Try This Pilates Stretch for Your Horse

Eleven years ago, about a year after having my son, I gave Pilates a shot, and WOW! All I can say is it did amazing things for my body and my riding. I’m a fan.

TSB author Laura Reiman has been practicing Pilates since 2007. She completed her Comprehensive Teacher Training Course with BASI Pilates (Body Arts and Science International) in New York, then spent six months in Brisbane, Australia, teaching and continuing to learn from BASI faculty members before opening her own studio in Alexandria, Virginia. Well, Laura is also an eventer, and when her When her young horse was diagnosed with extreme back pain and a neurological disease, she turned to her knowledge of Pilates—the method she’d used to ease back pain in human clients for years—for help. She began to find ways to “bridge the gap” between the horse’s mind and body to help increase his body awareness and core engagement.

In Laura’s new book PILATES FOR HORSES, she shares the Pilates-inspired exercises she determined can offer the horse the same benefits they offer humans. They can be taken in parts or as a whole and seamlessly incorporated into an existing training program to be a preventive tool to increase the horse’s strength, balance, mobility, and stability, or a framework for a new program to help ease a horse back into work following an injury or time off.

Here, Laura shares one of the stretches from her program:

Human athletes know that stretching is an invaluable part of any training program to keep muscles elastic, and a tight muscle is more prone to injury. Stretching helps to improve circulation, range of motion, and overall health of your horse’s muscles, while also decreasing muscle soreness and fatigue. As an added benefit, spending a few minutes stretching your horse can help create a stronger bond.

Also known as “carrot stretches,” incentive stretches use treats or a clicker to ask your horse to stretch himself through flexion (rounding), lateral bending (side to side), and even extension (hollowing or reaching). Try this incentive stretch called “Chin to Chest” as an easy way to start incorporating stretches in your routine on a regular basis.

WHAT

Ask your horse to bring his nose toward the center of his chest using a treat, creating flexion and stretch in the upper neck muscles.

WHY

l Increases mobility in the upper and middle neck muscles including the trapezius cervicis, cervical rhomboids, and splenius muscles.

HOW

1 Stand beside your horse, facing forward.

2 Offer a treat near the horse’s nose to get his attention.

3 Slowly move your hand back toward the center of the horse’s chest, covering the treat so he cannot grab it.

4 Make sure the horse’s neck is straight and his nose is pointing down.

5 When using a clicker, activate it right at the center of your horse’s chest.

6 Hold the stretch for 5 seconds to start, working up to 10–20 seconds over the course of several weeks.

7 Repeat 2–4 times, changing sides each time so your horse’s head doesn’t begin to tilt to one side in anticipation.

WHEN

Every day, after your horse is warmed up. Hold for 10–20 seconds and repeat 2–4 times.

Learn more stretches, in-hand exercises, and ridden lessons to help build and maintain a solid foundation of strength and comfort for your horse in the book PILATES FOR HORSES by Laura Reiman.

CLICK HERE for more information and to download a free chapter.

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

Busy Rider? Find Yourself a “Clinic in the Cloud”

RidingintheCloud-horseandriderbooks

I’m guessing I’m like a lot of you–a job, a family, a gym I try to frequent, friends I try to see, books I try to read, promises I try to keep, and oh yeah...horses.

Needless to say, the above list is not compiled in order of preference.

So how, when one is so dang busy, does one actually become a better rider? Obviously, I think books are a pretty great means of continuing an equestrian education…but I’ve recently tried something else that is an awesome fit for those who want to feel closer to the individual imparting the knowledge. I’m taking TSB author Janice Dulak’s Pilates for Dressage® Ridermanship® Course. She calls it a “Clinic in the Cloud” as it is (mostly) all virtual, but at no point do you feel like you are floating or alone! Janice has constructed the course so not only do you feel fully engaged with her–and even other students–but you have plenty of reminders to help ensure you don’t forget that you are working to improve yourself…and that’s not just for you, that’s for your horse, too.

Janice’s course platform is seamless and very simple to use. Everything is laid out in progressive steps and there are interactive checklists that update your experience and allow you to move on when you are ready. Moreover, all the myriad pieces of the course (video instruction, worksheets, audio lessons, chats, and live phone calls) remain archived and easily accessed if you need or want to review at any time.

