Body work for riders

How much of our horse's way of going influenced by our position and balance? How aware are you of what different parts of your body are doing when you ride? How independently do you use your back, shoulders, torso, arms, hands and legs? Our collection of videos on rider posture and biomechanics provide astonishing insights into these issues and more, which will help you to improve the harmony with your horse and mazimise their movement. Horse Hero users rave about this form of training, which is possibly the leading edge in rider effectiveness in any discipline. Every video provides countless ideas to try out for yourself from leading authorities such as Suzie Peacock, James Shaw, Jon Pitts, Sally Tottle and Mary Wanless, and your horse will give you immediate feedback!

There are more videos on this subject in the Library. Alternatively, try a video search on the Home Page (or in the Video Library) if you are looking for something specific.

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Rider Fitness with Jon Pitts, Part 1 Rider Fitness with Jon Pitts, Part 1
Fitness trainer Jon Pitts takes this session for Horse Hero with Laura Bechtolsheimer and eventers Annabel Wigley and Louisa Brassey. Jon explains how improving your pelvic balance can give your performance the edge and our guinea pigs demonstrate how you can do this from the comfort of your own home! (In a separate video interview, Jon tells us that William Fox-Pitt attributes pelvic balance to helping him avoid a tumble on Tamarillo!) Presented by Fiona Price.

Rider Fitness with Jon Pitts, Part 2 Rider Fitness with Jon Pitts, Part 2
Personal fitness trainer, Jon Pitts, takes another session with our 'Guinea Pig' riders, Laura Bechtolsheimer, Louisa Brassey and Annabel Wigley. This time, he creates testing exercises for increasing 'pelvic strength', which Jon says is the key to core stability on a horse and maximising the effectiveness of your seat. Again, no gym required and not much equipment for that matter. Handy fitness you can do at home. Presented by Fiona Price.

Improving your stability in the saddle, with Jon Pitts Improving your stability in the saddle, with Jon Pitts
Fitness trainer, Jon Pitts, works with four star event rider Julie Tew on improving her 'core stability' in the saddle. Julie is put through her paces and given various exercises such as standing out of the saddle and swivelling her body, riding without stirrups and lifting her legs, all of which highlight minor balance issues. Taking the 'pain' in good humour, Julie sees how the smallest differences in her balance can adversely influence her horse and how a rider's prefence to hold their weight to the left or right when jumping could create minor injuries to the horse, if perpetuated. This session is an eye-opener and offers plenty to practise at home!

Eventer Harry Meade works on posture with Sally Tottle Eventer Harry Meade works on posture with Sally Tottle
Alexander Technique expert Sally Tottle works with 4* event rider Harry Meade to improve his posture. Starting with some ground work and a dummy horse, Sally remodels Harry's body! "You need to use an appropriate amount of effort and tension to ride effectively", says Sally. "It's similar to training a horse to engage his back and be soft." Harry puts the learning into practice on the lovely (real) horse, United Kingdom. Sally uses analogies like "wear your halo", "eyes in the back of your head", "breathe the rhythm" and "open your armpits" to help Harry produce some stunning work in utterly atrocious weather. Bravo Harry!

Tai Chi to improve your dressage! Tai Chi to improve your dressage!
Thai Chi: This video has the power to transform your riding! American Tai Chi expert James Shaw offers insights that will trigger some 'light bulb' moments. Working with Grand Prix dressage rider Hannah Biggs and her stallion Weltzin, James explains the root causes of tension and a system for riding effortlessly. He shows Hannah how her breathing controls rhythm and timing and how she can use her seat bones as weight aids. James says "by lowering your centre of gravity, you set the horse up for collection". His main aim is to use the horse's force and shape it, not block it, or use leverage against it. Hannah and Weltzin change before our very eyes. Amazing!

Tai Chi basics on the ground Tai Chi basics on the ground
Tai Chi expert, James Shaw works with Horse Hero's Fiona Price on the ground, in preparation for riding. James says "the horse mirrors our body in his" so what we do in our body facilitates bend in the horse. "Taking time to get this right is better than taking years to train a horse to compensate for us!" The aim is to receive the power of the horse into our skeleton and re-direct it without using our body against him. James shows Fiona how to 'stack her bones' and demonstrates how strong this new posture is. He helps her create an independent centre. But James can move his tummy button at will, while Fiona discovers it's a fine art!

