What Does It Mean To Have Neutral Spine

You have heard me in the past mention the concept of a neutral spine and why it is an important element to understand in everyday life and when riding.

If you haven’t seen this article here all about how to improve your dressage position I suggest you have a quick read. I explain in detail and demonstrate in a video how to set up your neutral spine position and all the entails.

When everything is stacked correctly in our body we can distribute our weight evenly on and around the horse.

To help explain this, imagine you are heading out on a tramping holiday and you have one of those big tramping backpacks on your back. Imagine someone else has packed it for you and all the weight is weirdly distributed throughout it. One side has all the heavy gear and to top it off, it is really top-heavy as well.

Not only is it hard to carry because the centre of mass isn’t near your centre of mass, but it is also loading more on one side of your body. To improve this your first instinct would stop and re-pack your backpack and ensure everything is evenly distributed and the heavier items would be near the bottom.  Not only do you find this easier to carry, but you also find it less energy and can load more over your centre of mass and move easier.

When we are riding the concept of having your body stacked in balance over your horse’s body in balance is the key. Similar to above, when you are in balance your horse can move easier and freer without forces being applied in weird directions or blockages happening over their back.

When in balance don’t brace

The key next is to understand that when you are in your neutral spine position, life is easy. It’s not a forced position and you aren’t bracing to try and maintain everything to be there. If you brace, you would bounce and be rigid on the horse’s back. Instead, once you are in balance, this is where everything is in alignment and when things are aligned your horse can then move freer and you can move freer.

If you are leaning back behind your centre of gravity, it is like having that top-heavy backpack that is falling away from your shoulders, so much harder to carry and you have to lean forward to counteract that movement pulling you backwards. This is the equivalent of a horse getting really heavy on its forehand as you lean back.

However, if you reload your backpack and place everything closer to your centre of gravity and your centre of mass and maintain your neutral spine and neutral posture, everything becomes easier.

When we are balanced, it makes life easier for our horse.

So next time you hop in the saddle think about your position and what sort of backpack you are being. This will change through the gaits as different forces are being placed upon your body and your job is to rebalance and be aware of where your central position is through those movements.

There will certainly be times when you need to brace to react to a spook or to help guide the horse more into balance for a few strides. But the key is knowing that once in balance you stay in balance and enjoy the ride. It shouldn’t feel like hard work or a braced strain. But instead harmony and balance.

A place to call home, neutral.

Where you are just a passenger.

There will certainly be times when you get pulled out of this position because you are riding a living breathing animal. But in your training you are working on coming back to this position as quickly and as often as you can. So that more and more of your rides and in this harmonious place called home.

Don’t think this happens from just a few rides, this is a journey of improvements 1% at a time and you will know when you get that feeling. It will all click and that is then what you will strive to recreate for the next ride and so on.

Use video to help you create that balance point and understand what it feels like and get a glimpse into how you are sitting on your horse and work towards creating more and more of those balanced moments.

Then remember the more you improve your posture, balance, coordination and body awareness off the horse, the more balanced and centred a rider you will become.

Everything is connected.


Learn more about neutral spine with these other articles

How To Set Up Neutral Spine For Dressage Riders

Sit better, sit different, sit less

6 Dressage Exercises To Help Improve Your Riding Posture

How To Create Stable And Quiet Legs For Dressage

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