healthy alignment can be when 
carried through our lives and in our riding. Reading this book
also gave me a deeper understanding of the weight-bearing joints
in movement, which further reinforced the importance of 
exercises and body awareness techniques to support all riding

I was drawn to the chapter on unique sports and daily 
activities, like horseback riding, driving a car or truck, and
riding a motorcycle or bicycle, which require constant flexion
of the hip joint and related muscles. This chronic flexed 
position can be harmful to the joints (Dr. Barker calls it 
shearing and compressing forces) over time if exercises to
stretch and counter the flex are not incorporated as support. 
And I would add to this by saying that correct saddle fit 
minimizes wear and tear in the flexed position.  

As I stated in Part One of this article, the pelvis of the rider
while mounted must remain in a neutral position in order for the
upper body and the lower body to function correctly, efficiently
and with comfort. Dr. Barkerís book adds that the muscle groups
surrounding the pelvis should be working in unison to stabilize
and support the horseís movement up through the riderís body.

The abductor muscles (outer thigh), the adductor muscles (inner
thigh), and the iliopsoas (hip flexor) should work together and
be equally strengthened for the joints to wear evenly and bear 
weight with little force while you are in the saddle in a flexed

I recently had an experience with this issue when my horse was 
having trouble bending to the right. We successfully traveled 
straight throughout her arena work except when we tried to bend
to the right and she would find every way possible to wiggle out
of position and into counter balance. Subsequently, I was 
stressing and inflaming my right hip joint and upper thigh 
trying to correct her. We both ended up taking a month off to
heal and regroup. I had her adjusted by a chiropractor and 
through that examination and treatment found that she was 
indeed out of alignment in several areas of her spine which were
loading her weight on her left front leg. Therefore, she 
compensated by trying to shift her weight. She was unsuccessful 
at the attempt to get the weight off her left front and her left
fore tendon then showed swelling.

I, too, went to see my chiropractor and acupuncturist to loosen
my tight muscle groups surrounding the pelvis and to make sure
my pelvis was not tilted or rotated.

A tilted or rotated pelvis, no matter how subtle or how severe,
can greatly affect your riding. This condition can shorten or
lengthen one leg, create weight variations in your seat bones
(ischial tuberosities), affect your upper body function in 
straightness, and even cause a rib to move out of a healthy 

My work is all about giving riders awareness of themselves and 
their bodies as it applies to riding. Here are a few more 
helpful exercises to get you in tune with your spine and pelvis.
And guess who always benefits from your body awareness? 
Your horse!!!

With a friend, practice these enjoyable exercises to discover
where your strength originates.


Position One: Stand with your back against a wall, placing your
feet about six inches away from the wall and about 8 inches 
apart facing straight ahead. Make sure your head, shoulders and
tailbone are against the wall. Now extend your arms straight out
in front of you (like Frankenstein) and have your friend try to
pull you away from the wall. Note what happens and how easy it 
is to dislodge you.

Position Two: Stand again with your back against the wall, feet 
in the same position as before. This time bend your knees 
slightly and press your lower back into the wall. You may have 
to suck your abdominal muscles or stomach in to get your lower
back onto the wall. Now check that your head, shoulders, entire
back and pelvis are against the wall. Extend your arms out as
before and have your friend try and pull you from the wall. Note
the power you have gained and how you have strength without work.


Position One: Stand with a friend face to face at least arms
length apart. Stand as you normally do and extend both arms out
toward your friend. Now ask your friend to place her arms on top
of yours and push down as hard as possible. Note how hard you
have to work to hold your arms in place and how easily she can
push them down.

Position Two: Assume the same position face to face, arms 
extended. Now change your posture. Slightly bend the knees, 
think of what it felt like to press your lower back against the 
wall, and try to find a neutral pelvic position with your feet
feeling grounded. Slightly allow your upper body to come forward
over your pelvis and ask your friend to press your arms down 
again. Note the power you have gained with little or no work in
your body.

These are just some of the exercises we work on in my clinics 
to give riders a sense of how they can gain power and per-
formance with little muscle work when correctly aligned. 
Remember posture is not a negative term anymore. Itís how you 
approach it and incorporate it into your life that counts.

(Dr. Barkerís book was published in 1993 by 
Japan Publications, Inc., Tokyo and New York.)
           Women have a special magic with horses...
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