Tai Chi basics in the saddle Tai Chi basics in the saddle
Thai Chi: This is the follow-up to the 'Tai Chi basics on the ground' video, where James Shaw worked on the principles of Tai Chi for riders with Horse Hero's Fiona Price. Here Fiona borrows the ex racehorse Tas (who has an impressive pedigree and was bred by the Aga Khan) but who is not especially easy in the mouth, to apply her learning. Fiona finds there is so much to absorb, from dropping the breath to being conscious of her seat bones, turning the sternum in the opposite direction to her belly button, riding like a 'monkey' and keeping her elbows forward. Though her brain hurts by the end of the session, Fiona discovers this is powerful stuff indeed!

Mary Wanless teaches Louise Skelton to ride with her mind Mary Wanless teaches Louise Skelton to ride with her mind
Mary Wanless works with 4* event rider Louise Skelton, on how to 'ride with her mind'. Using metaphors such as 'roll the ball back', 'braids to buttons' and 'hung in a harness', Mary helps Louise become aware of her comfortable but not necessarily most effective position, and work towards being in the best place bio-mechanically to improve the horse's way of going. Louise experiences a 'neutral spine' position where she is strongest abdominally and most able to match the force the horse exerts beneath her. The video is jam-packed full of ideas to become more body aware and improve your riding. But beware, best to work on this in bite-size chunks!

Mary Wanless teaches Louise Skelton to ride with her mind Vittoria Panizzon's balanced jumping position
Olympic eventer Vittoria Panizzon has one of the most distinctive and stylish jumping positions. Vittoria says it is vital to work on your seat in order to minimise the chance of a fall when things go wrong. This also allows the horse the freedom to jump clear and safely. Vittoria shows us the ideal balanced position. She says "a good seat comes from practising without the usual supports such as reins and stirrups". Vittoria puts three willing students through their paces and comes up with a party piece for the finale! There's only one mishap which is followed by a quick and brave recovery. (Note: Only try this accompanied by an experienced trainer!)

Mary Wanless teaches Louise Skelton to ride with her mind Jackie Siu works on body awareness with the Feldenkrais method
Feldenkrais method: Michele Morseth trains Grand Prix dressage rider Jackie Siu to improve Flora’s way of going. Using the Feldenkrais method, Michele demonstrates how when moving one part of Jackie's body it affects another, and ultimately the horse. "By focusing on the relationship between thought and movement, riding is easier and more effective" says Michele. She continues, "Only when you are completely conscious of how you sit and apply the aids, can you ensure you are not detrimental to your horse's movement, but enhance it!" Jackie fine tunes her co-ordination and balance and finds that Flora’s slight but niggling shoulder drift is improved!

Mary Wanless teaches Louise Skelton to ride with her mind Jon Pitts helps Flora Harris to be balanced in the saddle
Fitness coach Jon Pitts works with 3* eventer Flora Harris to help her gain awareness of how she sits in the saddle. "Body dominance controls our weight distribution in the saddle", says Jon. "It creates a bias to use the side we feel most comfortable with, more strongly". This can be the cause of loss of rhythm or balance in the horse, and why we find lateral work easier in one direction. Jon helps Flora to correct her pelvic balance and her horse improves accordingly. The conclusion must be that our horses' issues often reflect our own imbalances, and work on ourselves is equally as important as work on our horse!

Mary Wanless teaches Louise Skelton to ride with her mind Flora Harris improves her balance into a fence
Fitness coach Jon Pitts helps 3* eventer Flora Harris (winner of Express Eventing 2010) to become aware of the influence of her pelvic balance on her horse's approach to a fence. Like most riders, Flora's attention is on the way her horse is going and addressing any issues. Her position and balance into the fence is instinctive. However, in working on a figure of eight on both reins and a serpentine jumping exercise, Jon helps Flora to recognise that her pelvic preference has set up a weakness in her horse. Changing Flora's balance improves her horse! (The first part of this video focuses on Flora's pelvic balance in flat work.)