RidingintheCloudPin-horseandriderbooksSo what are you learning, exactly, up in the Ridermanship cloud?

A former professional dancer, Romana’s Pilates Master Instructor Trainer, and USDF Bronze medalist, Janice specializes in the integration of Pilates concepts and riding. She has created a vocabulary with both the instructor and the rider in mind that is meaningful, and she helps riders understand their bodies and move them differently so they can do what the instructor is asking.

“In Ridermanship,” Janice adds, “you’ll learn to create self-carriage in your body, and practice correct biomechanics to ride your horse with greater feel and harmony. Lessons and exercises will train you how to develop your physical self, so you will know what you need to do in your body to help your horse perform—and the partnership with your horse will be complete.”

Her Ridermanship Course provides guidance and exercises that lead to posture improvement and an independent seat and legs, that refine your seat and enhance your rider influence, and that ensure your overall continued development as a rider. There is no lack of substance–the sheer volume of information provided is impressive! But it is so neatly packaged in friendly and easily consumable parts like video lectures and short workouts, you don’t really notice…until you see it is almost the end of the week and you are only halfway through your checklist of action items! Luckily, Janice keeps the virtual experience a flexible one, and the course automatically adjusts to your busy schedule. You might miss a live call with Janice and your Ridermanship group, but you can listen to the recording after the kids are in bed and ask any questions on the Facebook group page, still getting the help you need almost in real time.

JaniceDulak-horseandriderbooks

Janice Dulak can help us find balance, in and out of the saddle!

It has been such a pleasure to feel that the rest of my busy life hasn’t interfered with my desire and ability to improve as a rider and horse person. Having an option to “fit it in” as best suits each day or week, to do a little or pour a glass of wine and absorb a lot, to practice an exercise with Janice’s guidance before committing to the full workout, and to feel I have her support throughout it all, has been terrifically affirming.

Thank you, Janice. When I’m next in the saddle, I’m sure my horse will thank you, too.

For more information about the Ridermanship “Clinic in the Cloud,” CLICK HERE.

CLICK HERE for Janice Dulak’s books and DVDs.

-Rebecca Didier, Managing Editor

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

Join TSB Authors at Equine Affaire Ohio!

 

TSB-AUTHORS-EA-OH-18-horseandriderbooks

Are you headed to the Ohio Expo Center in Columbus, Ohio, for Equine Affaire this weekend? April 12-15, you’ll find a crew of TSB authors collected in one place and presenting on the subjects they know and love best, along with many other experts from across the equine industry. Don’t miss this amazing opportunity to expand your knowledge—a chance to become a better trainer, a more informed rider, and the caring partner your horse deserves.

LongReiningwithDoubleDanDan James of Double Dan Horsemanship and co-author of LONG-REINING WITH DOUBLE DAN 

Thursday, April 12

1:30 pm | Voinovich Arena: Introducing the Young Horse to the Bridle and Rein Contact

Friday, April 13

11:15 am | US Equestrian Arena: Introduction to Liberty Work: Starting the Liberty Horse

3:15 pm | Voinovich Arena: Leads & Lead Changes: Developing the Lead Departure and the Change

Saturday, April 14

3:00 pm | US Equestrian Arena: Introduction to Liberty: Teaching Your Horse the Basics of the Spanish Walk and Advancing His Training through Liberty

Sunday, April 15

1:00 pm | Voinovich Arena: The Importance of Teaching Your Young Horse to Work in a Snaffle Bridle

 

Fergus Triple Play SetJean Abernethy, artist and creator of Fergus the Horse, author of FERGUS AND THE GREENER GRASS, FERGUS: A HORSE TO BE RECKONED WITH, and THE ESSENTIAL FERGUS THE HORSE

Friday, April 13

6:00 pm | Seminar Stage Voinovich Livestock and Trade Center: The Evolution of the Horse…Artist: How to Draw Horses

Saturday, April 14

11:00 am-3:00pm | Taborton Books, Bricker Building Booth #824: Meet the Artist and Book Signing

Sunday, April 15

11:00 am-3:00 pm | CQ Equine Gifts, Bricker Building Booth #1017-1018: Meet the Artist and Book Signing

 

WorldClassGroomingFinalEmma Ford, Professional Groom and co-author of WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES

Thursday, April 12

11:00 am | Demo Ring Celeste Center: Roaching and Banging: How to Efficiently Roach a Mane and Bang a Tail

