The ability to hold upright and balanced rider posture at all times is critical for optimal rider control and horse performance in any equestrian activity, but especially during classical dressage competition. The smallest shift in rider center of gravity resulting from a loss of proper alignment will compromise the rider's control of the horse. And in dressage competition, there is the added necessity of good posture for best rider appearance.
The Alignment page of the web site classicaldressage.co.uk clearly describes proper rider posture for dressage riding. The following quote from the Straightness page of that site makes clear how essential correct alignment is:
And it is the rider's responsibility to sit straight no matter what the horse is doing. When we think we are sitting straight and balanced, we are almost always leaning slightly forward, with one hip and shoulder more advanced and more weight on one seat bone. Even if a rider has been more or less straightened out by constant supervision from a teacher, the crookedness will sneak up on her again as soon as her attention wanders. I believe that this straightness is one of the qualities that distinguish the master from the average rider. The importance of straightness - both the horse's and the rider's - cannot be overestimated.
The ideal situation would be for you to have proper posture all the time, so no adjustment would be necessary when going from your walking to your riding posture. You could then concentrate solely on your riding, plus with that optimal posture you would not fatigue as quickly during training or competition.
But although straight posture and balanced position are so desirable, they are often difficult for nonprofessional riders to attain. The reason "crookedness" sneaks in as soon as you stop paying attention to your alignment is that most "normal" jobs involve either being seated at a desk for many hours per day, or reaching forward and down to work on something, and both activities tend to develop round-shouldered, forward head positioned posture. In addition, there is the effect of the "handedness" of most of our daily activities, which causes left to right strength and flexibility differences that make it more difficult to then do symmetric activities like riding truly symmetrically!
(In fact, mucking out stables is one of the worst activities conceivable for a rider concerned with posture and symmetry! Unless you rake, shovel, lift, and generally work the same amount with your right and left sides, you will reinforce any left to right asymmetry you have. And since most of the work involves reaching forward and down to some degree, unless it is done with attention to posture and working position, mucking out tends to reinforce or even develop the forward head, round-shouldered posture which we are trying to avoid!)
But what can be done to counteract these negative postural influences in our lives? Most of us must work at something other than dressage, the stables will not muck themselves out, and trying to do every daily activity totally symmetrically is not a realistic real world goal. So how can we develop the "automatic" good posture and alignment we need for best dressage performance?
You already know that just "thinking about" holding your posture and position does not generally work, because most people's daily activities so overwhelmingly promote the development of poor posture, and over time that poor posture causes structural changes in the muscles which tend to pull us back into that poor posture once we stop thinking about holding good posture. So what would work?
The program you need to develop proper posture and riding position is PowerPosture™!
What you need is a stretching and strengthening program specifically designed to counteract all of the daily negative postural influences in our lives, a program that reestablishes normal left to right and front to back strength and flexibility balances. Ideally, the program should be easy to do, not require extra equipment, be doable virtually anywhere, take a minimal amount of time, be inexpensive, and yet reliably and quickly produce results in everyone who does it.
Until now, there has been no such program. But now, there is PowerPosture™! The PowerPosture™ program was specifically designed to reestablish normal upper body muscle flexibilities and muscle strength balances, using 10 to 20 minutes of daily stretching (which is also relaxing!). The results are "automatically" correct head, shoulder, and upper back posture, with the reduction or elimination of any left to right differences in your upper body. And once you have this good upper body posture, any remaining seating or leg position problems will be easier to solve.
As specified above for an "ideal" program, the PowerPosture™ program is indeed easy to do, requires no extra equipment, can be done virtually anywhere, takes only 10 to 20 minutes per day, is inexpensive, and has never failed to help anyone who has used it as instructed. In 4 years, no one who has used the program as directed for 60 or more days has ever claimed that it did not help them with their posture and/or neck, shoulder, and back pain and fatigue. So if your riding posture needs improvement, the PowerPosture™ Program will assuredly help you!
How to tell if you need the PowerPosture™ Program by looking at your normal, standing posture?
If you are unsure whether or not your equestrian performance would benefit from the PowerPosture™ program, simply look at your normal standing and walking posture. If your standing posture is not correct, then you will not be able to maintain proper posture when riding, either.
Looking at yourself from the side (using mirrors or another observer), within fairly narrow limits, proper standing (or walking) postural alignment is when the earlobe, the middle of the shoulder joint, and the hip joint are on a plumb line over each over, and that plumb line intersects the foot one half to one inch in front of the ankle joint.
- The shoulders are held back and down
- The upper back is relatively flat between the shoulder blades, and the upper spine curves forward only slightly
- The chest curves out; and the forward tips of the shoulders would be 1 or more inches behind a yardstick placed across the upper chest
- The collar bones are level or slope only slightly upwards
- The chin (looking from the front) is 3 or more inches above the sternal notch (the hollow at the base of the neck, above the breast bone).
This postural standard pertains to people of all ages. There is no research evidence that as one ages normally, posture has to get worse, nor that upper body flexibility has to get worse. Unless a person specifically has a disease that causes spinal degeneration, posture should be as straight at age 80 as at age 20.
If you find that your normal, standing posture does not meet these standards, your riding posture will definitely benefit from your doing the PowerPosture™ Program!
Additional reasons beyond equestrian performance for working toward proper flexibility, strength, and posture:
Besides better riding performance, there are many other significant functional advantages to the proper posture and flexibility developed by the PowerPosture™ Program. Some of those advantages include:
- Optimal organ and muscle function for maximum energy, endurance, and vigor. (In fact, without proper posture that the result of proper flexibility and strength balances, you can never achieve your athletic potential in virtually any sport.).
- A neck, shoulders, and upper back which are no more painful or fatigued than the rest of the body at the end of the work day or at the end of a long drive.
- Greater concentration, creativity, and productivity as the results of this reduced pain and fatigue.
- Fewer upper and lower back problems, now and in the future.
- Little or no height loss with age (or regaining height which has been lost - height gains of up to 4 cm have occurred in PowerPosture™ users!).
- A flatter and stronger stomach - in fact, without proper posture (as developed by PowerPosture™) you can never achieve the flattest stomach and smallest waist possible, no matter how much ab exercise or dieting you do!
- A more respect-producing, confident, competent, vigorous, youthful appearance, which is advantageous in any interpersonal contact or business situation.
- Better driving safety through improved neck and shoulder flexibility and an upright head position, which makes visual scanning while driving easier. (Loss of head movement capability is one of the 3 main causes of age-related decreased visual capabilities when driving.)
All of the above physical and mental performance benefits of the PowerPosture™ Program are certainly desirable, but is there also a downside to the program? Only the 10 or so minutes per day it will take to do the exercises! And in the long term, even that will probably diminish to the point where simply interspersing the exercises throughout the day, as needed, will be enough to maintain your proper posture and flexibility!
You only live once, so why not be the best you can be in the sport you love, while enjoying it as much as possible? Get PowerPosture™, get the posture you want and need, and be the best you can be, now!