Mary Wanless teaches Louise Skelton to ride with her mind Suzie Peacock works on biomechanics with Sally Goodwin-Davies: Part 1
US Grand Prix dressage rider and biomechanics trainer Suzie Peacock helps Sally Goodwin-Davies improve her position on the Advanced horse Jeremy. Suzie tells Sally (who suffers knee and hip problems) that her left side is 'bossy' and pulls her off centre. Suzie says 'tractioning' the spine creates proper alignment and space between the vertebrae, which gives more mobility. "Our job is to make it easiest for the horse to do what we want him to do" and we need to be more body aware to achieve this. Suzie explains the correct motion of the pelvis to mirror the horse's movement, and bring horse and rider into harmony!

Mary Wanless teaches Louise Skelton to ride with her mind Suzie Peacock works on biomechanics with Sally Goodwin-Davies: Part 2
Grand Prix dressage rider Suzie works with Sally in Part 2, on improving the sitting trot. Using analogies such as "imagine there's a hook on the front of your collar bone lifting you forwards and up" and " let your legs hang as dead-weights," Suzie changes Sally's posture and ensures her hips are moving left to right instead of the more conventional forwards and back. Suzie explains how every part of the riders' body is specific to a part of the horse, so if the horse is blocked the rider must unblock something in themselves. It's all about "not getting in the way of your horse." The difference in Jeremy's movement by the end is incredible!

Mary Wanless teaches Louise Skelton to ride with her mind Suzie Peacock helps Amy to be better balanced in the saddle: Part 1
American Grand Prix dressage rider and biomechanics trainer Suzie Peacock, helps Amy McCormick to improve her balance on the 8 year old Vaz, who is working at Advanced Medium. Starting with 'tractioning the spine', Suzie shows Amy how to stack and stretch her bones into the correct alignment. She says, "when we are tight in our back, the horse is tight in theirs". She explains how Amy can breath with a purpose, "breath in to grow taller and breath out to lengthen and deepen". Suzie explains clearly how Amy should position her seat bones for maximum effect. She says, "be a lazy rider and let your horse do more of the work!"

Mary Wanless teaches Louise Skelton to ride with her mind Suzie Peacock helps Amy to be better balanced in the saddle: Part 2
Following on from Part 1, Amy moves into sitting trot on the very bouncy Vaz. Suzie says that when Amy's hips move back and fore in the saddle, they don't follow the motion of the horse. Her hips need to be like "oars in a kayak". Suzie says, "this will change everything" and the more animated Vaz's movement, the more animated Amy's hips need to be. The difference in Vaz's movement is noticeable! Moving into canter, Suzie tells Amy to imagine the seat of her saddle is a clock, so she can correctly position her seat bones and allow her legs to hang. Suzie also explains when tension in Amy's body is a hindrance to Vaz and when it's useful!

Eventer Joseph Murphy improves his sitting trot on the lunge Eventer Joseph Murphy improves his sitting trot on the lunge
4* eventer, and Irish elite squad member, Joseph Murphy has a lesson at Talland with lunging expert Ali Mills to improve his sitting trot. Working without stirrups, Ali puts Joseph in touch core muscles which he can use for support, instead of his legs! Joseph stretches from top to toe which highlights his flexibiltiy, stiffness and stronger side. Ali says, "the softer you sit, the more the horse can move under you. When you tighten, the horse slows and you have to use more leg." Closing his eyes improves Joseph's body awareness and he finds that the only way to ride in harmony is to relax, use his core strength for balance and let his hips do the work.

Peggy Cummings teaches better horse & rider posture: Part 1 Peggy Cummings teaches better horse & rider posture: Part 1
American posture expert Peggy Cummings works with 4*eventer Louisa Lockwood and the talented but spooky Ash. Peggy appraises the pair, observing their natural tendencies and noting what needs to change. Peggy says, "it's about making them both aware of tension patterns they can change to create a more harmonious partnership". Peggy works with Ash in hand. She reads his posture and through various exercises, he becomes aware that softness is comfortable! "Tension in Ash's head and neck means he can't feel his front feet", says Peggy and "he is not breathing properly which makes him spooky"! (Part 1 of 3.)

