Tag Archives: Psoas Muscle

Dressage Versus Office

In the battle between ‘Dressage Versus Office’ my office is winning!

After all, in the quest for expertise they say it takes 10,000 hours of practice; that’s 5 years at 8 hours per working day sitting at a desk and I’ve been at it a lot longer than that.

I’ve just read an article by Nicola Smith of foreverfit.tv which essentially confirmed what I have known for many years.  My office is killing me and utterly ruining my chances of developing my skills as a Dressage rider!

Nicola says that when you spend the average of 6+ hours sitting at your desk it is going to make you age faster, increasing your risk of diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis, metabolic damage and so much more. dressage versus officeOur bodies simply are not designed to be sitting all day every day. This sedentary office based lifestyle affects our natural physical make up.

She advocates that you take control of your day and ensure you do what is necessary to change things by trying to keep active – Walk before work, ride before work, do a workout! Yeah, she’s a fitness guru! Use a chair that is going to help you sit correctly and research how to get your desk set up ergonomically, and my favourite … set a timer every 60 minutes and take a 2 minute break, stand and walk.

Continue reading Dressage Versus Office

Psoas Release

PsoasMy blog post back in March 2014 entitled ‘Release Your Psoas Muscle to Discover Your Dressage Seat’ talked about the importance of these muscles to our riding and ability to absorb the movement of our horse effectively.

I have become a little obsessed with mine, largely due to the fact that I spend many hours sitting at a desk each week and constantly bemoan the disadvantage this gives me when I climb aboard my horse but also because, as you will know by now, when I get an idea into my head I have to follow it through!

So, I am delighted to advise that I have found you a psoas expert and some great information about how to release this important set of muscles.  I am so excited because it is THE most simple thing you will ever do to aid your ability to position yourself effectively for dressage and simplicity is another of my obsessions!

Liz Koch has been investigating, teaching and writing about the psoas for over thirty years.  Koch believes that the best release for most people, especially when they are beginning, is what she calls constructive rest, which is a relaxation technique.

“It’s a being (not doing) position. Before you exercise or at the end of the day, constructive rest changes the whole expression of the central nervous system.  There’s a lot going on in constructive rest but you’re not doing it. You just allow it to happen” – Liz Koch

Here goes … Koch’s method for releasing your psoas muscles

  • Lie on your back.
  • Bend your knees and put your feet flat on the floor or alternatively up on a chair as in the diagram shown.
  •  You want your legs and feet to be parallel to each other and hip distance apart.
  • That means your knees will line up with the area just inside your hipbones and your middle toes will be in line with your knees.
  • Adjust the distance of your heels from your bottom so that you find a place where it takes the least amount of effort to have your legs in position.
  • You will know you have the right distance when you feel the weight is equal on the whole foot and the pelvis can move.
  • Let your spine lengthen along your mat.
  • You want a neutral spine position so there will be a slight curve under your low back. You can rock your pelvis back and forth a few times to find the middle place where your pubic bone and hip bones are flat along the same plane.
  • Relax your shoulders away from your ears and feel the weight of your shoulder girdle on your mat.
  • Keep your arms below shoulder height, letting them rest over the ribcage, to the sides of your body or on your pelvis
  • When the arms are kept below shoulder height, gravity releases tension in the psoas while in constructive rest. As this happens the pelvis rebalances and the spine elongates.
  • Relax your neck and jaw.
  • Do some deep breathing and relax.

Psoas Release 1 Psoas Release 2

In this simple position gravity releases the psoas! This is such a simple relaxation technique. You don’t have to do anything but allow release.  Don’t you just love it?  Simplicity – The key to brilliance.

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster


Release your PSOAS MUSCLES and discover your dressage seat

There are one set of muscles which have direct connections to your abdomen, pelvis and the ability to rotate your thigh –  The Psoas muscles.  The way they are intricately embroiled around our pelvic region is symbolic of their importance to our riding and ability to absorb the movement of our horse effectively.Psoas

1) psoas major 2) psoas minor 3) iliac us 4) iliopsoas

Click on the photo to be taken to the page about Psoas Muscles

A contracted Psoas muscle tilts the pelvis forwards and pulls the rider’s seat up and out of the forwards flow of movement. This is one of the causes of the incorrect hollow or ‘braced’ back.

