Gravity and Riding

by joan on April 7, 2010

in Horses,Ideas,Riders

How does gravity effect us?
How does gravity effect our horses?
Can we change our relationship to gravity?
Why would we want to?

Considering movement from this perspective might be a lot of fun

Gravity is something we all share, that everything on earth shares, natural or man made here we have one indisputable truth in common. Gravity keeps us safe on earth to move about according to our design.

Many years ago in Virginia one evening I was a dinner guest with the wealthiest man in the USA at that time, the 9th wealthiest man in the world. To learn from a master, I listened to all I could take in. Having had previous the good fortune to work with other fabulously gifted investors in small offices I learned the value of listening well. The dinner conversation included compelling ideas about magnetic pull, aging, and gravity.

magnetic pull, aging, and gravity

As we age and see our bodies sag we think this is gravity and its cumulative effect. Hearing that this is what gravity does all our lives we never question it. Is this really the result of gravity? Might it be something else? I am referring to a trait we have that we can do something about, not any secrets of the Universe like Dark Matter. The characteristic is both known and unknown to us, it is tension. Accumulating years of pulling down, tightening up, sucking in is something we all do and have our horses doing as a result of it.

A ‘startle’ reflex

A ‘startle’ reflex has been recognized by science. As part of that it recognizes our movement activates beginning with the body and limbs following the head. Even though this movement programming began before we were bipeds, it remains in the back of our brains. By improving our movement with less affects from gravity starts by awareness of it. Our automatic startle reflex can be a starting point. Giving my body playful thoughts about pausing and allowing it to flow without bracing is the next step to differentiating gravity from tension.

anti-gravity reflex

Discoveries seem to happen simultaneously by different people in different parts of the world. When science recognized we have an internal anti-gravity reflex an astute layman came up with a method of aligning our bodies to move through space freely and relaxed, it is called the Alexander Technique. F.M. Alexander in late 1800’s Australia discovered it by watching horses, cats, and wildlife. He worked out how to strengthen the anti-gravity reflex and began teaching students and future teachers in Melbourne, London, New York and South Africa until the mid-1950’s.

Gravity is a force

Gravity is a force. It keeps us here, on terra firma. It keeps us from flying off the planet. It is we who hammer ourselves down and we blame gravity. When we have patterned our way of moving from that place deep in the backs of our brains, it feels right to us and we cannot unlock it until we learn how to pause the pressuring habits by experiencing them from the startle reflex. As a rider I am keen to apply the concepts to my mounts and allow them the freedom to move following their heads, not scrunching down and moving forward the way I do. Horses so nobly want to do as they are asked and follow our poor examples keenly.

substituting better ideas

Being gentler with the world I find I can send playful thoughts to my body to undo the subconscious, ingrained assumptions about gravity. By substituting better ideas about movement, a graceful shift occurs. For example, ideas about the delicate movement of joints, and releasing different muscle groups elicit a response from within that is reflected in my horses way of being.

hard hitting former race horses

Playing around with the idea that hard hitting former race horses, the kind with so many races in them they go from top racetracks to the bottom before ever breaking down, carrying their attitudes with chutzpa to spare with them, even those battered souls can be returned to vibrant health. However, prior to my reeducation about gravity I would handle them in kind responding to the hard hitting way they knew. Now, by training them to relax muscle groups and rebalance, while respecting their hardened behaviors, there is an elevated mutual respect, understanding and communication along with their growing vibrant health.

Fearlessly riding the ecstasy of motion

By changing my perspective of gravitational force, what happened is best described in terms coined by Alexander. I now work in the means-whereby, as opposed to, end-gains. These terms sounded corny to me until I felt what they meant. They describe a changed perspective from unconsciously moving through the world pulling down and seeking an end-gain; to one where playful ideas are consciously expressed, without even doing anything, becoming the means-whereby.  Ultimately it allows me to ride in greater freedom and ease as we move in sync and in balance together.
Joan A brand signature

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