How is everyone doing?
Now we haven’t got any competitions for the foreseeable future now is a great time to perhaps look at those niggly problems when you ride. Or perhaps just fine tune your skills a little by checking in with your position and straightening up any wonkiness.
Neutral spine is mentioned a lot – I definitely say it a lot when teaching. But what is it and why do we want to achieve and maintain it whilst riding?
Neutral spine is when all of the joints of the body are stacked directly on top of one another in perfect alignment. When the body is in this position it all of the stabiliser muscles, tendons and ligaments to assist the joints in absorbing force. If we are not in neutral absorbing force requires some of the stabilisers to take on more work than others. Over time this can increase tension in some muscles, weakness in others and increase risk of injury. It also makes you less effective at absorbing the movement of your horse underneath you and therefore not as effective a rider as you could be.
There is also the issue of maintaining your own balance of the most stable part of the horses back. If you are tipped forward you have more weight forward, pushing your horse more onto his forehand and therefore increasing the pressure on his front legs. If you are leaning back you are placing more weight at the back of the saddle and on the parts of the spine not supported by the rib cage. This makes it more difficult for him to engage his hind end correctly. It is therefore important for both your horses wellbeing and performance that you are striving for neutral.
How do you achieve neutral? Of course it sounds simple to say you need to line up your ear, shoulder, hip and heel. However firstly how can you tell if you are doing that with the added complication of a horse underneath you? Secondly you could have these points lined up and still have wiggly bits in between.
In Equipilates we split the body into boxes and then use visualisations and cues for “feel” in order to be able to use this system to check in with yourself whilst you are riding.
I’ve made a video to talk you through it. If you aren’t riding at the moment you can still practice this on a gym ball or a chair.