Peggy Cummings teaches better horse & rider posture: Part 2 Peggy Cummings teaches better horse & rider posture: Part 2
Having appraised Louisa and Ash in Part 1, and worked with Ash in hand, American posture expert Peggy Cummings turns her attention to Louisa's posture on the ground. Making Louisa aware of the tension in her body and where this affects Ash, Peggy explains that tense thighs stop Ash using his hind quarters and when Louisa uses her arms, her back tightens which further blocks him. By asking Louisa to move her seat bones forwards a fraction, Peggy gives Louisa a stronger position which is easier to maintain. Back in the saddle, Peggy notices changes in both horse and rider which create a softer and more harmonious picture. (Part 2 of 3.)

Peggy Cummings teaches better horse & rider posture: Part 3 Peggy Cummings teaches better horse & rider posture: Part 3
Louisa applies the changes explained on the ground by posture expert Peggy Cummings. Alternating between her new and old posture, she finds a fixed knee puts her upper body past the vertical, but by moving her seat bones her back is looser and Ash can make more energy available to Louisa. "For your horse to have independent movement in all legs, you have to have independent movement in your hips", says Peggy. Most difficult of all, is changing Louisa's foot position but this allows her legs to become shock absorbers. "It's about the little things we can do that make it easier for the horse to move", says Peggy.

Michael Beining works with Carsten Sandrock on body awareness: Part 1 Michael Beining works with Carsten Sandrock on body awareness: Part 1
Classical German dressage trainer Michael Beining works with Carsten Sandrock and the newly backed 4 year old stallion Forever Amadeus, at Lynne Crowden's Woodlander Stud. The first step (of five) in Michael's training is the rider's 'mindset', followed by 'body awareness' which is the focus of the session. Michael says "when you drop the muscle tone in your arms and legs to zero, you have a reference point for the tension required to apply an aid." The rider needs full body awareness before moving up a gait and, in preparation for trot, Michael asks Carsten to inform the horse a change is coming by stabilising his core and engaging his seat.

Michael Beining works with Carsten Sandrock on body awareness: Part 2 Michael Beining works with Carsten Sandrock on body awareness: Part 2
Classical German dressage trainer Michael Beining works with Carsten Sandrock and the young stallion Forever Amadeus at Woodlander Stud. Michael explains the 'as if' exercise in preparation for trot. The aim is to achieve a status-quo before making the transition, so Carsten must ask himself what his body is doing while he thinks about moving up a gait. When in trot, Carsten is instructed to do the least to influence the horse. "Most riders to too much, most of the time" says Michael. Carsten then focuses on himself; firstly his mind-set, then body awareness including breathing and muscle tone. "With young horses, riders must be smooth & supple."

Michael Beining and Carsten Sandrock work on the contact: Part 1 Michael Beining and Carsten Sandrock work on the contact: Part 1
Classical German dressage trainer Michael Beining works with Carsten Sandrock and Dr Feelgood at Lynne Crowden's Woodlander Stud. The focus is on contact, which his put to the test when the four year old is upset by activities outside the arena. Michael asks Carsten first to be aware of his pelvis and to isolate it. Once the horse is fowards in walk, then the priority is contact. "This is different to connection" says Michael. "The bit rests in the horse's mouth, the reins rest in the rider's hands and the rein is not loose". When dealing with Dr Feelgood's sharpness, 'mindset' (Michael's first priority in rider awareness training) comes into play.

Michael Beining and Carsten Sandrock work on the contact: Part 2 Michael Beining and Carsten Sandrock work on the contact: Part 2
Classical German dressage trainer Michael Beining continues the session with Carsten Sandrock and Dr Feelgood. The focus is on the contact, to teach the young horse "to carry himself under the rider in normal balance". The four year old is sharp which tests Carsten's ability to relax his arms and keep his body centred. Michael explains that "learning forwards when the youngster rushes, results in using too much hand and the horse curling up". He helps Carsten identify the moment to "go with his arms to the mouth" to allow the nose out and also when to push the horse up, in order to achieve the right balance. The horse relaxes!

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