6:00 pm | Demo Ring Celeste Center: Clipping for the Health & Comfort of Your Horse: From the Cushings Horse to Scratches and Fungus

Friday, April 13

2:00 pm | Demo Ring Celeste Center: Positive Clipping: Teaching the Nervous, Scared, or Unruly Horse How to Be Clipped

 

Suffering in Silence PBJochen Schleese, Master Saddle Fitter and Saddle Ergonomist, and author of SUFFERING IN SILENCE

Thursday, April 12

5:00 pm | Demo Ring Celeste Center: Western Saddle Fit for Western Riders: Evaluating Saddle Design and Fit for both Horse and Rider

Saturday, April 14

2:00 pm | Demo Ring Celeste Center: The Impact of Ill-Fitting Saddles on the Comfort and Health of the Horse

 

Janice Dulak, Pilates Instructor and author of PILATES FOR THE DRESSAGE RIDER

Pilates for the Dressage RiderThursday, April 12

4:00 pm | Demo Ring Celeste Center: Pilates for Dressage®—Path to Partnership: Exercises to Empower You to Truly Find Your Seat

Friday, April 13

10:00 am | Seminar Stage Voinovich Livestock and Trade Center: Ridermanship®—Path to Partnership Using Pilates for Dressage®: Revealing Crucial Keys to Your Posture & Seat

1:00 pm | Demo Ring Celeste Center: Path to Partnership: Pilates Exercises to Empower You to Truly Find Your Seat

 

We hope everyone has a truly wonderful, educational time (oh, and plenty of shopping!) at Equine Affaire Ohio! And we at TSB are looking forward to seeing you at Equine Affaire in Springfield, Massachusetts this November.

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

 

From Struggling to Sit the Trot to USDF Silver—Here’s How

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A lot of things can happen in 10 years of riding. Common goals shared by most riders are to have improved their seat; advanced the training of their horses while maintaining soundness; and nurtured connection and communication with their equine partners—that is, find harmony.

There was a time Janice Dulak couldn’t sit a trot. She had great riding instructors, but as one teacher put it, “You just don’t have harmony yet.” Terribly frustrated, Janice realized something was wrong. How could she, a former professional dancer, a Professor of Dance, and a Certified Romana’s Pilates Instructor, not be able to learn how to sit a trot?

 

There was a time when Janice Dulak couldn't sit the trot--all that changed when she developed Pilates for the Dressage Rider.

There was a time when Janice Dulak couldn’t sit the trot—all that changed when she developed Pilates for the Dressage Rider.

It dawned on her that a dancer’s vocabulary was much more specific than riding vocabulary. A riding instructor says, “Use your leg.” A dancing instructor says, “Turn your leg out and lift it to the side with the foot flexed and knee bent.” Exacting vocabulary to create exact movement. This “ah-ha” moment led her to begin asking her mare India “questions”: Janice would create a feeling or movement in her body and listen for India to respond. Within a week, Janice understood how she needed to use her body so her horse could be comfortable, and at last, Janice was able to sit the trot.

Janice began teaching her work to riders around the country, and PILATES FOR THE DRESSAGE RIDER was published in 2006, establishing a new vocabulary that helped riders understand how to use their bodies to create a more harmonious ride. As her methods caught on, Janice was invited to teach Linda Parelli and her students, and to co-present clinics with USDF Gold medalist and Certified Instructor Sarah Martin, which propelled her to the frontlines of a new form of training that ensured happier, more comfortable horses, as well as better, more satisfied riders.

“From Intro to Grand Prix riders, I see that my work elicits change,” Janice says today, reflecting on the past 10 years. “I see horses stop swishing their tails. I see riders learn how to open their hips and stay in the saddle at the sitting trot and canter. I see horses round up without being cranked down with the hands. I see riders learn how to have a steady contact. I see happy horses. I see happy riders.

“In the 10 years since PILATES FOR THE DRESSAGE RIDER was published, my riding and my life has changed. I’m now a USDF Bronze medalist, working toward the Silver this year, and with all the wonderful comments I have received on my books, DVDs, and clinics, I am inspired to continue researching and sharing what I learn. Moving up the levels, it becomes apparent that my work is not done. There is so much more to explain and teach to help riders. For all of you struggling dressage riders, there is hope.”

Janice’s Pilates for Dressage program took her from being unable to sit the trot, to within reach of her USDF Silver, as well as helping thousands of others. She gives us more than hope…she gives us a way forward.

In honor of the 10th Anniversary of PILATES FOR THE DRESSAGE RIDER, the book and DVD are both 20% off from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE. (Offer good until June 15, 2016.)

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

 

“Centered Riding is as valuable today as it was 30 years ago”

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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.

“When Sally’s book was published, it was a breakthrough moment–for ALL riders.”

CRThoughtsFB JD

Last week, TSB author and acclaimed dancer and choreographer Paula Josa-Jones explained how CENTERED RIDING transformed how she thought about and felt her body while on horseback. Another of our authors comes from a professional dance background: Janice Dulak, dressage rider and Pilates instructor, and author of PILATES FOR THE DRESSAGE RIDER and NINE PILATES ESSENTIALS FOR THE BALANCED RIDER. Dulak says that Sally Swift’s ideas were part of the inspiration behind her own book and DVDs.

“As a professional dancer, I studied the Alexander Technique for years,” she explains. “The work enhanced my technique and allowed for a freedom of movement that changed how I danced. In becoming a rider, movement became new again, and challenging in a way that I hadn’t imagined. When Sally’s book was published, it was a breakthrough moment—for all riders. Understanding that one could translate this method to riding was brilliant…and in part, an inspiration for my work, PILATES FOR THE DRESSAGE RIDER! Thank you, Sally Swift!”

Share your own CENTERED RIDING memories and “aha” moments online and tag them #CenteredRiding30! And remember, all CENTERED RIDING books and DVDs are 30% off, the entire month of November.

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

From “Doctor Doctor” to “Riding Doctor”: Dr. Beth Glosten Talks About Perfection-Seeking, Ligament Injuries, Inspiring Vacations, and Buddha

Not many of us come to riding with the anatomical understanding of a medical doctor, and so it is often our aids and position are caught somewhere between a mystery and a miracle—we’re not sure how or why they work, but we are thrilled when they do! Dr. Beth Glosten does have that knowledge of the human body and how it functions, and she found that it was integral to her progress as a rider when she came back to horses after years away to pursue her medical degree and residencies.

In Dr. Glosten’s flat-out fantastic book THE RIDING DOCTOR (available from the TSB online store CLICK HERE), she provides clear, practical explanations of the realities of the human body and how it can be trained to accommodate the shape and movement of the horse, as well as the skills necessary in all riding sports. More than 50 easy-to-do exercises help develop fitness and mechanics specific to riding. It has been described as “a more technical, practical Centered Riding…sort of Centered Riding for the rest of us” and “a wonderful resource.”

We recently caught up with Dr. Glosten before her busy season of teaching and clinics begins, and asked her a little about her path from “Doctor Doctor” to “Riding Doctor,” as well as how she hopes her book will help other riders in their own journeys.

 

TSB author Dr. Beth Glosten and her horse Bluette.

TSB author Dr. Beth Glosten and her horse Bluette.

 

TSB: You grew up riding; then there were a number of years while you were in medical school when horses couldn’t be part of your life. When you came back to horses you were in your thirties, and found riding wasn’t as easy as it used to be! What discoveries did you make about yourself, your horses, and riding at this time?

BG: I was reminded how learning a sport comes relatively easily when we are young. When I came back to riding in my 30s, I was uncoordinated, out of shape, and all “in my head.” I had been in school for so long, everything I did revolved around thinking, not moving! As you might imagine, this approach doesn’t work very well with horses and riding. I was pretty frustrated for quite a while!  I didn’t realize this at the time, but looking back I can see how disconnected I was from my body, and as a result, struggled to move with and communicate clearly to the horses I rode.

 

TSB: How did being a medical doctor impact your pursuit of riding and eventually dressage?

BG: I was hooked on horses and riding before going to medical school. Horses were not a part of my life during my medical education, and I wasn’t sure at that time that they would be a part of my life again, I was so busy and consumed by my training. It wasn’t until I started to have some time for myself, after medical school and residency training, that the idea of riding again entered my mind.

While I did do some jumping when I got back into riding, dressage proved to be the perfect fit. It matches my detail-oriented, perfection-seeking mind! While a practicing physician, I was an Anesthesiologist—again, a detail-oriented profession—and one would hope every Anesthesiologist seeks perfection in their practice!

