We all know that correct posture is important to riding well in any discipline, and nowhere is that more true than in dressage. Now I’m the farthest thing from a dressage rider, but I do appreciate its bigger concepts such as connecting mentally with your horse and getting your body in harmony with his body’s movement. (I said I appreciate it; not that I am always able to do it.)
To this end, one of my favorite resources, Karen Rohlf and her website, Dressage, Naturally, is devoted to building thought bridges between classical dressage and natural horsemanship. Sounds crazy, I know, but this is fascinating work that has drawn a very loyal and happy following. Best of all, you don’t have to understand — or do — dressage to receive huge takeaways from each and every one of Karen’s lessons, newsletters, and videos.
So Karen offers up SiMoN™ a unique breed of lesson horse we all can own (he’s cloned) . . . and assuming you don’t get bucked off (it can happen), this simple blue foam teacher with wooden handles coming straight up from his “withers” will show you in a way you’ve likely never understood before how your posture impacts your horse’s alignment.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying horses are in any way like noodles. However, what SiMoN is oh so quick to point out is the overarching physics lesson of how even subtle shifts in our own posture or alignment impacts the body alignment of our horse. And even if your horse doesn’t curve out dramatically to one side as SiMoN is wont to do, a ride on this fine steed will show you in an instant the directional pressure even a small shift in our weight exerts on our horse’s back. Deliberate work on SiMoN, it appears, will show you how to use this power for good.
How did I come by this spectacular bit of information? I went out to visit a little women’s horsemanship group hosted by my friend, Jennifer Fulton, at Ironstar Farms in Aledo, Texas. This is the kind of group that feeds the horse lover’s soul, and if you’re not in one, get one. Seriously. Whether getting together online in any number of Facebook groups (communities abound around all kinds of horse-centric interests — just search!), or gathering periodically in person as this one does to eat chocolate, drink wine, and talk about our horses, is one of the best ways I know to connect with others, find support, share resources and ideas — and generally enhance your horse-loving experience!
So as part of one of these gatherings, Jennifer shared with us a couple of Karen’s video presentations. Then, after telling us more about Karen’s work and showing us her book and DVD that outlines the Dressage, Naturally™ program step by step, (book also available on Karen’s dressagenaturally.net website) Jennifer then brought out her new horse, “SiMoN” for an all-play riding demo.
After that, the place pretty much turned into a bowling alley. (If you do purchase one of these noodle horses, you might want to consider “riding” it only in the privacy of your own home. Preferably when your family is away.) As profound a teacher as SiMoN really is, I can’t begin to describe the visual — or the value — of actually taking a “ride” yourself. Understanding it in your head as you laugh at your friends is one thing. Feeling (and seeing) the directional force even tiny posture shifts create on your horse’s back is quite another — and is as unforgettable as watching grown women ride swim noodles.
It is incredible how much this mental imagery (the first one, not the second!) helps keep you straight in the saddle and mindful of your posture, as well as your hip and shoulder alignment. Just one ride on this fine blue steed embedded this picture in my head; I can’t imagine what doing the entire SiMoN series regularly could do for my riding!
Here’s a video from Karen’s Dressage Naturally website to show you how this works!