Achy Joints – Is It Arthritis or Something Else?

I’ll bet that a lot of you either complain about achy joints or know someone who does.  Do you or they assume it’s arthritis?  Do you complain to your doctor about it and he or she assumes it’s arthritis and prescribes arthritis pain medication?  What if it isn’t?  What do you do then? Continue reading

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Playing with Weight Aids

     Many riders talk about using weight aids to cue the horse as to what to do next – bend, turn, stop, etc. As a Pilates instructor, I prefer to talk about body language. There are two reasons for … Continue reading

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I just have to advertise for this blog!

Do the impossible!

“Nothing is withheld from us what we have conceived to do.”  Russell Kirsch

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Posture and Saddle Fit

We all know that having to buy a new saddle is literally a pain in the rear.  It’s worse than trying to find a new swim suit or even a pair of jeans!  What makes saddle shopping so difficult is that first the saddle has to fit you, THEN it also has to fit your horse.  Trying to find something that fits two “people” at the same time is hard. I’m only going to discuss dressage saddles in this installment since I have more experience with them, but I’m sure that my basic points will apply to other styles as well.  And I say “installment” because there may be more to this as we go on.

Many dressage saddles claim to put you into the “correct” position.  Supposedly, the “correct” position in dressage is that you’re sitting directly above your sitz bones (ischial tuberosities), your pelvis is in neutral (vertical), with your torso directly above your pelvis so that a straight line can be drawn through your ear, shoulder, hip, and heels.  The ear part is very hard, even for a standing person, so we could leave that out for now.  And your legs should be fairly long in the stirrup, some say approaching straight.

How does this “correct” position relate to you as a rider? How can you define your default position anyway?  Let’s look at pelvises to start.  Most of us are on one side or another of neutral.  If your pelvis is lordotic or tipped forward, you have too much arch in your lower back.  In this position, you’re on the “forks” or in what’s called the “fork seat”.  If you sit rolled back on your pockets, you have what’s called a “flat back” or no arch in the lower back. This position is known as a “chair seat”.

Moving down from the pelvis are your legs, so how do they wrap around your horse? Despite the “correct” ideal of a straight leg, It can’t be straight at the knee while you’re sitting on a horse, well, maybe if the horse was Flat Stanley. Since a horse has a barrel, you have to bend your knees to sit a horse.  There’s just no getting around it any other way.  (Tee hee.)

Some saddles make your leg go very, very straight, often with those huge thigh blocks to “help” you keep your thigh down.  That was popular for awhile several years ago.  Is this actually a good thing? Forcing the thigh back into an almost straight leg will quite likely cause other problems.

Straightening out the leg, or pushing it backwards, will probably cause the pelvis to tip forward.  If you have a flat-back posture, this may help you find a more neutral pelvis.  If you have a lordotic posture, this will increase the arch in your lower back and may cause pain.  Do you really want the saddle that forces you into the “correct” position at the expense of your low back?

Other saddles put you in the non-ideal “chair” seat. If your default posture is a slouchy, tucked under pelvis posture, you’re going to feel more natural in a saddle that puts you in a “chair” seat.  And if you have tight hip flexors and your pelvis is tipped forward, a chair seat position will probably be comfortable, too. Do you really want the saddle that accommodates your chair seat because it’s comfortable?

The ideal may be a certain profile or silhouette.  But you need to honestly assess where your posture is and where it’s tight.  In most people the hip flexors are too tight BECAUSE we sit too much. If you don’t stretch those hip flexors enough, they will pull the top front of the pelvis forward and down, causing arching in the low back.  The leg bone’s connected to the “hip” bone.

Decide how far you are from the ideal and try to determine what you need to do to get closer to the ideal.  Maybe what you really need is a saddle that pushes the boundaries of your comfortable chair seat. A good saddle can move you a little toward the ideal, but not all the way to it.  Getting our legs under us while sitting is not a habit or skill that we’ve developed except when we’re trying to ride a horse, so you need a plan to move towards correctness.  Pilates, Yoga, or some other core stability workout will help you stretch the hip flexors and stabilize your pelvis, so that you can move up the levels in saddles toward your goal.

