Every time I ride my horse, I am extremely grateful for Joseph Pilates’s thoughtful, effective and systematic method of body conditioning — Contrology.
Before I found out about Pilates, I had reached a plateau in my riding. My scoliosis was just one of the reasons that kept me from advancing further as a Dressage rider. Then, I started my journey of Classical Pilates.
Contrology, like Joseph Pilates named it, has something to offer for everyone. In my case, it corrected the internal crookedness caused by the scoliosis, made my core stronger, and got me a much deeper awareness of everything that’s going on with and in my body. As a result, I was able to develop a better seat for riding, a better feel for my horse and a deeper understanding of the importance of correct body mechanics.
Some of the things we work on in Classical Pilates are Strengthening, Flexibility, Body Awareness, Fascia Mobility and Balance. These are all important skills to have as an equestrian. Horse and rider are two individuals, influencing one another. In order to create the best possible harmony between those two individuals, the rider has to have the ability to “feel” the horse -, his movements, his rhythm and also his misalignments. Only the rider who is connected enough within herself will be able to feel what’s needed for the horse to get balanced and connected.
As an equestrian, I am building a partnership with my horse. As a Contrology practitioner, I am building a partnership with my Pilates apparatus. The same way my horse gives me feedback, the Pilates apparatus gives me feedback. As I work through the exercises, I can feel the spring engagement and I can use the connection into my poles and straps to get deeper into my body.
In Classical Pilates, we are not trying to work against the strength of the springs but rather using it to find and feel specific muscle engagements or initiations. Furthermore, we use that feedback to observe where our bodies are tight, where we are disconnected and where we struggle with imbalances. A huge benefit of the way the Classical system works is, that we can easily recognize any progress we make.
Multiple times, I have seen an unbalanced rider gain confidence, get connected, and learn to organize their body much better through Pilates. Riders who used to collapse in their waistline or who had trouble sitting their horse’s trot and transitions evolved into balanced riders who are able to sit in the saddle with grace. These positive changes in the rider create willing, supple and connected horses and equally important — they contribute to the horse’s over all well-being.
Classical Pilates is taught through repetition, building motor pathways that allow everybody to practice in a safe and effective way. With this method, skills are constantly being refined, allowing the body to change slowly. There are exercises that are done in a distinct and unique order every time and other, specific exercises, that target each individual’s issues. All these exercises are related to each other and therefore easy for the body to learn and to remember. It’s the systematic approach used in Classical Pilates which generates those amazing and long lasting results.
Joseph Pilates created a method that helps those who practice Contrology achieve a strong and healthy body for years to come— and those are the same goals I have for my horse.
Happy horse, happy rider — Thank you, Joe!