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By Marsha Ivany
I am a fifty-five year old equestrian. When I decided to get back into riding several years ago, I quickly realized that abilities I took for granted in my twenties were no longer there. My balance, posture, and fitness level were not what they had been. I wasn’t nearly as flexible in my movements and had slipped into certain physical habits that interfered with my ability to perform well on horseback.
I began a Pilates fitness program because I needed a strong base of support that would allow me to stay balanced and follow my horse’s motion. During my Pilates workouts, attention to my upper back, lower back, abdominal or “core area,” and legs gave me the strength and flexibility to maintain a secure position in the saddle. Both my Pilates instructor and my riding coach noted the positive changes in my body and ability to perform. However, I continued to be plagued with unnecessary tension in some areas of my body causing unconscious and incorrect muscular effort. Some habitual patterns persisted, affecting my riding and my horse.
I began seeing Sandra Bradshaw, a Feldenkrais® practitioner in my hometown of Kelowna, BC. Through a combination of Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement and Functional Integration lessons, much of the habitual and unnecessary tension in my body was reduced, which greatly assisted in maintaining the integrity of my body alignment on the horse. Unconscious habits became conscious and as my nervous system began to reorganize my body into an integrated whole, I became more balanced and relaxed. Intention and action began to fuse as my mental directives responded with new and more effective movement patterns. Through the activation of neuro-pathways, I began to “turn on the electricity” and I became aware of every part of my body, on a cellular level.
As a rider, I have come to appreciate what Pilates and the Feldenkrais Method have to offer. By improving my physical and mental fitness I can utilize more of my athletic potential to further develop my riding skills. My horse reflects the positive changes in my body/mind and is more willing and cooperative in our work together.