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Why is it important to be able to pat your head and rub your belly as a rider?

I'm aware it can easily become very serous stuff this biomechanics malarkey and sometimes it's important to remember that movement can be fun. Some of you will know I am a mother of a very active 3 year old and so I witness the human love for movement regularly and how it then plays an integral roll in how we hold ourselves and function. As adults we seem to either loose the love of movement, or squash it down, I have a theory on this. When you're in a stressed state your brain is in the state of danger is near, so to play is the very opposite to what you brain believes you need, especially if that play creates a bit of jeopardy or challenge. When your brain is thinking you may fall or need to be strong and ready to run, doing a cartwheel in the garden couldn't be further away from what it feels you need. It feels you need safety and security, feet firmly anchored to steady ground. But movement can be fun and when we start to incorporate movement into our lives it can be hugely beneficial. Last night I encouraged the group to think about ways in which they can incorporate different movement into their daily jobs or chores. For example I muck out with a tub rug and gloves, this means I have to squat a lot, and move my hips in different ways as I randomly shuffle in squat around the stable. We have a few different styles of brooms on the yard too, all requiring different sweeping styles and I try to mix up the brooms so I don't get stuck in one movement pattern. Our horses naturally create us to move differently, throwing rugs up high, or lifting the saddle up, through to picking out feet, but how can you change this movement from mainly back pressure to more hip movement and shoulder movement? At home, in the office, how can you create different movement? Instead of putting your most used plates on the easiest shelf, put them on the highest where you have to reach to get them, and your pots on the lowest shelf of the cupboard where you have to squat to get to them Don't use a twisty desk chair, this stops you twisting your body, and moving, a static chair that requires you to twist and turn, stand up and get things is much better for you as a human and as a rider. The more you move in different ways the more your mobility improves and your strength too, the less extra time you have to give over to doing "extra" work outs as you create a more mobile life.

Why rubbing your belly and tapping your head is important as a rider

In last night's Equistretch I also got everyone doing some funky challenges that required different movements from each side, as riders we rarely have to do the same thing with both the legs, or the same thing with both hands. Normally we are required to do one movement with our left leg and a completely different movement with our right. This is a skill to learn and not assume we have, so last night I set some challenges like the one in the video above. The skill of being able to independently move one side over the other in a different way is all about neuro pathways, co-ordination and proprioception. All of these can be developed, with just a little practice. What is interesting is we take this ability as a given, why can't you keep your left leg still and secure whilst giving tiny taps with your right? This is because all of the riders you may see as good, have the ability to do this naturally, it is something they have unconsciously trained and then maintained. The thing with neuro pathways and proprioception is that it doesn't stick around if not used. The pathways of information from brain to body and back become stronger the more we use them and less prevalent the less we use them. They never go away unless there has been an accident or trauma but they do dull down if we don't use them. So if you used to ride regularly and then began a job which keeps you at the desk a lot the euro pathways you use will be different and therefore the ones needed to be able to achieve this won't be firing as quick. Take the challenge of rubbing your belly and patting your head, if you practice it it gets easier, the neuro pathways get stronger and this is the same with all areas of our body. As a rider we need to have this skill to be able to ride in a conscious and effective way, an issue I often see is riders being very one sided, only having a strong neuro pathway to their right hand for instant so that hand does everything and the left very little, great the you're on the rein that needs that, not so good when you're on the rein that needs the opposite to happen. So how do you help yourself and your horse? Mini exercises regularly are helpful, whilst you're at your desk can you do one movement with one foot and a different with the other, or can you wiggle your toes on one foot and tap your toes on the other? Can you make your coffee with the opposite hand, or hold your cup in the other hand? Can you type a message on your phone with the other hand or throw and catch a ball in the hand that feels "unnatural"? All simple and fun exercises that start to develop even neuro connections that will help your ability to apply your aids in a more balanced way, as well as make positional corrections to both sides of your body. Maybe this weekend you can brainstorm some fun exercises/challenges to do with your yard friends that help develop this thinking?


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