Just as much as I dislike squeezing horses into idealized postures, I also very much dislike putting riders in rigid (but thought to be good) postures. One of the biggest struggles I encounter with most riders is they are trying to achieve a fixed position they’ve been taught- shoulders back, leg on, hands still, and so on. This creates a lot of rigidity in their bodies and takes away their ability to feel and flow with the horse. It inevitably leads to overuse of hands and legs, because it blocks the horse, requiring the rider to nudge and bug and nag him to go or turn or get on the bit or what have you.
Just like with horses, my aim as a teacher is to help the rider feel their body parts and become aware of where they are in space. I often ask them to notice a piece here without trying to change it, and compare it to the other side. How does the how belly feel? Is it soft and relaxed? Or is it squeezed in tight? How does your neck feel? Can you turn it freely or is it tense? As we run up the body and begin to feel and be aware of where their bodies are in space, and how they follow (or don’t follow) the horse, an amazing thing almost always happens- the rider gets into a beautiful, free position, all on their own.
This happens through becoming aware of their body, moving with the horse’s body, and relaxing enough to have fluidity in their body, but focused enough to have structure. And the horses love it too- they always get so relaxed and straight and melted over their backs- they absolutely love a rider who is with their movement, instead of antagonistic to their movement.