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When you are riding, do you ever feel totally uncoordinated? Perhaps your riding instructor tells you to move a certain way or tries to describe a feeling, but you just don't get it or you can't seem to get yourself to move that way? Maybe you do feel it, for a second, but then you can't get the feeling back.

Today, I'd like to share a concept that may help you – this is something that affects all riders, and fortunantly, you can improve it even when you aren't actually riding.

What I'm talking about is body awareness, also called body control or your proprioception. It is essentially the ability to move with ease, mobility, and coordination. When we don't use a certain part of our body, we begin to lose our awareness there. However, the good news is there are many different activities we can do that will improve our ability to move and our ability to ride. Watch the video below to learn more!

Leave a comment – what is one activity that you do now or that you could start doing that could increase your body awareness?

See you in the comments!

Callie

p.s. The violin player is our own Hannah Baisley – who is part of staff at the farm!

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36 Responses

  1. Thank you, Callie…….just listening to your videos has taught me that I am not the only one with these insecure, lack of confidence, feelings. As a senior citizen, who refuses to give up on her passion for horses, knowing that others have the same situations and having paths open up to the practices to improve our riding is, indeed, a blessing. Thank you, again.

  2. I think yoga is wonderful for creating heightened body awareness, as well as dramatically improved balance. I loved the video and what you say makes so much sense – I wish more riding instructors promoted mindfulness/awareness in their movement and mobility!

  3. I do have a question. I work with a personal trainer 2 times a week for strength. She has suggested I try a Pilates class. Do you feel that would help with body awareness the way yoga would?

  4. Thank you so much for bringing up this interesting topic! I’ve felt a similar challenge recently while learning to surf. One surfing instructor told us to ‘look where you want to go’, much as we do in my horseback riding lessons. The idea is that by turning your head, and twisting your shoulders in sequence, your weight shifts down through your legs and ‘tells’ the surfboard which way it should turn. It’s not a conscious thing, but with that one key eye movement, the rest of your body naturally follows. Focusing on just one physical change in my posture, instead of a flurry of individual ones, really prevents confusion when bringing on a new physical skill. Thanks again!

  5. I find a lot of crossover between my practice of Pilates and its principles and riding. Pilates is all about strengthening your core, being centered in your body and increasing your overall body awareness. It makes me a stronger, better rider.

  6. Hello Callie
    I am 56 and have earned a 2nd level black belt in combined marshal arts (2015). That being true, am still learning to quiet and breath while in canter and when jumping.
    The training in marshal arts has taught me that practice makes permanent. In the case witb my beloved horse, he also benefits from practice. That said, good form is EVERYTHING…practicing the wrong thing is horrifying when correct form comes to light. Much time then needs to be spent undoing the wrong form…for two….me and my horse. The other very important aspect of “eliminating the awkward ” is to start slow. I have learned that the walk is very important. So it is also true in marshal arts, start slowww, build muscle memory and one day it just happens. This is why I love, adore, worship-almost my trainer…tough, no holding back, tell it like it is…worth more than gold. She saves me and by horse hours of rework, by slowing us.
    Patient time-on-horse builds confidence, and competance ….sparing utlizes the same principle. …I did not spar blackbelts on day one, but after years of patient in the ring was able to skillfully enjoy the art.

    Sorry for typos, on my mobilr…only ment to write a little.
    Thanks for letting chime in.
    Mike Shannon – CRK follower

    1. Thanks for sharing Mike, and a great reminder to go slow. One of my favorite trainers, Angelo, has said several times, to “never be too impatient to work the walk.” Sounds like you have a great trainer too!

  7. Hi Callie. I just discovered your blog, Facebook page, and YouTube channel, and I wanted to let you know I really liked this video. I don’t know if I’ve ever thought before about the way body awareness affects riding, but I think what you said is totally true. So thanks for making me think!

    Also, your videos are some of the best horse-related videos I’ve seen. I’ve been looking around YouTube a lot lately, because I’m trying to learn how to make great videos myself, but I have to admit I haven’t found many horse-related videos that make me think, “Hey, I want to make videos like that one.” Yours, however, are great! You speak clearly, you seem to have a very good idea of what you want to say, you convey your messages well, and the video quality is good. So yeah, thanks for inspiring me!

    Cheers.

    1. Thanks Stephanie! Glad you like the videos and good luck in making your own. If you ever want suggestions or help with the “tech” stuff feel free to reach out – I had to learn a lot about video over the past few years!

