FOR BETTER BALANCE ON THE GROUND
Those results are merely side effects. Physical fitness is critical for good horsemanship, but let’s save that topic for another time.
What we are exercising today are nerves and neurons. Proprioceptive nerves include muscle spindles, joint angle receptors, and Golgi tendon organs that send impulses from a body part to the brain. Proprioceptive neurons inside the brain receive and interpret those signals. To shape these nerves and neurons, you’ll place your body in varied positions, then focus mentally and require your brain to do the heavy lifting. Ready? Let’s get to work.
TOT ALIGN T THE JOINTS
Joint alignment exercises followf a common process: 1) align a body part mentally, 2) check it visually, 3) correct as needed and 4) repeat until your brain learns the position. It works for all planes of alignment, so you can be creative in devising different actions with various joints. Pay special attention to the areas of misalignment that you identified last month.
To start, just stand in front of a mirror with your eyes closed. Square your shoulders so that each one feels the same distance from your ears. When your brain says they’re aligned, open your eyes and look. Are they? If you’re off by a smidge, close your eyes and readjust until both shoulders are in line. Try to memorize the aligned position. Use the same technique on your elbows, hips, knees, ankles and feet. Align, check and correct for a few minutes every day, and within a week you’ll see results. When your mental alignment is accurate at a standstill, try walking or bending into position.
Alignment techniques can be done standing, seated, lying down with bent knees, lying flat or in the saddle. They can also be performed near a wall, so that you move joints one at a time to touch the wall. Make your brain judge the distance, and practice until the shoulder, hips and knee joints on each side of your body move with equal facility and coordination. Have a friend take photos of you from various perspectives while mounted, then study them for misalignments. The position your brain says is square could be “antigogglin.”
Balance matters on a horse---a hint of unplanned forward or backward movement in a jumper rider’s upper body can make the difference between a clean leap and a dirty stop. Have you ever catapulted off a horse after a hard refusal? It smarts. And it’s not great for your neurons, either.
Here’s a good exercise for improving your balance: 1) Stand on one foot with your arms extended to the sides. 2) Focus on an eye-level point in the distance, without using a mirror. 3) When you can stand for 30 seconds on