 

TSB: When did you discover Pilates? Why did you choose to become Pilates-certified and teach other riders Pilates exercises?

BG: I found Pilates after back surgery for a herniated disc. I knew I needed an ongoing fitness program so I could go back to horseback riding. I tried Pilates when I saw an article written by a dressage rider in a local magazine. Like dressage (and medicine), Pilates is detail-oriented, so it fit my personality. But more important, the instructor I had was quite good at sorting out my movement habits that likely contributed to my underlying back problem. I was really intrigued with how difficult it was to sort through and change these habits! But the real selling point was my rides after my Pilates sessions were my best rides, by far! I was amazed at how much better I could sit in balance, and move with my horse. I knew I hadn’t gotten stronger in the session, but clearly the session had made a profound difference in how I could use my body.

It was also at this time that I had made a decision to leave the practice of medicine. As you might imagine, I really needed something “to do.” I was not at all used to having so much time on my hands! I was so impressed with how Pilates helped my back and my riding that I wanted to share it with other riders. Plus, for me, it was wonderfully empowering to recognize how I could help myself heal from my back problems with this program of mindful movement (as opposed to having someone work on me).  In the end, this is what inspires me the most today—helping people help themselves move through their day more mindfully and comfortably.

 

TSB: How do you feel your medical career and knowledge of Pilates principles helps your riding and the riding of your students?

BG: Understanding a bit of anatomy helps me solve my riding position problems and the horse’s training problems. While riding can feel magical, being successful does not happen by magic. I believe that wonderful feeling of riding in harmony comes from thoughtful consideration of what is going on. There is a great deal of this kind of problem-solving in medicine.

Many of my clients come to me because of prior injuries or pain issues while they ride. My medical education helps me understand their problems, and hopefully pin down movement or riding habits that could contribute to their problem. My own history of injuries, I hope, helps me approach the issues that my clients have with compassion and patience—at least this is my goal!

 

Dr. Glosten with a student.

Dr. Glosten with a student.

 

TSB: What is the most common issue you see in your riding students? What is the usual solution?

BG: I would have to say it is a rare rider that doesn’t have some postural issue to work on. Posture is so fundamental to a balanced position in the saddle, both front-to-back, and side-to-side. Problems with front-to-back posture (being arched, or rounded, in the spine) can interfere with staying precisely with the horse’s movement, and not being left behind. Lateral, or side-to-side, imbalance is also very common—that is, a rider sits heavily on either her right or left seat bone, all the time, rather than staying balanced over both seat bones.

The usual solution is first helping the rider to be aware of the problem, and with feedback from mirrors, help her recognize that what feels “normal” is not correct alignment. Activating the relevant muscle groups to help stabilize correct alignment helps the rider keep the good posture. Feedback from the horse, by way of improved movement and responsiveness, is the most powerful, positive reinforcement for keeping, and believing in, the prescribed postural changes.

 

TSB: What are three things you hope riders can take away from your book THE RIDING DOCTOR?

BG: I hope riders are empowered to take seriously the important role their posture and balance plays in the success of their horse’s training.

I hope that riders come to believe that they can change posture and movement habits that interfere with their riding and performance.

I hope that riders come away with a system to consider their position every step of the ride. That they can ride along asking themselves, “Where am I? Where am I?” to maintain awareness of their own body while riding.

 

TSB: You are an active competitor. What are your training and showing goals for 2015?

BG: I am looking forward to 2015 as a training year. The horse I ride now, Donner Girl, is one-year post-rehabilitation for a ligament injury. It has been a slow journey back to training, but she is going really well right now. I don’t want the pressure of the show ring to change the path we are on. Maybe we’ll be back there in 2016. Also, this summer is pretty booked for me teaching clinics on the weekends—which I thoroughly enjoy.

 

TSB: Tell us about the first time you remember sitting on a horse.

BG: I’m not sure I remember the very first time. But I do recall, when I was perhaps 7 or 8 years old, friends up the road came by with their horses. I remember thinking that they were HUGE! Now, they might have been 16 hands or so, but for a kid, it was a long way up! I definitely recall the wonderful smells of leather and the horses’ sweaty coats and warm breath. I remember feeling both fear and joy as the horse I sat on walked off, marveling at how natural it was for the horse to move this way, but how foreign it felt to me.

