Here in the Center of the Nation most people either own a horse or two of their own or for sure know someone who does. We are a horse and cattle community after all! My wife is a talented horse trainer and the other day I had an interesting realization after a discussion we had about equine posture. One very common postural dysfunction in horses is a sway back. This is when a horses back ends up with a more pronounced curve than it should and often causes pain and discomfort for the horse and sometimes means they can no longer be ridden.
Being a Personal Trainer and Human Movement Specialist, I have a great interest in helping people correct their posture. So my question to her was, “Can you fix a sway back horses posture if you somehow exercised the right muscles somehow?” Her answer was “Yes, definitely! You just have to work with the horse and over time teach them to collect their head and engage the right muscles in their back and hips, until eventually the right muscles get stronger and their sway back improves.”
That process is extremely similar to how I help people with their posture and back pain. Ironically even humans can have a “sway back” posture! What I teach my clients and group fitness class attendees every day is the same thing we do for the horse. If you have ever been to one of our classes or had a personal trainer instruct you before you will hear us constantly reminding you of things like this: “Engage your core!, Neutral spine, Head down!, Neck straight!, Straight back!, Don’t let your back sag!, Engage your Glutes!, Use your hips!” Sounding familiar yet?
All those cues a trainer gives are essentially the same you do for a horse. If you let your horse be loose and you ride like a sack of potatoes in the saddle you are going to have a bumpy ride and eventually contribute to the horse ending up with a sway back by bouncing with all your weight right on their spine! But if you collect their head and use cues to make them move their hips and you ride with the horse with good form and both of you with good posture, you both get a better ride. Now think about yourself, maybe you drive a big heavy commercial truck like me, or you drive a bouncy tractor all day, even if you sit at a desk most of your work day. If you sit like a weak and limp sack of potatoes and let your body weight compress your spine and then bounce around on that compressed spine, you WILL end up with a sore back and eventually some postural dysfunction and chronic back pain. With the right coaching and cues and proper release, stretching, mobility, and strengthening techniques your posture, pain, strength, even your mood will improve.
So think about your posture during your daily activities. Draw your belly in, sit up straight, keep your shoulders back, your chin down and your neck straight, even think about engaging your Gluteus muscles while sitting, standing or driving for a long period of time. In other words, Collect Yourself!