Tina Sederholm answers:
Although I have seen various shoulder braces which some people say are effective, I find that any contraption is only good as a temporary servant in the education process, rather than an outright cure. For me, it’s much more important to look at your overall posture.
Your body is a subtle and intricate design, where the alignment of one part influences the rest of it. Have you asked yourself why you are round-shouldered? If your shoulders are rounded, I’d say that the bottom of your pelvis is tilted under, and you walk, ride and sit with your tailbone tucked in and your lumbar curve collapsed out.
For Perfect Posture
If this is so, no shoulder brace is going to fix your problem. However, if you learn to sit in a balanced way on your fork and two seat bones, and realign your spine so your lumbar curve returns, then your chest will open and expand. This then allows your shoulders to fall back into their natural position.
There are some wonderful books written on posture, both on and off the horse. My favourite is Sally Swift’s ‘Centered Riding’ (published by J A Allen, price £25), which has been a bible to me in correcting my own posture and that of my pupils. Learning more about your body through attending Pilates (see below left) or yoga classes can revolutionise your riding, too.
Also, as well as paying attention to the positioning of your pelvis, both on a horse and in a chair, I recommend the following exercise…
l While you are riding, look through your horse’s ears at a point about 10 metres in front of you. Of course, that point will keep moving (unless you are standing still), so it can help if you are riding in a school to simply look at the next marker. As you reach that marker, look at the next one – you do not have to stare, just let your gaze flow softly from one letter to the next. If you find this difficult, try it in walk for a couple of minutes at a time. If you keep it up, you will feel your chest beginning to open and widen.
This one simple exercise can change your posture completely. However, if you have been rounded for a long time, it may be that your shoulder blades have started to ‘wing’. This means they do not ever lie flat on your back, no matter how hard you try.
In this case, some gentle circling of the shoulder joint in both directions will start to ‘oil’ your joints, so you can at least move your shoulders. Follow that with any exercise that softens and relaxes your neck and shoulder (consult a professional Pilates, yoga or Alexander Technique teacher to demonstrate the correct ones for you).
If you only have slightly rounded shoulders on the ground, but they become more pronounced on the horse, ask yourself what emotion you are feeling when you ride. People often round their shoulders to protect themselves or shy away.
Learning to relax while riding, so that you ride from a calm, effective mindset, will not only improve your posture, but also your confidence and ability to commincate clearly.