This internal balance of self-carriage for the rider is enhanced
by pursuing exercises that require a centering of the thoughts and balancing of the muscles. Thus self-mastery over the body
is required a pre-requisite for dressage. Finding that suppleness, yet firmness of posture and alignment, first off the horse
and later on the horse, is complementary to harmonious riding. Without this, trying to sit correctly on the horse will usually
only cause more tension.
The rewards for developing basic position by establishing
a solid foundation for dressage is that all future riding will more readily fall into place by applying the needed degree
of aids, provided the horse is far enough along with the strength and suppleness to obtain the desired result. The rider's
self carriage will allow the animal's energy to flow freely forward, only to be harnessed and channeled through the rider's
aids, which ultimately free the horse to self carriage with a rider.
Yoga will not only help one to acquire this relaxed alignment
by removing stiffness in the rider's body, but it will contribute to the development of a rider's dexterity. As riders, we
do not merely sit our horses and "be relaxed" (as if that is not enough), because we also have to be able to use each limb
independently in order to influence the animal effectively. We have all heard about being ambidextrous. Well, the dressage
rider has to be quadridextrous - independent in all four limbs.
Just to position the horse into a corner requires the inside
leg on the girth, the outside behind the girth, and both hands acting independently, depending on the horse's resistance and
degree of balance, or self-carriage. In short, all four limbs must be brought into a fluent, calm, balanced and harmonious
In order to achieve self-carriage for either rider or horse,
all muscle groups must be working in balance and coordination with each other. Working only one area of the anatomy makes
the muscles develop unevenly, and this counteracts the purpose. Setting the horse's head in side-reins and not asking it to
engage from behind is to overwork the neck muscles and to develop them independently from the back. Similarly, the person
who does the same exercise over and over, without engaging the other muscle groups in the exercise, will develop unevenly.
We should be interested in mastering our own bodies if for
no other reason than because all our stiffness reflects on the animals we are training. While we are trying to ride the stiffness
out of the animal's body, we are really contributing to it, because of our own stiffness.
Is your horse not flexing all vertebrae from tail to poll,
but instead is a little behind the bit? Maybe it is because your own neck and spine are lacking in that little extra impulsion
good posture creates!
There is no doubt that yoga and dressage are similar in nature.
Using yoga as a gymnastic tool will enable the rider to find both balance and quadridexterity more readily in the saddle.
The eventual result is to become a harmonious one with the object of the dressage training, the horse.