FOR BET­TER BAL­ANCE ON THE GROUND

EQUUS - - Eq Tack& Gear -

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

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