Stories & Inspiration

Honoring My Mentors – #4 The Rider’s Body Awareness

by | Feb 19, 2022

When I first started riding as a kid, the instructor just yelled commands and corrections at us without ever explaining HOW we were actually supposed to do these things with our bodies. I so passionately wanted to become a good rider, but that felt very difficult to achieve without understanding the WHY and HOW.

It took years until I realized that even if I tried really hard, I wasn’t able to get my “Heels Down!!!” because I was gripping with my knees. And it took even longer to understand that pushing the heels down as much as you can isn’t even a good idea as it blocks all the joints in the leg and makes you stiff and unable to be in sync with your horse’s movements.

That’s why I am deeply grateful to my mentors who explained the WHY and HOW, and have great tools that I could use for myself and later my students.

Ursula Bruns and Sally Swift were the first, but over the years I have learned from great instructors like Susanne von Dietze, Mary Wanless, Eric Franklin, and, of course, the instructors at my Yoga Teacher Training.

Here is what I learned that you might find useful too:

  • We talk a lot about the rider’s “feel”. We might think that that’s something we either have or we don’t, but “feel” is actually something you can learn.
  • Understanding basic anatomy is important for every rider. In order to e.g. “relax your hip joints”, you need to know where they actually are.
  • Body awareness is something you can learn. You can learn to feel for instance where you are too tense or too loose, and what body parts are aligned and which aren’t.
  • Body awareness helps you improve your use of your body. You can’t change what you are not aware of.
  • Your body can “get it” much more easily when using imagery.
  • Simple exercises like the one Susan describes below can create powerful changes.

This is what Susan says about one simple exercise from The Intuitive Rider Academy that changed her riding: