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Dressage: Equestrian Training with the Level Belt

November 8, 2012

Last week I had the opportunity to visit and observe Jodie McKenzie (no relation), a local Dressage equine instructor at Mac Meadow Farm here in central Ohio. Jodie had heard of the Level Belt and was interested in trying it on herself and to help her clients.

Dressage dates back more than 2000 years ago as a style of horseback riding. First used by the Greeks in preparation for war, its benefits included free flowing movement between the rider and the horse promoting mobility and agility. Two qualities found very beneficial when attacking and evading enemies.

Today dressage has evolved into a popular equestrian sport featured in Olympic, professional and amateur ranks.

According to Jodie, “all work in dressage should be free, light, and aesthetically beautiful to the observer.” To help achieve this, the rider most have great postural awareness and control while resolving undue muscle tension to more easily “receive” and follow their horse. Muscle tension is the main culprit causing extraneous movement in the rider, resulting in significant point reductions in dressage competition.

With Jodie and her horse Angus’s approval, we applied the Level Belt to Jodie’s low back and started our evaluation.

Jodie began by actively engaging and relaxing her trunk and posture muscles. As anticipated, the Level Belt sounded appropriately with each posture change. It was obvious that the concept of pelvic tilt was nothing new to Jodie. According to her, this concept is one of the most necessary to learn in the equestrian world. While this is a desired concept, most students struggle with learning and understanding of how to move and control the lumbo-pelvic spine. Jodie concurred that this is often an issue which requires regular reinforcement during her training sessions.

The Level Belt was found to be very effective during both the walk and trot activities, sounding with appropriate biofeedback when good postural control was lost.

Jodie also offered an additional insight specific to riding that we have not noticed with other activities. She noticed that when she applied over-tension through her legs, something she has been working on reducing to improve her own dressage skills, she would also receive a biofeedback tone from the Level Belt alerting her to the riding error and promoting her correction.

As with the other activities we have featured and will feature in the future on our blog, good posture can really help with performance and injury prevention, and the Level Belt can help you learn to avoid poor habits affecting postural tone and neuromuscular coordination.

I encourage you to become aware of your own posture and muscle strategies, allowing you to get out of your own way and begin moving less restricted and more efficiently.
I would like to thank Jodie and Angus of Mac Meadow Farm for their time and contribution to this blog.

-Chris McKenzie, PT, AT, SCS

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