Sit Up Straight - Or Not
Monday, February 29, 2016
Submitted to the Walking Horse Report
by Dr. Tom Morgan, DC
Riding Tennessee Walking Horses and watching other riders we find a colorful array of saddle seat postures. I have not found one person, even the riders themselves who can defend poor posture in the saddle. True, everyone will argue that balance is the key to how they sit in the saddle. No one I have talked to thinks the slouching, hunched, bent over posture is very becoming or enhances the viewer’s enjoyment and appreciation of our great horse’s performance. Many of us have questioned why there is such poor riding posture in our breed and the only answer I have gained from the fans and riders is that they have tried to sit up but just found they could not ride that way. I understand this to a point (can we all still hear Mom saying “Sit up straight.”)? When I am on the golf course I watch the different types of movements and postures in the golf swing. Even the professionals’ swings vary. I chalk it up to the different mechanics of movement adapted to striking the golf ball. However, there seems to be a thread of consistency running through Tennessee Walking Horse riders and it makes me question why poor riding posture runs rampant in our breed. I believe it may be due to the fact that the rider was taught incorrectly from the start – or not taught at all.
I have heard many riders tell me that their first trainer just let them climb up on their mount and start riding with no notice or coaching at all as to posture. Others tell me they learned their seat by mimicking their favorite rider, or their trainer’s posture. When I first got into the Tennessee Walking Horse business in Kentucky, I watched Bob McQuerry and Mose Oppenheimer battle it out in the Saturday night stake classes and wondered if I should sit up like Bob or hunch over like Mose!
In my first lab in Chiropractic College we studied correct posture and the health reasons behind perfect posture. Our first study to confirm what we were leaning was when we were assigned to study erect posture and gait as we viewed pedestrians walking and people sitting and moving. We saw what our instructor knew we would see – the older the person the more off center (slumping) their posture. There are many studies about how poor posture can predict mortality and morbidity. To translate, the better posture you have the longer you live. Google posture and mortality or click
The human spine houses and protects our number one system - the Central Nervous System. Also, the spine protects 26 pairs of spinal nerves that innervate every organ and part of the human body. When we look at the human spine and pelvis we see these special 24 vertebrae. Everyone who has been to a chiropractor has looked at these perfect mechanical specimens – our vertebrae, sitting on top of the pelvis (tailbone – sacrum and hips – ilium). These 24 interlocking joints have special facets or fasteners which must be in balance in order to keep the disc between each vertebra hydrated and in good health. If you study the load on these joints you can see that poor posture causes negative repetitive wear and tear on the discs and facets. Soon the joints wear down (degenerate, and herniate), lock together (subluxations, spurring and ankylosis) and disease or pathologies develop – just from poor posture.
All of us who have ridden and shown for many years are suspicious when we see judges look above the saddle to tie horses. We don’t need to judge the rider but all of us need to pay more attention and get our riding posture clues from the equitation riders. They are the most perfect examples we will ever find of great posture and saddle seats. One of the best decisions Mary Ann and I made was to put our horses with a trainer who taught all his riders good posture. Thanks Jimmy Carnathan for teaching all of us good riding posture. You are one of the best!
Another solution is the one I see going on today and that gives me much hope of our future. Today’s Tennessee Walking Horse riding instructors are coming on line and trainers’ wives are teaching correct riding posture. So we see more and more new riders with good posture. Look at the novice classes this year at our shows and you will see better riding postures and great young riders.
I watched a PGA golf match not long ago and it showed my favorite player (Bubba Watson) golf swing in slow motion. It was not that pretty, but it was and is very effective for him. His swing is different since most of the pros have the same perfect or basic swing. Not Bubba. When asked why Bubba’s swing was different he remarked his swing was “self taught”.
See you at the Trainers Show. Good luck!
Dr. Tom and Mary Ann Morgan live in Cedartown, Georgia on “Morgan Hill Farm”. They have a new colt on the ground “A Man of Honor”!
You can contact them at email@example.com.