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“It’s awesome to recognize it has been 30 years since Trafalgar Square Books (www.horseandriderbooks.com) published CENTERED RIDING,” says Dr. Beth Glosten, dressage rider, certified Pilates instructor, and author of THE RIDING DOCTOR. Dr. Glosten discovered Sally Swift’s groundbreaking work when she first tried to get back into riding following medical school and the early stages of her career. Here’s a short video where she tells why CENTERED RIDING was important to her:

 

Trafalgar Square Books has been celebrating 30 years of publishing all month, as November marks the 30th anniversary of the publication of our very first horse book: CENTERED RIDING. Share your CENTERED RIDING memories and “aha” moments online and tag them #CenteredRiding30!

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of horse books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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Dr. Beth Glosten is the author of THE RIDING DOCTOR.

Dr. Beth Glosten is the author of THE RIDING DOCTOR.

Dr. Beth Glosten no longer practices medicine but has turned her attention and precise knowledge of anatomy to riding (she’s a USDF bronze, silver, and gold medalist) and teaching riders, both in the saddle and on the ground (she’s also a licensed Pilates instructor).

In her fabulous new book THE RIDING DOCTOR: A PRESCRIPTION FOR HEALTHY, BALANCED, BEAUTIFUL RIDING, NOW AND FOR YEARS TO COME, Dr. Glosten provides a remarkably clear look at what our bodies “do” on horseback. Here’s how she boils down the attainability of “feel” (it IS attainable!), beginning with what she describes as “what moves and what shouldn’t move much” when you are riding at each gait.

 

You CAN Develop “Feel”

Consideration of how the horse moves opens the door to riding in harmony. Without considering the character of the horse’s gaits, you have no basis from which to improve the horse’s way of going. The horse’s character of movement is his raw material for you to work with. You must understand how you interact with this material before expecting it to change.

The ability to move in harmonious communication with your horse is the same as riding with “feel.” Some say feel is a skill you either have or you don’t: If you are lucky to be a rider with feel, you are admired. If, however, you are told you lack this skill, it seems you are doomed to a riding career of struggles. I strongly disagree with this sentiment. While some riders do seem to have a knack for moving naturally with their horse, I wholeheartedly believe you can develop feel in your riding if your position and balance are solid as guided by the Rider Fundamentals.

A rider with feel predicts and interacts with the horse’s movements and behaviors as if she can read the horse’s mind and body. A rider with feel always appears with the horse despite challenges or evasions from the horse. This rider seems to always know just the right amount and timing of encouraging or correcting rein or leg aids, and seems to be sitting inside the horse, rather than on top. The resulting picture, to the uneducated eye, looks as if the rider is doing nothing (but we know otherwise!).

 

Dr. Glosten on her mare "DG" at sitting trot: She keeps spine stability with her "abdominal seat belt" while allowing her legs to swing at the hip joint with DG's back.

Dr. Glosten on her mare “DG” at sitting trot: She keeps spine stability with her “abdominal seat belt” while her hip joints allow her legs to swing with the side-to-side movement of DG’s barrel.

 

Young riders have a particular knack for feel. With relatively little guidance, a skilled young rider develops the ability to move with the horse and influence him in a positive way. This is not surprising, as learning new movement skills comes naturally at a young age. As we get older, it becomes harder and harder for the brain and body to learn new tasks and make logical choices for balance and coordination. It is not that we can’t learn something new; it just takes longer and requires a greater commitment. If you are an older rider and think you lack feel, don’t give up. I strongly believe it can be learned and developed.

Learning and understanding your horse’s rhythm and movement at each gait, and how you, the rider, should move with them, puts you and your horse on the same page, and the door is open to ride with feel.

 

Walk: What Moves and What Shouldn’t Move Much

• Your shoulder and elbow joints move to stay with your horse’s head and neck.

• Your legs alternately swing slightly in and out at the hip joint, staying with your horse’s rib cage as it rocks side to side with each step.

• Your pelvis and spine move somewhat forward and back (but this is often exaggerated). The amount of movement of your pelvis when you ride a walking horse is similar to the amount of movement of your pelvis when you walk.

 

Posting Trot: What Moves and What Shouldn’t Move Much

• Your hands stay in a stable position.                                                           

• Your legs stay stable underneath your body.                             

• Your torso is in stable alignment, slightly inclined forward, while it moves up and forward over the pommel of the saddle, and then back down. 

 

Sitting Trot: What Moves and What Shouldn’t Move Much

• Your hands stay in a stable position.

• Your legs stay stable underneath your body.

• Your torso is in stable alignment.

• Your hip joints allow the side-to-side swing of your legs with your horse’s barrel.

• Your ankle joints move to absorb the up-and-down motion.

 

Canter: What Moves and What Shouldn’t Move Much

• Your arms follow the motion of your horse’s head and neck.

• Your legs are stable.

• Your hip joints allow the rolling back-to-front motion of your horse’s body, especially your inside hip joint.

• Your torso stays in correct alignment, without excess rocking forward and back. The more collected the canter, the less your torso rocks; it adopts a more up-and-down motion with your horse.