 

TSB: Tell us about the first time you remember falling off a horse.

BG: This I do recall! The same friends I mentioned, who lived in our neighborhood just during the summer, not only had big horses, but they also leased two ponies. Perhaps a year or so after my first ride, I remember going to their house to ride the ponies. There was a little trail through the pasture we used to ride on, back and forth. One day the pony I was riding “took off” on this trail in the downhill section. I landed face first in the dirt, with a bloody nose. But I was back on the next day!

 

Dr. Glosten and Donner Girl ("DG").

Dr. Glosten and Donner Girl (“DG”).

 

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a friend?

BG: I don’t think I can name just one quality. Sincerity and honesty come to mind, but also the willingness to simply bear witness—that is, just listen to my story. Give advice only if asked.

 

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a horse?

BG: I really appreciate a horse that tries hard to do what you are asking. Donner Girl is this way— and of all the horses I tried when looking for her, it is the characteristic that made her stand out.

 

TSB: If you could do one thing on horseback that you haven’t yet done, what would it be?

BG: Breeze a racehorse.

 

TSB: What’s in your refrigerator at all times?

BG: 1% milk for my morning coffee, mirepoix (carrots, onions, celery), eggs, cooked brown rice, vegetables, cheddar and parmesan cheeses.

 

TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

BG: Good health, good companionship (people and/or critters), and acceptance.

 

TSB: What is your idea of the perfect meal?

BG: First, it must be made from real, natural ingredients. I am a committed omnivore, but care that any meat I eat comes from an animal that was humanely treated.  While I’m a meat-eater, I love vegetables. The perfect meal is satisfying but balanced so I don’t feel grossly full afterward. And the perfect dinner is always accompanied by a lovely wine—an Oregonian or French Pinot Noir would be delightful, thank you!

 

TSB: What is your idea of the perfect vacation?

BG: A perfect vacation inspires me, and exposes me to new ideas, new art, new food. Relaxing is not what I seek—I want something different. Recently I traveled to Thailand on my own. It was nearly the perfect vacation, except that I sprained my ankle halfway through.  If this hadn’t happened, however, I would have never experienced Thai acupuncture!

 

TSB: If you could have a conversation with one famous person, alive or dead, who would it be?

BG: Siddartha Gautama, or the Buddha. His teachings weren’t written down until 400 years after his death. I wonder how close they are to what he really taught.

 

TSB: What is your motto?

BG: Perfection is the enemy of good.

 

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

Read more about Dr. Glosten’s book THE RIDING DOCTOR and download a FREE sample chapter on the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE

What Moves and What Shouldn’t Move Much in the Saddle

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

 

The Riding Doctor Explains One Reason Why It Might Be So Hard to Keep Your Horse Going

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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TSB Author Janice Dulak Talks About Discovering Pilates, Finding Your Middle Abdominals, and Ray Bradbury

This month Trafalgar Square Books had a chance to catch up with Janice Dulak, creator of the all new DVD NINE PILATES ESSENTIALS FOR THE BALANCED RIDER and author of the bestselling PILATES FOR THE DRESSAGE RIDER. We asked her how she came to be a Pilates instructor for dressage riders and what it’s like co-teaching with top trainers—and we found out a few other things about her along the way.

Janice’s bestselling book and DVD PILATES FOR THE DRESSAGE RIDER and new DVD NINE PILATES ESSENTIALS FOR THE BALANCED RIDER are available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is always FREE.

 

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TSB: Can you tell us about how you discovered Pilates and how you determined that its practice could benefit riding?

JD: I discovered Pilates in 1988 as a professional dancer. I hurt my knee and had Pilates as therapy. While rehabbing with Pilates, I found my back pain that had plagued me for years, mysteriously disappeared. That intrigued me so I found my teacher and became certified in 1993.

I got my first horse in 1993 and by 1996, I still could not sit the trot, even though I had very good riding instructors (and not to mention I had all the fitness and body control from being a professional dancer and Pilates instructor!) That is when I realized that there was something missing….even though I was a dancer and Pilates instructor, no one could tell me how to sit the trot! So I went out and began experimenting with my body while I rode. I would use certain muscles and my horse would answer if what I was doing was right. Within a year we were doing flying changes!

