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ARTICLE, REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION, FROM HORSE AROUND NEW MEXICO, 2019, JULY/AUGUST ISSUE
Fitness for Horse & Rider
Riders like riding better. Riders like their horses moving better and happily. Combining rider awareness with improved horse fitness can help accomplish both. Here is an introduction to Centered Riding® and Conformation Balancing which can help riders accomplish these goals.
Many of us are familiar with Centered Riding, developed by Sally Swift. It focuses on “use of self,” enabling the rider to stay soft to enhance and not impede their horse’s performance.
Centered Riding brings rider awareness back into their own body.
Here are the four basic concepts of Centered Riding:
• Be centered in your body by having
balance, energy and control.
• Focus on and be aware of your breathing to breathe correctly which will bring about relaxation and softness.
• Know and practice basic building blocks which puts your body in a balanced position for best functioning.
• Keep your eyes soft which will improve awareness of self, horse and others.
Conformation Balancing is myofascial bodywork that teaches riders to relieve stuck adhesions, which helps their horses move past athletic and trauma pain.
What is myofascia?
Fascia, myofascia or connective tissue seems like a hidden world. It is the body’s unseen internet, a linked system that connects all the parts. It’s the vital link to the horse’s athletic ability. Horses are master compensators; any strain might not
be apparent due to the horse’s ability to hide the injury in numerous ways. Compensation works until it doesn’t.
The poll is another area that often contains myofascia adhesions.
If the horse has rigid fascia adhesions and compensations from old injuries, he can’t move smoothly nor respond willingly to tasks. This is the source of “resistance” in horses; it’s a can’t, not a won’t.
Four areas to check on your horse:
Conformation Balancing shows very simple, basic ways for riders to melt stuck fascia adhesions in horses, maximizing results for better riding. It addresses
four areas: stance, top line, head and tail.
Riders can look at these areas for vital clues to their horse’s condition. Do this check daily when you visit you horse:
• Stance: Does he stand squarely, easily
• Top line: Are there dips, dents or lumps?
• Head: Is head posture relaxed and is his poll soft?
• Tail: Does it hang loosely and evenly? Is it flexible?
Riding with these two tools- Centered Riding & Conformation Balancing- is an experiential shift, rather than a goal. We raise our receptivity with our horses, enabling us to work from where we are. The horse feels this shift immediately. This emotional connection with the horse is a big reason why people still ride horses. Horses are not just transportation anymore. The horse-rider partnership is a freedom for both sides.
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Riders who routinely pay attention to their horse’s condition can prevent and eliminate issues instead of waiting for a debilitating problem. Short regular scans of your horse’s body with soft palms help us find changes and tightness quickly. The power of melting fascia helps our horse immediately, before it turns into a stuck limitation.
Fix it before it breaks.
It is exciting to see riders focus less
on what’s “wrong” and become more present for their own riding experience. Quick to fault themselves, riders become unconsciously performance driven. This can pressure the horse past his physical and emotional limits. Our relationship with our horses is far more complex than our relationship with our cars or bicycles and far more rewarding.
By learning more about Centered Riding and Conformation Balancing, we will become more present with ourselves
and our horses, fix problems before they intensify and be better horsemen.
How the combo began
Margret Henkels and Dorothy Crosby have combined their expertise and established Soft Riders/Soft Horses,
a horse healing and human coaching method. The two met as presenters during Equine Affaire 2017 in Massachusetts.
Dorothy presented Centered Riding demonstrations. The two clicked immediately, realizing what their work had in common: consideration for the horse. Centered Riding and Conformation Balancing were good partners for a balanced horse.
In 2018 the duo presented a combo workshop called Soft Riders/Soft
Horses in a horse event in Vermont. They call it, “An empowering marriage of the two, integrating body consciousness, balance, softness, mental poise, holistic fitness level and happiness for both horse and rider.”
Margret Henkels is the author of Is Your Horse 100% and developer of Conformation Balancing. See ConformationBalancing.com.
Dorothy Crosby, a Third Level Centered Riding instructor based in Vermont, manages Southmowing Stables, owned by Lucile Bump,
a legacy Sally Swift protégé. See Crosbyequi-libruim.com.
The key in riding is choosing a horse that is safe yet expanding for us. Often, riders choose complicated goals. These can slow down basic skill development and bring disappointment to a sport we love. If we’re not competitors, we don’t need competitor goals. If we want to be safe hacking in the forest, we don’t need a hot horse with little outside experience. We can choose a horse that’s fun!
Riding in indoor arenas is a different experience from riding a country road. Other horses, limited area, props, people coming and going —-there are many distractions for the less experienced horse and rider. There is a huge opportunity here for both to grow, if the tasks aren’t pushing rider or horse over their edge of competency. Just bending to the right around a slower horse can be a big deal for a large or stiff horse and rider not used to tighter quarters.
Relax. Do the simple, easy things until confidence is higher. If canter is daunting, stick to walk and trot. Learn which horses are irritable and how to ride around them. It’s not their fault. Build a “less is more” approach so that your rides succeed.
Be in the Fascia Fitness wave & help your horse be 100% and stay that way!
Learn how to SEE the truth of your horse’s fitness by Stance, Top Line, Head & Tail observations. Learn to find problems ASAP, instead of years later when he’s lame or doesn’t move well. Prevent future problems easily and quickly. Best of all, see how beautiful your horse really can be!
It’s a practical, simple way…get “Is Your Horse 100%?” Book & DVD by Margret Henkels. http://ConformationBalancing.com