Do you know where your spine is?
A funny question. But seriously, do you consider your spine at all?
Well, perhaps you do if you have back pain which might lead to a trip to the chiropractor!
Thinking about where your spine is and what its tendencies are is something more people should focus on.
Consider this: You have 33 vertebrae in your spine. Each one can move! That is a lot of motion while just locomoting around in daily life. Think of how much motion that creates as you ride! Every step of the horse propels your body forward in space…
If you look at the picture below you will get an idea of the spine that lives in your body.
So while you might not have thought about this before, your horse has! We all know that horses are sensitive to weight shifts in the body. Then think about how many weight shifts we are creating as we ride when our 33 vertebrae are running amok in our muscle system!
This leads us to a concept I call 'Spine Stabilization'.
Spine stabilization requires the use of your abdominal muscles 'abs', much like a horse must use their abs to "come through" their back.
By engaging their abs, horses lift their spine and stretch over their top lines. They literally move their spine upwards with the aid of their abs to create the biomechanically correct carriage of their bodies.
As riders, we also need to learn where and how to put our spine correctly to carry our bodies while riding. And, using this concept in our daily lives will offer the body more ease and result in less pain. Sound like an optimal result, doesn't it?
Let’s do a little experiment.
Stand up and walk around. Draw your attention to your spine. Can you sense what it wants to do? Is it stiff? Does it break at the lower back? Is it rounded up by your shoulders? Can you feel it at all?
Without engaging your abs correctly, your spine will most likely stiffen up over time. The reason for this is that the body seeks stability. If you are not stabilizing your spine with the correct muscles, then the body chooses its own muscles to do that. And to be honest, your body may not be the best one to make those decisions. It often chooses your long back muscles, the ones that run on either side of your spine. While these can, in fact, stop the movement of the 33 vertebrae, they do so incorrectly.
The TA (Transversus Abdominis) must be activated with your mind power in order to stabilize your spine. Look closely at the picture below. While this lovely young lady thinks she is working her core abs, she really isn't. You can tell by looking at her spine. Instead of her spine moving back in her body, you can see it is instead moving forward, evidenced by the lower back being tight, arched, and hollow.
So even with good intentions, if you are not aware of where your spine is, you may not be getting the benefit of your core exercises.
Now, look at these pictures. In the first photo the rider's hollow back is clear because the spine moves forward in her body. In the second photo, the rider's abs are now more effective in moving her spine to the back of her body, much like a good dressage horse!
Ok… Now, let's try our little walkabout with a different intention.
Stand up and pull your belly button towards your backbone with the thought you are 'pushing' your spine to feel the back of your shirt.
Walk around and continue playing with the concept of pushing your spine back with your abs. When you do this, you are stabilizing your spine.
Now, I think you know where your spine is!!