TSB: You regularly co-teach with Linda Parelli and Sarah Martin. What is your role when you appear at clinics together and how do you feel co-teaching benefits the students?

JD: Linda and Sarah are the best teachers of their particular subjects. However, they both have found they have been missing an effective vocabulary in which to communicate with their students to help them ride better. By co-teaching, we are able to improve upon that.

When asked to teach with them, I begin with a PowerPoint lecture that maps out what they will be learning. Then I teach Pilates for Dressage® mat exercises to help the riders find how to use their muscles to organize their skeleton. By finding core and intrinsic stabilizing muscles, the riders experience how to use these muscles to create an independent seat, legs, and hands. This is followed by individual sessions on their horses to put those learned concepts from the ground into practice.

After that, the co-teaching begins! Linda and I teach in a group situation that allows me to single out riders and their needs, while she can work with other students at the same time. Sarah and I team-teach private lessons, in which Sarah teaches the dressage lesson, focusing on the needs of the horse, and I help the rider by coaching her or him on what adjustments are needed in the body. It never fails…when the rider gets her or his body right, the horse performs the movement better!

By teaching the riders how to feel their body and use it in very specific ways with certain cues, I have helped both Linda and Sarah develop a vocabulary that they can use after I leave. Sarah uses a mantra for her riders now from what I have taught them. She will say “Ribs, belly, booty, wrap!” When she says that, the riders know they need to organize their core (ribs, belly), fix their seat (booty), and hang their legs (wrap). Linda now is using “Da Vinci arms!” to help her riders know when they need to open their chest.

TSB: You have a brand new DVD out called NINE PILATES ESSENTIALS FOR THE BALANCED RIDER. Can you walk us through one of your favorite exercises on the DVD?

JD: Oh, there are so many that I think are wonderful! But I guess the one that I really love was the one I created that led me to develop this DVD. It is the one in which you find your middle abdominals.

Your middle abdominal fibers are the most important muscles for your core stability. You use the Magic Circle exercise ring for this in the DVD, and it is really cool! But if you don’t have a Magic Circle, you can just try this:

1 Stand comfortably and put one hand on your belly and one on your lower back.

2 “Pull” your bellybutton to your backbone and exhale. When you do this, you will feel your back widen and lengthen. This is the posture your back should be in when you ride! It actually stretches out the lower back while stabilizing the spine and feels really good!

TSB: If you were trapped on a desert island with a horse and a book, what breed of horse would it be and which book would you choose?

JD: I am partial to Warmbloods, but in fact would be happy with any horse! I would have a copy of Dandelion Wine, which is a lovely book by Ray Bradbury that keeps reminding me how large concepts can be found in simple things.

TSB: What’s in your refrigerator at all times?

JD: Cheese.

TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

JD: That moment of harmony that I had as a professional dancer; dancing with one other, or a group, when all the energy was flowing into one movement of unison. It is the same feeling we dressage folk are addicted to! Only with the horse, it is much harder to come by…but it is still what keeps you going. I believe it might be called being “in the zone,” where you see or think nothing in particular but are so focused that you feel everything.

TSB: Tell us about the first time you remember sitting on a horse.

JD: I was about eight years old, and a friend of my aunt had a horse and he let me get on. I remember the horse was jet black and it was heaven.

TSB: Tell us about the first time you remember falling off a horse.

JD: I was about ten and riding a rented horse bareback in a field. The horse decided he wanted to go back to the barn and began galloping home, going right under a tree branch as he did so. I was too scared to know what was happening and I was knocked off and landed on my tush…ouch!

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a friend?

JD: That they are there when you don’t even know you need them to be.

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a horse?

JD: One that runs to me from the pasture and looks to me for leadership.

TSB: If you could do one thing on horseback or with a horse that you haven’t yet done, what would it be?

JD: Ride bridleless and bareback.

TSB: What is your idea of the perfect meal?

JD: Something very healthy that I didn’t have to cook!

TSB: What is your idea of the perfect vacation?

JD: Sitting on a beach with my husband and a good book.

TSB: If you could have a conversation with one famous person, alive or dead, who would it be?

JD: Ray Bradbury

TSB: What is your motto?

JD: Know what to hold onto and what to let go……

CLICK HERE TO ORDER YOUR COPY OF NINE PILATES ESSENTIALS FOR THE BALANCED RIDER TODAY