Knowing where you are now and where you want to be, will help you find the perfect saddle for you. When you first sit in a potential new saddle, what is comfortable for you and why? Assuming the twist is not too wide or too narrow, the seat is the right size for your thigh, your knee is not hanging over the front, and the flap isn’t too short or too long, in what position does the saddle place you? How does the saddle interact with your default posture – tipped forward (lordotic) or tipped backward (flat back) pelvis?

Now that you have some good saddle candidates for you, go home and try them on your horse.  I did say this article might involve installments.

Happy saddle shopping!

Do you have any questions on this?  Please contact me and ask.  Thanks.



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Let’s Do the “Kegel” and a Pelvic Tuck!

When I travel to teach Pilates for riders, I try to focus on five basics.  These five basics are:  neutral pelvis, ribcage placement, shoulder girdle mobility and stability, head and neck placement, and, finally, breathing.  What if we are keeping it really simple? If we are taking on one basic at a time, most basic of the basics is the pelvis.  It seems that for various different reasons, almost all the riders I see need to tuck their pelvises just a bit.  Some more than others, but nearly everyone could benefit from a tad more pelvic tuck.

When I first coach riders to tuck their pelvises, they are benefiting from tightened abdominals and a stabilized lower spine and pelvis.  The lower back will also be stretched and relaxed.  Another reason it helps to tuck the pelvis is how the position allows the torso to come over the hips and the legs to come under the body.  However, you must keep your butt and thigh muscles relaxed while you tuck the pelvis.  If you don’t, your horse will speed up.  If you do keep those muscles relaxed while tucking the pelvis, you will be in better balance with the horse and he will relax and possibly slow down.  His rhythm and tempo will improve.

Alongside the basic lesson of tucking the pelvis, you need to learn to do a Kegel exercise.  A Kegel is tightening the perineum.  Imagine being at the beach and you’ve just finished drinking a six-pack of your favorite beverage.  Now the facilities (restroom, outhouse, etc.) are a mile away and there are no bushes, trees, or cabanas anywhere.  Now what muscles are you going to tighten so that you can make that 20-minute walk to the facilities?  I’m sure you know what I mean!  That inner squeeze to keep you dry all the way to the bathroom is a Kegel.

Now I only want you to do a ten-percent Kegel.  We will use some imagery a little more nuanced than our beach and bathroom example.  Imagine there’s a five-story building between your pubic bone and your belly button and you want the elevator to go up only two floors.  Or imagine pulling the facial tissue out of the box between the two pieces of plastic. These ten-percent Kegels will also help to relax your horse and she might even stop!  Brakes!  Brakes are good to have!  But you don’t have to have full brakes all the time.  Do you want a half-halt?  Do a ten-percent Kegel while keeping the energy up.  A ten-percent Kegel is subtle, yet powerful.

Now it sounds easy to do a ten-percent Kegel (it is once you get it) and it’s a good idea to do it all the time.  Unfortunately, it’s so subtle, that as soon as you think of something else, you lose it.  That’s okay.  You get it, you lose, you get it again.  It will take a little bit of practice on the ground before trying it in the saddle.  Then when you do try it in the saddle, be sure to start out small, at the walk, so you can experiment with it and notice how your horse reacts.  As I said, it’s subtle, so don’t miss the little changes that make a huge difference to your horse and you.

When we start with the proper, slightly tucked, pelvic alignment and add the use of ten-percent Kegels, neat things can happen. Since your horse mirrors your body language, he now knows what it means to tuck his own pelvis and engage his own abs.  Your horse is now in a physiological position that makes it possible for him to lift his withers and lighten his front end!  This, then, allows him to “bridge to the bit”.  Isn’t that something we’re all looking for?

Any questions?  Please ask me!  I’d love to hear from you.

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Wow! THREE People Awarded Me the Sisterhood of World Bloggers’ Award!

