How did you get on with last weeks neutral spine?
Did you find it easy or difficult to remain in that position whilst riding?
There are many different ways that riders can deviate from a neutral position with backs arching, rounding, lateral shifts of the rub cage and curving to the side. Riders can have one or many of these things going on which will all affect your ability to stay neutral and therefore affect the aids you give to your horse.
One of the most common issues I see is a hollow back-an arched lower back causing the bum to stick out.
Now unfortunately some of us are built with a slight anterior tilt in our pelvis, which makes even regular standing and sitting in neutral spine a struggle. This doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do, it will just take some work to get the right muscles working in balance to allow a neutral pelvis. (I’ve spent around 2 years and I can now sit in a saddle in neutral I just struggle to maintain it whilst riding-but I have made huuugggee progress from where I started so it is possible!)
Add to this a Dressage saddle and we are in big trouble! You see in a GP saddle the thigh sits at approximately a 45⁰ angle from hip to knee. Depending on the severity of your hollow neutral spine may be achievable with adjustment in this position. In a Dressage saddle with the lengthened thigh position and usually higher cantle to really “plug” you in, the thigh is now somewhere around 35⁰ or less from hip to knee. Just to sit in a Dressage saddle automatically takes you into an anterior tilt, so in order to attain neutral you need to effectively posteriorly tilt. Which is fine if you have solid neutral already, if not then we classically see riders hollow backed, chest out and unable to use their core effectively when riding. Often these are the riders that complain of low back pain due to bracing in the back to try and absorb a big horses movement.
Aside from back pain, riding with a hollow back prevents you from being able to communicate with your seat effectively. If you can feel your seat bones at all they will most certainly not be pointing straight down rather they will be pointing backwards, and your balance will be off as your centre of gravity will ….well not be central as your chest is out, with your shoulders and bum back and your stomach lengthened. It can feel like you are working incredibly hard to give aids and they just aren’t as effective as they could be.
So, what can we do about it?
In it’s simplest form we need to release the back muscles and retrain them to work in a slightly more lengthened position and in turn retrain the abdominals to work in a slightly more shortened position. The aim being that you are actually equal length front and back.
This simple exercise with a pole is a great way to help retrain those muscles. Also look out for some more exercises on my social media across the week.