SENSE Method of Movement Education
MAKING SENSE OF MOVEMENT
Many riders believe that they need to work out at the
gym to be strong enough to ride well, and that they have
to work, work, work their horses to make them strong.
Muscles Dont Push
Most movement is a direct result of muscle contraction. To control the amount of movement in a joint or to stabilize it, each muscle of an opposing pair will contract or release to varying degrees to complement or restrict the others action. So if for example you wanted to bend your knee just a little, both the flexors and the extensors would contract, with the flexors overriding the extensors initially to allow the knee to bend, then the action of both flexors and extensors would equalize to stabilize the knee in the bent position.
Fit or Overfit?
A certain level of muscle tone/strength is of course essential, to allow a rider to maintain a stable and effective seat, and to allow a horse to carry his rider while in self-carriage, and to be able to respond to the riders requests. However, it is neither necessary nor desirable for either the horse or the rider to develop the strength of weightlifters.
Muscle tone reflects muscle fitness. Overfit muscle is just as inappropriate to optimum performance and health as underfit muscle. Overfit muscles (high tonus) are in a permanent state of semi-contractionthey feel hard and movement is impeded. The tighter, or more contracted, a muscle is prior to moving a limb the more effort is required to move the limb. Try it out on yourselfwhile sitting, allow your arm to lie relaxed on your leg. Note how easy and effortless it is for you to lift it part way to shoulder-level. Start again, but this time tense your arm muscles and then lift your arm without releasing the muscle tension. Can you feel the difference? Can you feel how much more effort you had to make to achieve the same movement? Not only does it require more energy, but the joints are unable to move as smoothly so the joint surfaces are stressed and the tight muscles/tendons are more vulnerable to strain. Injuries or pain will also cause an individual to tighten adjacent muscles to minimize pain or damage. But sometimes the brain forgets to release them again.
Can you see how this could affect a horses stamina and performanceand longterm soundness if he has sore, injured, or overfit muscles, or if he is tightening up to compensate for poor hoof balance, ill-fitting saddle, unbalanced rider, or ? He will have less power, decreased ease of movement, and will be prone to fatigue, increased risk of muscle strain and increased shear forces on the joints. In addition, tight muscles restrict bloodflow so oxygen is not as readily available to the muscles, and by-products of movement such as lactic acid are not carried away as efficiently.
What can cause muscle interference?
Can bodywork techniques improve muscle
In many cases, however, and particularly if chronic muscle contraction is responsible for faulty movement patterns of long standing from whatever cause, bodywork techniques may provide only temporary relief: the bodys ability over time to shut out or diminish the awareness of pain and of the affected area can interfere with the voluntary release of contracted muscles. Even though the musculoskeletal system may be realigned via bodywork techniques, the effects may not be permanent because the body tends to revert to movement patterns that are familiar and habitual. With issues of long standing, addressing the musculoskeletal system often proves frustrating because it is the brain that needs reprogramming, not the body.
How Can Movement Patterns Be Improved?
For people there are several educational approaches including the Feldenkrais Method, the Alexander Technique, Somatics, Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF), The Trager Approach, and others.
Riders who pursue somatic education by a technique such as one of those above will discover an entirely new ease and efficiency of movement both on and off the horse. They will tend to be more flexible and looser yet balanced, and more aware of riding posture and their effect on the horse. Riders of all ages and skill levels can benefit.
Bodywork techniques focus on structure and achieving some structural ideal, while movement education tends to focus on function and allows the nervous system to determine what is ideal. For example, rather than saying, This spine is poorly aligned and I must correct it, movement education focuses on showing the individual how the vertebrae can move relative to each other and allows the individuals nervous system to determine their alignment. The advantage of this approach is that learning occurs and the individual is less likely to return to the old, inefficient movement patterns.
Can Horses Movement be Improved Too?
Can All Horses Benefit from Movement
Where Is Movement Education Available?
In Canada, the SENSE Method (for horses, dogs and cats) is available in the BC Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island through the email below. For practitioners elsewhere or for more information on the SENSE Method of equine /canine movement and awareness education please visit the SENSE website.
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Last updated July 26, 2001
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