Why Neutral?

When we talk about rider biomechanics we talk about being in neutral. You will move in and out of it slightly as you move with the horse but it should always be your set point.

But why?

Is it because it looks nice? Is it tradition as so many things are with riding?

Actually, there are proper legitimate reasons for riding in neutral. When I refer to Neutral I don’t just mean the Pelvis. 

Neutral refers to all of the joints of the spine stacked directly on top of one another in perfect alignment, with relaxed, moveable joints in the limbs.

This enables them to absorb movement more effectively which means you will sit much stiller with more stability. This enables you to move with your horse and give clearer aids. 

It also means you are completely in line with the pull of gravity. Creating just one line of pull for gravity to act on as opposed to being out of alignment means there is less chance of gravity getting the better of you!

Neatly stacked joints also avoids putting extra strain on the supporting ligaments, tendons and stabiliser muscles as they do not have to fight to keep joints safe if they are already aligned. This therefore helps to prevent injury through strain or pulling of those ligaments, tendons and muscles. 

So, how do you apply this to your riding?

Here are a couple of tips to get you thinking neutral.

Imagine stacking yourself up in boxes. Your pelvis is one box, your rib cage another and then your head the top. Your aim is to stack all of the boxes directly on top of one another.

Starting with your Pelvis. Have your Seat bones pointing directly down as if you could plug yourself in to the saddle. With your Pelvis level then imagine there are 4 corners to your pelvis and rib cage with dowels on like flat pack furniture and slot them together so your rib cage is directly over your pelvis. Then sit your head directly over your spine with your ears in line with your shoulders.

As mentioned, Neutral is not a rigid position, you will move gently in and out of it as you move with your horse but you continue to pass through it each time as your central point. 

If this is new to you just give the stacking up process a try and see how it feels! 

Think of it as part of your anti fall, injury prevention and effectiveness tool kit!

What do you need to work on?

Are you self aware as a rider?

Do you ever evaluate your own performance?

It’s too often I see/hear riders listing their schooling issues and the multiple ways in which their horse causes them. 

It’s less often that I hear riders list the ways they are creating, contributing or at very least certainly not fixing a problem with their schooling.

Yet, often when I teach riders on horse or go through an exercise off horse for them to transfer to their riding, we change the rider and it fixes the horse. 

So, was the horse ever the problem in the first place? Or was it reacting to a rider not communicating in a way the horse understood?

It’s tough, I get it. You try so hard and it can still feel like you’re getting nowhere. 

The best riders I know spend time looking at how they could be better, and they go away and work on it. 

Whether that’s something they can work on whilst riding or something they need to work on off horse; they put the work in to better themselves and the end result we see is a better partnership with their horse. 

I want you to think about that this weekend. 

Whatever your schooling issue with your horse, what could you be doing better to help that? How could you be miscommunicating and what do you need to work on to fix it?

Not sure what you need to be doing better? Hit me up it’s my job to help riders use their own bodies better to communicate with their horse!

Crunches for Core Training?

Often when I start training a new client they will have asked for better core strength. 

Then after a few weeks training I’ll ask them how they’re finding the training, what they are enjoying and what they may want to do more of. That’s when they’ll say-“ I want to work on my core more……”

Their training so far will have included things like Weighted Squats, Deadlifts, Over head press, Kettlebell swings………all of these movements require you to use your core! However they require you to use it as part of using your whole body so it learns to switch on whilst hip hinging, pushing, pulling etc. 

So much core training we see is using the abdominals in isolation either static or with very little movement across the rest of the body. That doesn’t transfer that well to sports performance; riding or otherwise!

Don’t get me wrong, I still include some of the more traditional core work in my sessions, classes etc but usually as a way to break down a breathing and recruitment pattern or to focus on ultimate control of small movements in the torso. It’s more accessory work than the main focus. 

The real “Core Strength” training occurs in the big compound movements when they are required to activate as part of a whole body stabilising movement pattern. 

When you ride you don’t use your abdominals in isolation. You use them alongside a stable pelvis and shoulders, force absorption through the whole body and perhaps small movements in the arms and legs. And you’ll hopefully be breathing throughout all of this too! 

So, it makes sense to train in a way that requires your core to work whilst performing other things such as a movement pattern, maybe force absorption and of course Breathing!

If you’re looking to improve your core for riding think about the whole picture in your training. Start with basic movement patterns such as Squat, Hip Hinge, Push Pull. Also consider Force Absorption, perhaps your reflexes and sure add in some abdominal work.

But don’t think you haven’t done a Core Strength session because you didn’t do a Sit up or a Plank!