  8. Hi Callie I do a lot of singing where I am always encouraged to stand with head up, shoulders back and down, straight line through shoulder hip and foot. All to do with balance. I’m often struck by the similarities

  9. Great video as always!!! The out of the saddle activity that I feel helped my body awareness and strength is Pilates! It strengthened my core as well as different muscle groups in my arms and legs. Along with the strength came body awareness. If my trainer told me to engage my core before I started Pilates, I had no clue what to do. Also as a result of strengthening the different muscle groups, I am moving more easily with my horse. Of course, I still have a long way to go but I sincerely believe Pilates has made a huge difference in my riding as well as my ability to learn to do new things on my horse!!!

    1. I agree! I usually take a Pilates class a few hours before my riding lesson. I think of it as a good physical and mental warm up. I notice in my lessons that when I think of riding from my core, my position improves and I feel more centered and balanced. I recommend it.

  10. The breath work that goes along with yoga and meditation has helped me release tension, work through jitters, and increase awareness of my body by “breathing into” the area while on my horse or even right before I get On. There are so many activities to compliment our riding. For me it’s hiking, yoga, and meditation. Thanks Callie!

  11. Pilates!! After I broke my back and was on bed rest for many many weeks, I had no sense of balance. Someone suggested swimming (which helped also) and Pilates. I so totally understand what you mean about “learning to learn.” I had done gymnastics well into my 30’s, but now couldn’t even figure out how to sit in a V seat with my bottom on the floor and two feet raised up off the floor. The instructor had to physically lift my feet off the floor for me! My own brain-body connection was totally failing me. Fortunately the instructor patiently encouraged me to persevere and my body figured out how to do what my brain was telling it to do. My body was “learning how to learn” and as you said it transfered into other activities. I would certainly not be riding today without that kind, patient and encouraging Pilates instructor.
    This is a great video Callie. It gives me encouragement at a time in my riding when I have been feeling very uncoordinated. Thank you for reminding me I can get through this frustration and that my body can learn what I need it to and I can conquer this feeling again.

  12. Yoga! I started my yoga practice after I broke my neck in order to restore strength, balance and flexibility. Everything I have learned has definitely crossed over into my riding!

  13. I started doing some yoga moves on horseback with friends to help them relax on their horses. They found it fun & very strengthening to move with your horse and stretch muscles while relaxing your mind. It has become our Sunday morning exercise before our trail ride. I have learned a lot from your videos, thank you.

  14. Hi Callie! I was excited to read and see this subject, because about a month ago, I started doing dance aerobics (of all things). I thought it might help with distinguishing my right/left independent movement, coordination/rhythm, and speed up my reaction time, plus get some serious cardio in:) I think it’s working…I definitely feel more connected to my body and my rhythm is getting better. It’s very similar to riding, where I have to focus completely and shut out everything else going on in my brain (family schedules, grocery lists, birthday parties, etc…) which is a very good thing sometimes. I’m still not a great rider (just ask my trainer) and I’m pretty sure the lesson horse that I ride despises me, especially when I accidentally poked him in his eye when I took off the bridle, but I have made some progress and appreciate your posts and videos so much! Thank you!

  15. Hi Callie, Thanks for your latest video. I totally identify with his problem. Some days I get it, other days I dont. When I get it, it feels great but when I dont, I feel like my horse must think he has a sack of potatoes on his back . Having been riding now for 9 months (I’m 58 by the way) I feel that some days I just go backwards. All of a sudden I’m hearing the dreaded “heels down” , “legs back”. I do fitness classes twice a week – cardio, strength and balance, but my riding instructor thinks that it may be harming my riding position rather than helping. I must admit that my ankles feel tighter despite all the stretching. Any thoughts on how to loosen the ankles or other exercises that may be more appropriate for riding?
    PS Just on another topic – The sitting trot. I can do it from a walk but not from a rising trot. Consequently my transition from trot to canter is not pretty. Any help appreciated. Thanks.

  16. Hi Callie,
    Great video and for me, I see so many similarities between yoga and riding. I have had a regular yoga practice for the last five years. It has taught me the importance of breathing, awareness (and living in the present) as well as helped me with balance, body awareness and strength. My life has greatly been enriched by yoga and the 8-fold path, and has helped me as I am learning to ride. At time when I am riding, I often reflect and realize that riding uses everything we practice in yoga- breathing, awareness and presence with our horse, balance, body awareness, etc. Yoga and riding have helped to enrich my life everyday. I hope that I can continue to do both into my senior years :-). Thank you again for another great video. Nancy B

  17. Yoga, yoga, yoga! I was once in riding lessons with a figure skating coach who was a complete beginner. He CATAPULTED past everyone due to his fitness and body awareness. It was phenomenal. Obviously some natural talent there too, but that really left an impression on me and I’ve been doing yoga ever since! Especially during winter when I am not able to ride as much.