Discovering these muscles is an absolute must for any rider with Dressage ambition and a yearning to improve their dressage seat.  For those of us who sit all day working at a computer, or driving, our Psoas muscles will inevitably be tight and contracted.  If they remain tight and contracted for long enough they will think that this is the norm leaving us with no alternative but to bounce in the saddle from a stiff lower back.

The most important exercises we can do off the horse, to help us on the horse, are those which release tension in the Psoas, which have to be soft and supple to enable you to respond to the movement of your horse. My advice is to set about discovering these muscles for yourself.

A really simple exercise you can do is illustrated here …

Psoas Dressage

Once you have discovered these muscles … but more importantly once you have released these muscles … you will soften your diaphragm; enable correct breathing; be able to sit on your horse better; calm yourself, and your horse.  Your abdominals, inner thighs seem to automatically become toned the moment the Psoas are released and the lower back lengthened.

I am not an expert in these matters, but there is plenty of information on line from those that are – worth having a browse!


Like this post?  Try THE BOOK


In the first of our Real Life Rider Series of blogs subscriber Anne wrote to me to say that she has issues with legs “creeping up” and losing stirrups.  So, especially for you Anne …

…any rider that has had a problem for some time with legs that creep up and/or forward are displaying the symptoms of muscle memory which will take some fixing.

As with most rider issues there are two areas to address – the physical and the psychological nature of the problem.

The physical:

The best way to start is by stretching the tight areas. I’m afraid I don’t have the time or space in this blog post to go through all the stretches that you could do, suffice to say the muscles indicated on the pictures are the ones that you should target and you should get professional advice about how to do it.  Losing StirrupsNow I know that this is not easy.  You have enough to do right?  When are you going to find the time to go through a thorough stretching regime?  Well I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, but all the time you are spending trying to sit deeper, push the weight into your heels, grip on for dear life is wasted time.  Put aside some quality time (20 mins) to go through some stretching exercises focussed on the muscle groups above and you WILL see results.  Not immediately, but soon.

The Psoas Muscle

Also, let us not forget that we are correcting a problem, if you sit in your job all day chances are your Psoas muscle needs a workout.  There’s an interesting article by Karen Gunn “The Psoas Muscle and its Importance in Riding” – Happy Horse – well worth the read.

Another simple method of fixing the improper muscle firing sequence which should be utilised alongside stretching, is to pause it, continuing just strengthens it, so instead of continuing trying to hold the tense position, stop, refocus, get back into position and off we go again.

After all, you know when your horse is ready to stretch or needs a break, you have exactly the same need when you are trying to fix an ingrained problem.  At first, you may have to pause quite a lot and if you are truly committed to advancing your riding, you may have to spend several rides pausing, your horse may not get his full workout, but the time will be worth it.

As long as you are seeing progression and the time between the pausing is getting longer, you can continue happy in the knowledge that your legs will soon no longer be creepy!

The Psychological:

You need to train your body to have an ‘off’ switch.  At the same time, let go of any mental tension which may be building up.  Your brain will be releasing tension related signals whether you are conscious of them or not.

Riding with a pattern like inner thighs tightening, or heels creeping up, or legs creeping forward causes a constant firing signal to the muscles involved.  It creates a very strong ‘on’ signal to those areas.

Teaching your brain to have an ‘off’ switch by stretching and pausing is a good start.

For dressage riders, it can be helpful to think of these stages as similar to the training scale. Without addressing the tension in your thighs you will not be able to progress through the scales of training.

If you’re creepy legs are giving you difficulty with sitting trot there are two posts with helpful tips bumb-n-grind and more on sitting trot ... go take a look.

The next ‘Real Life Rider’ post looks at rushing in the long-and-low frame and how to re-establish the rhythm.

As always, have fun!

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster