…with my own two ears. Just the other day I overheard a riding instructor say to a young pupil: ‘Stick your belly button out.’ That stopped me in my tracks. Is this a gymnastics class? The student rode by on her pony with a lovely ‘c’ in her lower back like pictured below.
This type of rider posture – hollowed, locked back – is incorrect and disrupts not only the rider’s ability to absorb the horse’s movement, but also causes the horse to hollow and lock its back (as seen in the picture) in response. When that happens the horse trails its hind legs, can’t swing through its back, drops its wither and base of neck, raises its head, and shortens its stride. It’s the antithesis of correct movement, stressing the body. Even the best conformed horse can’t overcome.
Here’s a great illustration showing the correct amount of curvature in the lower back. (The human spine does have some curvature through the ‘loin’.) Also of note is the straight line created by the alignment of the ear, hip and heel that we all know about but often struggle to obtain.
I don’t know the education background of the riding instructor, if she’s certified, or who taught her, but she’s popular with her students and their parents. It discourages me that another group of young riders is being developed with such poor basic skills. Besides the hollow lower backs, all the riders in her class (5) had knees and toes pointed outward and overly straight arms. And like a horse that has lived in inversion, a rider with incorrect basics will need to spend much more time correcting those bad habits than if they’d learned the right way first time around.
I wish I had a solution for this widespread problem, which feels to me as if its gaining momentum.