Wow!  I’m stunned, flattered, honored, humbled, and just plain flabbergasted!  Not one, not two, but THREE people awarded this to me!  Those wonderful, generous, kind people are in alphabetical order by first name are:  Elizabeth Townes, Lynn Baillie, and Riki Cleveland.


The Four Simple Rules of the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

  1. Thank the giver and link to their blog.
  2. Post 7 things about yourself.
  3. Pass the award on to 7 other bloggers and let them know they’ve won!
  4. Include the logo of the award in a post or on your blog.

So here goes:

Seven things about me:

1.  I love chocolate.  I no longer try to live on it, but I still eat it.  I was spending $15/week on chocolate.  The good stuff.  But now I don’t.  It’s still yummy!

2.  I love just about anything with four legs and fur.  Well, almost anything.  There are exceptions.  But mostly dogs, cats, horses.  I currently have one dog, two cats, and three horses.  I also have eight chickens.

3.  I’m trying to grow my own food.  This is my third year with a vegetable garden.  The tomatoes are doing fairly well, especially the yellow cherry tomatoes.  I found out about pruning tomato plants this year.  I’ll be overrun with potatoes soon and that’s good.  The peas didn’t fare well again.  I have chard, melon, and turnips, too.  The carrots refused to grow.   And I had few strawberries.

4.  I love berries.  All kinds of berries.  And berry season is almost over here.  I’ll be sad when it is.

5.  I hawk someone else’s hummus at farmers’ markets.  Good stuff.  This job keeps me entertained.

6.  I love music and dancing.  I used to dance many styles – jazz, ballet, Polynesian!  A girl with long, really long, blonde hair doing the hula!

7.  I clicker train my animals.  Or, at least, I try to.  I’m better with the horses than with the “new” eleven-year-old dog!

Seven Bloggers That I’m Sharing This Award With:

  1. Stale Cheerios – Hunter talks about clicker training in general and with horses and her horse rescue.
  2. Bookends Farms Ponies – Jackson talks about her horses, her farm, her dogs, Pony Club, and clicker training.
  3. Remote Coach – Dearing talks about how to improve your riding and showing and how she does it for you, with you remotely.
  4. Tales from a Bad Eventer –  Funny blog I just found.
  5. Nanette Levin, both of her sites – and
  6. Laura Kelland-May,,
  7. And Katie Bartlett – this isn’t exactly a blog, but it might as well be.  She started writing about clicker training ten years ago and putting it up on her website.  There’s a lot of info there:

Can you tell that I’m really into horses and clicker training?

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More Words – Antonyms or Synonyms?

I love words.  I love the history of words, where they came from, how they’ve changed in usage and pronunciation.  I love to play with words.  I love puns.  Puns are not the lowest form of humor; they’re the highest.  To play with words, to make plays on words, you have to know and understand the language.  Puns play with and on words.  This is why I loved reading the Harry Potter series, there were so many plays on words.

One of the things I’ve noticed over the years are the words “entrance” and “entrance”.  What’s the difference, you say?  Those are the same words, aren’t they?  Well, are they?  That depends on how you pronounce each word.

EN-trance, a noun:  1) opening or door or way into something such as a building or park.  “We found the entrance to the museum.”; 2) the act of entering a place.  “Her entrance to the ball was mesmerizing.”;  3) permission to enter.  “Late comers will be refused entrance.”  The way in, perhaps?

en-TRANCE, a verb:  1) to put into a trance, or sleep-like state.  “The hypnotist entranced the volunteer onto the stage.”  ; 2) mesmerizing, to carry away with delight, wonder, or rapture.  “We were entranced by her beauty.”  To draw in, perhaps?

“Her grand entrance was entrancing.”

Now, how about “invalid” and “invalid”.

“In-VAL-id”, an adjective, meaning useless, false, baseless, logically inconsequent, also weak.  “His driver’s license was invalid.”  We all get that one.

“IN-va-lid”, either a noun or an adjective, meaning sickly or, again, weak.  I’m glad this word is no longer common.  But I’ve always wondered if “invalids” knew they were being marginalized this way by being called “invalid”.

Do you have any examples like this that you’ve noticed?


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