Feldenkrais for Riding
"The time spended with introspection whilst taking action - and every action is movement - is insignificant, measured against the availability and agility of skill which therefore develops." Moshe Feldenkrais
The Feldenkrais methods helps in a pleasant manner to reveal one's own sequences of movements, find different solutions for a subject and to train your perception for the movements of the horse. It helps to feel where the movements run through fluently and in which parts they are disturbed when being in the saddle. Whether be it in yours or the horse’s body. New ways of communication develop between horse and rider through aids. When perception gets fine and possibilities of problem-solving more varied, language can also get lower, thus finer and the effect greater.
This way of riding requests a different kind of alertness of the rider. An alertness of the own body, of everything you do and your feeling. The more aware of your own habits, the better you can evaluate your horse. A horse is the mirror of its rider. A more harmoniously union can be achieved through one's own awareness and the revealing of new ways.
The Feldenkrais method shows us a more varied spectrum of possibilities, helps to find connections in the own body and creates a new room to manoeuvre with unusual movements. Performance and comfort increase for horse and rider.
Awareness through movement
Lessons in awareness through movement (ATM) are instructions with whom the student can experiment with and study independently. The instructions are an offer of occupying yourself with the interaction of different parts of the body and breathing, to get to know yourself, your habits and alternatives. It is interesting to find out which parts of the body are involved in which order in a movement. Is there a continuous chain of movement or does the movement skip certain parts? Familiar movements are looked closer at, unfamiliar ones are tried out. Therefore arise a greater variety of movement and flexibility.
Lesson on horseback
Often other habits are detected on horseback rather than on the ground. On a horse standing still and also in movement the awareness for change through the horse’s reaction is intensified. The horse is being worked with from the first movement on, too and reflects the success of learning immediately. All the Requirements are a horse which can carry his riders well when standing still. The requests on the perception on one’s own body are greater than on ground, because the holding work is easier to give in when lying on the floor. As a result the lessons are kept shorter and walking pauses are adjourned. The horse is mostly being hold or lead around during the lessons.
Lesson on the ground
Lessons on the ground make it possible to detect usual sequences of movement and to discover a new flexibility with the best exploitation of gravity possible. Weight can be given off to the ground more easily. The lesser the effort the finer gets the awareness. And of course it is simpler to concentrate on yourself for you because you only carry responsibility for yourself and not for the horse, too, at the same time. They are impossible to do when lying, sitting or also standing.
Whether after a lesson on the ground or on the horse riding afterwards will be in the walk, maybe even the horse will be leaded, as to give you enough time to feel which changes were made possible in the own body and the horses’.
The horse reflects us with our habits of movement and posture. So it can be appropriate to do some body work with the horse before or after riding. Horses really enjoy this caring work. The more sense I have for my own body and its interaction the better can I show the horse its own flexibility.
Feldenkrais for horses
Often it makes sense to involve the horse. So the rider can feel how the horse passes its motions on to himself, where blockades are in a sequence of movement and how they can maybe undone. The understanding of the rider for his horses’ behaviour gets better. Communication is created from movement and therefore potential solutions. Linda Tellington Jones found the way to harness Feldenkrais for horses so horse and rider can benefit from it.
If you depend only on your own strength of mind you will mainly improve your ability to overexert yourself and get used to need far too much energy for actions which you could do with much less but correctly controlled and measured effort.
“An action should not simply be replaced by another, it is rather meant for changing the way it is carried out.” Moshe Feldenkrais
Histories of students:
Romeo is a big crossbred horse and obedient but much tensed up in the back. In this period we did a Feldenkrais lesson with the riders on their horses. They learned to turn their chests and hold their arms free so the use of the reins got softer. We also tried different versions of holding the reins. After the first 2 stops for the Feldenkrais exercise in standing, Romeo began already to stretch his back and it got soft. (During the “feel-lessons” between the periods of a Feldenkrais exercise everyone maintains contact on very light reins.) When the exercise with the reins came afterwards and his rider had contact to his bridle, he walks freely off the shoulder and with a stretched back. His rider is pleased: “My horse is content.” In gallop he stays relaxed and sweeping on both sides without problems.
Centre of gravity on hind quarters
Anja rides a gaited horse. He is big and slender, therefore it is not easy for him to find his balance under his rider. He has the tendency to get fast as to adjust this. In this lessons we paid attention to the movements of the ribs and the differentiation of the pectoral girdle through Feldenkrais therapy. Her horse starts to walk rhythmically. Anja develops a feeling for putting down her pectoral girdle on her chest. We take a test. Anja bents a little bit forward, 1 – 2 cm maybe, her horse hastes away. She regains her feeling of putting down her pectoral girdle on her chest and her horse changes the balance from the front- to the hindquarters and moves with far reaching, harmonious strides in good balance in the speed that Anja desires.
In the same class the rider of a Friesian mare goes through the same process, but her dressage horse starts to move forward joyfully through the newly achieved balance instead of moving lazily and listlessly.
Willy, a crossbred horse, got in the class with the desire of his rider for him walking better forward. During the lesson she learned to take up the movements of her horse into her body, let them through her body and to extend and reduce the extension of his strides only by visualisation. Willy walked good forward.