 

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Learn more from Dr. Beth Glosten, plus get over 50 step-by-step exercises geared toward developing the riding skills we need to be balanced, effective, healthy riders, now and for years to come in THE RIDING DOCTOR, available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE

 

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Dr. Beth Glosten, author of THE RIDING DOCTOR, with a student.

Dr. Beth Glosten, author of THE RIDING DOCTOR, with a student.

After leaving horses behind for many years to pursue her medical career, Dr. Beth Glosten decided it was time to ride again—only to discover that, as a middle-aged woman, she struggled with tension, awkwardness, and an aching back. Dr. Glosten’s own frustration with riding prompted her to apply her clinical research skills to figure out what it would take to not only create the harmonious picture of horse and rider moving together, but also feel good while doing it. Now, she’s sharing what she learned in THE RIDING DOCTOR, her new book from Trafalgar Square Books.

“By helping you understand how your body interfaces with your horse,” says Dr. Glosten, “I hope to help you meet your riding goals and, at the same time, ride in good health and prevent injury.”

In THE RIDING DOCTOR, readers are introduced to a sensible system of organizing the human body in the saddle, and throughout, “Rider’s Challenge” case studies provide a glimpse of the kinds of problems commonly faced and how to best solve them. Then, Dr. Glosten—who is also a certified Pilates instructor and founder of the RiderPilates LLC fitness program—provides over 50 step-by-step exercises geared toward further developing the riding skills we need to be balanced, effective, healthy riders, now and for years to come.

Here Dr. Glosten shares one rider’s story that explains why sometimes it feels so hard to keep your horse going.

 

The Rider’s Challenge: Gripping Adductors

Before working with a new rider, I ask her to provide some information about her riding experience, goals, and how I might help her. On her form, Elise states, “I don’t understand why I get so tired after only riding about 30 minutes. I do not think I’m that out of shape!”

I meet Elise on her six-year-old bay Trakehner mare, Peony, and watch her do some warm-up rounds at posting trot and canter. She has a reasonably correct posture and rides with a very positive “come with me” attitude. However, while the mare will initially pick up the canter fairly readily, before long Peony loses impulsion and breaks out of canter.

“It is so much work to keep her going!” Elise exclaims as she comes back to a walk.

I have Elise do some trot work first to sort out the challenge she has keeping Peony moving in canter. At posting trot, Elise maintains good balance and alignment and stays with Peony. At sitting trot, however, it is a challenge for Elise to keep Peony in a rhythmic and ground-covering trot. I see that Elise’s leg gets quite still—too still—and that her back loses its stable position. Her leg position gets so locked that her feet bounce up and down in the stirrup, rather than rest on the stirrup with movement through the ankle joints.

Elise grips hard to keep from bouncing at sitting trot. By doing so, she inhibits Peony’s movement, interfering with her staying in a good trot. I’m suspicious that this is also what is going on in the canter. I explain to Elise that her legs should be against the horse, but not gripping. When the legs grip, it is like riding with the brakes on. Peony responds with a loss of steadiness in the trot and a tendency to break out of the canter.

 

 

Remedy

At the halt, I have Elise actively stabilize her spine with her deep abdominal and back muscles, then carefully lift her legs slightly away from the saddle, out to the side. She immediately feels how much heavier she sits in the saddle, in a good way. I have her repeat the exercise at walk to help her learn the sensation of a more supple, less-gripping leg, and a heavier and more anchored position of her pelvis. I emphasize that it is easy to strain her back with this exercise of lifting the legs off the saddle; it must be done carefully with suitable spine support, aiming for a small range of upper-thigh motion, as if she were trying to slide a piece of paper between her leg and the horse.

Back at sitting trot, I again coach Elise to activate her core muscles and then try a few steps of sitting trot, keeping her legs far enough “away” from the saddle to prevent gripping. She does this for a few steps, and begins to feel when the gripping creeps in.

We do the same exercise at canter to try and get her legs to let go and allow Peony to canter freely. To prevent her legs from clinging to Peony’s side, I coach her to give a fairly loose leg aid, being conscious of its beginning and end: apply the aid and then let go. I also tell Elise to, at times, give a light tap with the whip, rather than use a leg aid, to encourage Peony to stay in canter. In this way, Elise feels her legs stay released and free.

Our lesson lasts about 45 minutes, with a lot of transitions and attempts to keep Elise’s leg muscles supple and not gripping at all gaits. At the end Elise remarks, “I don’t remember the last time I rode for 45 minutes straight through without a break.”

 

 

The Adductor Stretch from THE RIDING DOCTOR by Dr. Beth Glosten.

The Adductor Stretch from THE RIDING DOCTOR by Dr. Beth Glosten.

Adductor Stretch

Here’s an easy stretch to combat tightness in the adductor muscles of the hip joint.

1. Lie on your back on a mat.

2. Wrap a towel or elastic stretch band around the bottom of each foot.

3. Hold tightly onto the towels or bands while reaching your legs together up toward the ceiling, as straight as possible, and then carefully supporting them in a stretch out to the side. Be sure to avoid changing your pelvic position during this stretch.

4. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.

 

THE RIDING DOCTOR is available now from the TSB online bookstore where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to download a FREE CHAPTER or to order.

 

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