We talk about neutral spine a lot and also alignment in terms of ear, shoulder, hip and heel. Whilst most riders are aware of it, it can kind of be left to go awry if we find it difficult to maintain, or if no one points out that we aren’t doing it after years of letting bad habits in.
The more I talk the riders the more I notice that many don’t actually know why we ride in neutral alignment.
Do you know why?
Often if I ask riders why they think we ride like this I get answers like “to keep the horse in balance, to remain over the strongest part of the horse and it keeps you more balanced….”
All true don’t get me wrong, but the thing is even at the highest levels (I’m always analysing the alignment at Grand Prix!) they aren’t all in this alignment so you start to think well if I can get the job done without being in this alignment then why should I struggle to try and achieve and maintain it?
I will add that the super elite as I would call them-Carl, Charlotte, Isabell etc. Are in this neutral alignment.
But back to why you should be.
Neutral Spine stacks up all of your joints on top of one another in perfect alignment which allows it a much stronger foundation upon which to absorb the movement of the horse beneath you without placing excessive strain on the ligaments, tendons and muscles as well as creating just one line of pull for gravity to act on rather than being out of alignment which gives gravity extra lines to pull and on well…….gravity might just get the better of you!
Basically it does keep you balanced but it also protects you from injury from just riding itself.
I see lots of riders with back pain, most commonly Dressage riders who when I watch ride will hollow or lean back during sitting trot in an attempt to stay balanced and let the horse go forwards when unfortunately what they are actually doing is putting the movement of half a ton of horse athlete through their lower back in extension and it’s not able to keep doing this without complaining eventually! It is also not the most effective way to get your horse to move forward with impulsion but that’s a different blog post.
So, I want you to go away and think about your alignment and how you think you stack up. This will be extremely useful for you if you do have any aches and pains but even if not you should still take this into consideration to ensure you are bullet proofing yourself further down the line.
If you want some help with this I offer 1 2 1 on horse assessments at £35 (local only or if you have 4+ riders a clinic could be arranged) and this can be combined with an off horse Biomechanics assessment of yourself for £60 as a package.