The "Whys" Behind Rider Posture

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Six-six-six. This is not some weird Halloween thing but my new mantra to help me with my riding posture, the result of a clinic with Susanne von Dietze. She's a Dressage Today contributor and she wrote the book (literally) on rider stability.

Susanne and I are all smiles as we start the second day of the clinic.

Susanne and I are all smiles as we start the second day of the clinic.

I knew that neither I nor my mare were in shape for a clinic. My mare has been rehabbing for 1 1/2 years, which means I haven't done as much riding as I'd like, and I've had physical issues as well. We're now leaving the rehabbing phase and entering the conditioning phase, but I knew I wasn't ready.

However, here was the SOURCE, coming not just to my area but to my own barn. I just wasn't going to pass this up. I gave her a brief note ahead of time about our situation and hoped she could devise a lesson plan that wouldn't leave me a pile of mush. The result was a revelation.

First was Susanne's teaching style. There were no negatives (i.e. "Don't look down."). But the opposite wasn't just positives (i.e. "Look up.") but how to do the positives, such as lining up the brim of my helmet with the horizon. NO ONE ever tells me I am leaning back too much, but here I was doing 2-point as a counter action (while I'm sure my mare was sniggering at me.)

Susanne had a long list of exercises that flowed into each other, and I appreciated her explanations. I always want to know the why, not just the what, of what I'm being asked to do. The one that resonated with me the most was about the vertebrae at the back of the neck. I found myself repeating 6-6-6 so I would raise the sixth vertebra. It was easy!

So here's the bottom line (again, literally). I expected to be exhausted and sore by the end of the lesson, trudging back to the barn and barely able to lift my saddle onto its rack as usual. Instead, much to my surprise, I was still full of energy and remained that way for the rest of the day (thus it wasn't just an adrenalin high). Nor did I have the horrid leg cramps that usually plague me when I do something a little different physically.

The same thing happened the second day, with another long list of new exercises (with my friend Ashley taking notes) and some interesting work on my mare using my new tools. Susanne attributed my increased energy level to a better flow of oxygen in my body, and I have to agree.

I'm really looking forward to my riding for the next few months, after a year of tack walking! Now, if I can just lose those pesky extra 10 pounds . . .

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