  18. Clear and lovely Callie, thank you. Body awareness is definitely the key to moving forward in our riding in a way that feels as great to us as it does to our horses:)

  19. Yoga is definitely something that connects mind, body, heart and soul; this would I could imagine bring in more balance and coordinated movements (and of course flexibility) during horse riding. I do practice a light form of yoga in the sense that I do the basic yoga postures that are focussed only on flexibility. It does help a lot.

  20. wonderful stuff guys, thanks for sharing, I badly need to get my core into shape, so yoga/pilates it will be!! As always awesome info from you Callie, and I just need to finally find some time.
    Thinking back, boy was I a bit of a mad bitch, flinging ropes etc…. natural horsemanship…..kinda stuff, BUT, I’ve advanced, am now the “mate” they might prefer, taking it easy, and I can ask what needs to be asked. Keep up the great stuff, and may the horse stay with us all!!
    cheers….
    could be the wine speaking now….

    1. Hi Robyn! I’m super intrigued by your comment, specifically about the flinging ropes and the taking it easy and asking what needs to be asked. It seems like you might have arrived at some of the same conclusions I did – I’ve also given up most of the traditional and “natural” techniques in favor of a friendlier approach. I’d love to chat with you about what you’ve learned and your current take on horsemanship, if you don’t mind. My e-mail address is [email protected].

  21. Yoga, Pilates, martial arts and any conscious body movement are all helpful. Even ‘whole body sports’ such as skiing and biking can be helpful. I did find that sometimes you can try TOO hard! When I first started I read everything I could get my hands on regarding riding. I had a lot swimming in my head (much of which is still falling into place πŸ™‚ My instructor at the time said that I was actually trying ‘too hard’. Her suggestion was to ‘feel more’ and ‘think less’ for a bit to let my mind and body get into sync. To this day, when I feel I’m a bit ‘out’, I close my eyes (my boy is very stable and I can do this easily in a trot.) An extension of this would be to take some lunge lessons at the trot and/or canter and close you eyes to FEEL more. It is very grounding.
    Thanks for another wonderful video, Callie!!

  22. Hi Callie!
    I just found your blog and I love it! I live in Sweden, am 30 years old and have taken riding lessons for one year.
    One thing that has been helpful is my background as a climber. Climbing requires body control, coordination, balance, core stability and mindfulness- skills that I can transfer to the riding!
    So my tip to anyone out there who are struggling with body awareness- try climbing πŸ™‚

  23. I think as an adult rider who is new to lessons it is very relevant and timely that you have chosen this topic. As an adult you do so many given tasks on auto pilot; drive a car, perform chores, basic exercise routines which don’t require too many things to think about as there is not a lot of space left in your mind for them! I have just started weekly pilates and daily mediation on my smart phone and have found it really helps my riding. I use to do some tai chi many years ago and found that also quite good for engaging body and mind together, but also very challenging. We learn differently to children as grown ups and I have mentioned this also to my instructor. We have fears of failures , need smaller chunks of information and need to relate this information to our life experiences to make sense of it all. My stronger core,being mindful and present is absolutely helping me make new steps in my riding.

  24. This is a great one too! Mark Rashid brings up this topic of being conscious of our body…and recommends inserting this into all of our daily routines…Do you always shovel manure with your hands and the “pitch” the same way? How about putting on your pants? Which leg do you lift first? Tying your shoelaces? Getting on, getting off the horse. Hanging up your tack? Carrying your tack?, starting from a different place in the arena?…and also he says that this affects horses in terms of going to different areas or arenas…not just the “newness”-but the sun in a different spot in comparison to the ??? The gate being at the “other end” etc. Some horses are more affected by these changes than others.
    Very interesting how much of our life is on auto pilot! Since thinking about these things-I deliberately try to change things up-and work both sides more evenly-even though I am not as effective on one side. I am more aware that directional changes in essentially similar environments (arenas in particular), may affect the horse’s sense of balance and “auto-pilot” of skills that normally do not cause them to have to think through them.

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