Dr. George Felder has been an equestrian for all his life and has intensely studied
dressage and body awareness for many years. His presentation included information about Yoga, the Alexander Technique and
Dressage using quotes from Sally Swift, Bauchet, Barbier and Museler. Riders can’t go wrong when combining these
authors and disciplines into their repertoire of communion with the equine.
George began the lecture with his history of how he started exploring ways to relax.
"Being a type A person, led me to explore. It was that or go crazy. I had to learn to slow down and riding was an outlet for
my intense personality. But I discovered that dressage is very humbling. You can be a great looking rider on the horse, but
be totally ineffective. A good riding position equals the most efficient movement from the horse, and a good position has
to be dynamic - it cannot be just good posture." George used the example of a surfer to explain that good posture is not just
standing on the board and assuming the position of a surfer, but rather knowing the moves to ride the waves. Thus, to really
surf or ride, it takes a dynamic position not just good posturing! "The horse is like the waves a surfer has to encounter,
they have to bend the knees and hips to move with each thrust from the water underneath them, just like we have to go with
the horse and not just sit stiff and rigid against the horse’s movement. To acquire this dynamic positioning and ability
to feel the horse requires years of dedication to the sport. With a practice of some kind of body awareness techniques such
as Yoga or the Alexander Technique one’s journey will be enhanced.
Riding requires all of our five senses and also the 6th sense which George called
kinesthetic awareness. Another way to tune into this awareness type riding is by practicing such exercises as Sally Swifts
"soft eyes" which allows the rider to become more aware and receptive. As a result, the body goes to a place where it can
This is the opposite of tunnel vision, or the concept of being too focused and fixed
on one thing. Focusing while learning to ride is a common fault especially during lessons when our trainers are constantly
saying "do this, do that, and do this, do that." Until students actually feel the "this and that" of what they are doing,
they have not learned anything.
Learning to ride is like learning how to play an instrument. First you have to consciously
learn what you are doing, then in time you can eventually play without thinking about it. This is when the ability to play
goes into the subconscious and you play on automatic pilot. This is how it needs to be with riding. The rider needs correct
position, with a dynamic feeling body, and then the ability to just do "this and that" (coordinate the aids) will just happen.
George called this the "cosmic consciousness of riding", or being in the zone.
In books we read that riding should be effortless and when one lets go and rides
with soft eyes and dynamic positioning, it is easier. But with most of us it is an uphill battle trying to overcome our inability
to let go and ride dynamically. Just think of all those years you were told to "sit still, stop fidgeting". And these are
commands from both our riding instructors over the years and our parents at the dining room table. But in order to really
be able to ride well we have to learn to allow the correct use of our bodies to take over. The Alexander teachers call this
correct use of body ‘Primary Control’. We have such "downward pulls" in our lives from not only gravity but muscles
contracting, that it is very hard to overcome, let alone overcome while riding a horse. Then of course, over the years we
get "habitual positioning" with our bodies and that really interferes with our attempts to "maximize our ease of movement
and maintain a dynamic posture on the horse."
Dr. Felder believes to be able to go with the horse in a dynamic position, we have
to acquire these abilities first off the horse and learn to "Live our Riding Position". We have to practice yoga or another
kind of exercise that stretches, strengthens, coordinates and relaxes our bodies. We must know our bodies, learn how to center,
and be able to experience " the now", or live in the moment...! (Editor’s note: Sometimes I think most of us ride just
to experience living in the moment and to be able to let go of our constant thinking about doing.)
At the end of the presentation, Amaera, George’s wife, led the audience through
a Yoga exercise. After her brief introduction to Yoga, if we were not already sitting straighter in our chairs and letting
go of our own personal "downward pulls," to make our bodies a little better for riding then, by golly, we were inspired to
get out there the next day and do something to improve ourselves so it would reflect in our horse’s way of going. (To