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Help! Tips for Correcting Bad Posture?

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  • Help! Tips for Correcting Bad Posture?

    So after almost a month of not riding due to traveling I got back on for the first time yesterday. Needless to say it was a trainwreck, with me being out of shape and all, but the biggest problem was my posture. Towards the end of the lesson I started to get back into the swing of things, but for whatever reason I could. not. sit. up. I had horrible hunching shoulders and if I tried to sit up I felt like I was in a chair seat (even though my instructor assured me I wasn't). I've always had a problem with sitting up instead of hunching over fences, but now it seems it's spread to my flatwork as well. Very problematic, considering I have a show in two weeks.

    So, any tips and tricks for achieving better posture? We already tried the crop-behind-the-shoulders trick, but that didn't work. I've already ruled out the horse as the problem (he's a former BigEq horse who goes like a dream and is auto everything- so lucky to have him!) My old horse was a hanger, but my posture was never this bad with him. I also row crew, so my shoulders are pretty developed, if that gives any insight. I've been riding pretty consistently up to this point, so I'm not too badly out of shape, other than just needing to get a bit tuned up. Thanks!
    Different flavors of crazy, but totally NUTS. You know its true. - GreyHunterHorse


  • #2
    I've heard of gorilla duct tape across your shoulders, if you hunch, it pulls and reminds you. Of course...Its so freakin humid here, that the one time I tried it, I sweated it right off.


    • #3
      hmmmm...if you have a strong back, it should help pull your shoulders back. When you stretch your chest does it feel tight? I would work on stretching out those pecs to see if it helps. A good one is to stand in a doorway, hold your arm parallel to the floor and bend your elbow 90 degrees. Press/lean forward against the doorframe with your forearm, and you should feel a really good stretch through your pec muscle.

      Also, tell your instructor for the next two weeks to yell at you when she sees you hunching. Its going to feel horrible, but eventually the muscle memory will develop. And I know I only hunch when I'm not looking up. So make sure you're not staring at your horse's ears!


      • #4
        Good suggestions here, also remember to PRACTICE GOOD POSTURE ALL THE TIME!!

        Sit up at the computer, stand up straight, tighten those abs and SUPPORT YOURSELF! It's hard at first and takes constant reminding, but your body will develop good-posture muscle memory after a while, and it will feel natural to have a straight back. Good posture is MUCH better for your back, too! I have all sorts of (not) fun spine problems and praticing good posture, as well as overall fitness, seriously saved me from having to do injections/surgery.
        Proud member of the "I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday" clique



        • #5
          ^ This.

          The amount of time you spend OFF the horse is critical to how you sit on the horse. Practice good posture at all times and you'll not only look better, you'll be stronger and healthier.
          Patience pays.


          • #6
            You could do what I did: break something and get stuck in a torso brace for two months. Really drove home how much I hunched! I'm ashamed to say I was actually sore from having to hold myself upright all the time. Before that I was tempted to get a Shoulders Back to wear around the house (as well as on horseback).
            "Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out." ~John Wooden

            Phoenix Animal Rescue


            • #7
              OP, even when I was at the height of riding fitness (multiple horses a day, every day - as recently as about 5 years ago) I've always struggled with "having good posture" (or so I thought).

              Recently started working with a personal trainer 1x per week at the gym, particularly on core strengthening on a particularly evil but ingenious machine called a Power Pad.

              Bottom line is that what I thought was simply my bad posture wasn't so much the primary issue - the bad posture was more a symptom of the fact that I was completely and utterly collapsed on the left side of my body. As in, so collapsed that I really can't even stand properly on one leg without falling over or tilting radically to overcompensate.

              It sounds pretty obvious, but in fact it was a huge revelation. One side of me is totally overcompensating for the collapsed side of me.

              Anyway, we are doing all sort of cool hip flexor, core strength, and balancing exercises (like standing really straight on one leg - way harder than you'd think) to build up the weak side and what do you know? My posture is improving, slowly.

              The whole thing was so bad - and attributable to years of desk-sitting and computer-hunching, along with stress - that I was utterly dumbfounded that I wasn't getting bucked off routinely due to being totally unbalanced.

              Hope that makes sense. Your bad posture may just be a symptom rather than the primary cause.


              • #8
                I struggle with this too. One of my closest friends teaches yoga. She gave me some tips and it has alot to do with your WHOLE body. Not just shoulders and hunching.

                Do exercises that open up and strengthen the front of your body. Hip flexors - hip flexor stretches. By opening your hips you open the pelvis area and it helps the chair seat feeling.

                Regarding shoulder blades, sit tall and ROLL your shoulder BLADES back. Not just your shoulders. Think of rolling them back and PLACING them back and DOWN on your back. Do this often throughout the day. You will soon realize that if you hunch or have bad posture, your shoulder BLADES are not where they are supposed to be.

                Chest exercises - do ones that open and stretch the chest - chest presses lying on your back on a bench and have the dumbbells lightly touch your chest so you feel your chest OPEN. Other ones are push ups on dumbbells so you get a full extension in your pecs.

                Finally in saddle, I would be doing lots of two point concentrating on strength in your core and back, and to get your weight down in your lower leg and heel. Also visualize the string on top of your head pulling you up, straight and tall.

                And definitely agree on working on your posture ALL day. While driving, working at the computer, etc.


                • #9
                  This. Try to wear it at the posture you want for a few days and your shoulders will go back in no time. I've also seen it help improve in lifting my midsection and helping to improve the arch in my back.


                  • #10
                    Agree with some of the others, it's a whole body issue. Do you do yoga? That's a great starting point. Posture has to do with both your core, and your back muscles as well as learning to control certain muscle groups independently.

                    As someone else said, practice good posture all the time. Sometimes, I will take each arm, do a couple of big circles backwards to loosen up my shoulder and get a feel for where my shoulder needs to be when my body is in alignment. Practice standing against a wall and pressing your back and shoulders into it and really memorizing that feeling.

                    There's probably no shortcut, other than constantly reminding yourself. The best phrases I've found are "open your chest", "stretch up through your ribcage", "shoulders back and down", and "use your core". The great thing is that you can do these things in the car, at your desk, at the grocery store, until you develop that muscle memory. To me, it sounds like your core is weak, which is common with a strong back. Yoga, pilates, and ab exercises can help overcome this. Good luck!


                    • #11
                      Also, especially on horseback I find it more useful to think "lift from diaphragm" than "roll shoulders back." Try it: hunch in your chair and roll your shoulders back. If you've got my posture skillz you can pretty easily maintain a hunched back. But if you lift from your diaphragm it automatically rolls your shoulders back.
                      "Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out." ~John Wooden

                      Phoenix Animal Rescue


                      • Original Poster

                        Thanks everyone!

                        To those who suggested the stretching- I've been stretching and it's helped a lot!

                        To those who said something about bad posture = compensation, maybe but I doubt it. I had bad lower back problems that stemmed from compensating with my lower back for weak lower abs. It's since been fixed, and I've gotten 100x stronger and I know I'm in alignment, etc, from months of physical therapy. I know my left side is stronger than my right, but I don't think that has to do with my posture as much because I'm right handed, so wouldn't that make my right side stronger?

                        Thanks for all the suggestions!
                        Different flavors of crazy, but totally NUTS. You know its true. - GreyHunterHorse



                        • #13
                          Would suggest a session with a personal trainer--preferably one who is certified in Pilates. They can work with you to keep those shoulder blades where they belong. Hunching shortens the muscles in front and stretches the ones on your back and shoulders. You just need to re-train your muscle memory. We ask our horses to do it all the time.