The Feldenkrais Method for Effortless Riding
Horse Riding
Monday, October 18, 2010
by: Wendy Murdoch, GCFP

Section: Athletes

How many times have you gotten on your horse and thought, “I am so stiff!” Or, maybe you have noticed your horse is stiff, has trouble bending, or taking a particular canter lead. You have recognized that you are part of the problem, but what do you do about it? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were a way to solve these problems without hours of stretching, or years and years of riding? There is. The Feldenkrais Method offers riders a unique way to solve riding problems through pain-free, gentle, small movements that teach you how to move in new ways, in just minutes.

How can the Feldenkrais Method work so quickly?

Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais, the creator of the Method, was an engineer. After suffering a severe knee injury he rehabilitated himself and in the process developed the Feldenkrais Method. Dr. Feldenkrais recognized several key factors, which serve as the basis of the Feldenkrais Method:
(1.) You cannot think a thought without a movement,
(2.) We act in accordance to our own self-image, and
(3.) We can change our self-image, and therefore our human potential, with conscious awareness through movement.

Every time you think of taking an action, like getting out of your chair, your nervous system gets ready for you to stand up, before you ever acted upon your desire to stand. Whenever you ask your horse to turn, the thought of turning has caused a response in your body that may ask your horse to turn. A sensitive horse hears the ‘getting ready’ part before you ever consciously ‘act’ on the thought. That is why with some horses you have to be extremely careful of your thoughts so they don’t act on them, like jumping too soon, or stopping at a fence because you held your breath!

That we act in accordance with our own self-image is expressed daily in our riding. If we say that we are stiff, or we can’t jump that high, or our horse doesn’t like crossing water, then that is what we project to our horse and how our horse will respond. It is as if our limiting belief system is transmitted to the horse, and the horse expresses it like a mirror. However, we can change our self-image through learning new possibilities of movement. Not only does this improve our physical potential, it also changes our self-image, and therefore allows our horse to perform new and different movements. The horse suddenly becomes confident because the rider is acting in a new and positive way.

Here’s a taste of a Feldenkrais Awareness through Movement® lesson:

Sitting in your chair, turn to look at something behind you on your right. Only do what is easy. Mark the spot on the wall for how far around you can see to begin with.

Now take only your eyes to the right three times. Leave your nose straight ahead. Go slowly, notice if your eyes jump or pan like a video camera as you move your eyes. Do not force anything. Go slowly! Rest.

Next leave your eyes straight ahead (look at a picture on the wall or a tree) and take your nose (with your head) to the right three times. Going slowly, do not force the movement. Only do what is easy. Rest.

This time leave your head and eyes straight ahead and turn your chest to the right, three times. Again, go slowly, only what is easy and notice if other parts of you want to follow. Rest.

Now look to your right as you did in the first step. How much further can you look?

By taking the time to differentiate your eyes, head and chest you discover that you can look much further with less effort. That’s [the] Feldenkrais [Method]! Imagine how that will help you look for your turns on a hunter course, or a ten meter circle in the dressage arena, and perhaps more importantly, how this will make it easier for your horse to do what you want.

Wendy Murdoch is an International Riding Instructor/Clinician and a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitionercm. She is the author of Simplify Your Riding, 50 Five Minute Fixes to Improve Your Riding and the 3 DVD series Ride Like A Natural. For more information go to or contact Wendy at She resides in Virginia.

© 2007 Wendy Murdoch. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.

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