It’s interesting, given that a horse and their movement is so dynamic, that we could become attached to “aesthetic ideals” when we are riding. I’m realizing more and more that the rules that we have around position are in many instances what get in the way of truly harmonizing with our horses.
The same rules can also lead us to a place where we are moving through the experience of riding with our thoughts, rather than with our body. As we ride, we are in constant conversation about where our legs should be, how we should be holding our hands, what this seat bone is doing, in a way that is not about observation but about control.
We try to control how our body is responding in any given moment, and as consequently remove the ability of the unconscious brain to find the most adaptive and synchronistic position for us at any moment in time… which may or may not fit the model of “how things should look”.
I realise given the many traditions that the riding world has evolved from that saying “throw away the rule book” when it comes to the ideal position is a somewhat heretical position to take. I also realise doing will not result in an instant show of harmony.
For me to truly find harmony, I need to develop symmetry in the body. Symmetry, in this instance, is not what we might think it to be as far as the right and left side of the body being equal. Instead, it’s a mobile and responsive centerline (the centerline being the superficial front line of fascia that extends from the pubic symphysis on the front all the way up to the seam of the nose) and a left side of the body is all in conversation with itself, and a right side that does the same.
Fight/flight motor patterns leave us in a place where the legs, arms and head move independently of the torso, leaving patterns of strain and tension in the body. Conversely, when my nervous system is in the parasympathetic, my shoulder girdle, pelvic girdle, ribs, and skull all co-ordinate together to allow for the most easeful, open, and cohesive movement pattern; one that does not compromise any one part over the other.
As I ride my horse then, and seek to harmonise with them, the girdles of our body move together. As his shoulder girdle moves forward on the left, so does mine. My left girdles find harmony with his, and the right seeks to do the same.
To seek to be in constant dance of adaptation and adjustment as you move through space together I consider to be a far more worthy pursuit that ticking the shoulders back, heels down, sit up straight box that many of us have been reduced to.
In this way, we understand position to be an inside out job, rather than an outside in one. One where we relate at the level of sensing rather than the level of thought.