Sunday, September 28, 2014

Book Review: The Riding Doctor

This was a bit of an impulse buy for me, but I read it in 2.5 sittings over the course of a single day. I did not glean everything there was to glean from it, as sometimes I fear is the case with books. It's so easy to publish, and so many things are merely rehashed versions of what other people are saying... which is fine. But I find that too few books are firmly rooted in personal experiences, and that makes for shallow books, especially as I can connect ideas well enough to think, "Ah! I've read this before." and then pass it by.

Not this one. Dr. Glosten does a fabulous job in this book.

She goes over her riding fundamentals: mental focus, proper posture, leg control, arm control, and understanding movement. These function as the structure of the book, and she explores each section in depth. They're supported with exercises designed to help elucidate concepts, and although I've done like... two at this point, they seem pretty solid.

Many of the topics I feel I've read a great deal about before, but I like the accompanying exercises as I can see prescribing many of them to clients when they're struggling with an issue.

A big thing for me was her discussion of core -- Mary Wanless speaks of building a wall of muscle and pushing your 'guts' out against the wall, Dr. Glosten recomments tightening the inner 'corset' of muscles (the transversus abdominus) against your spine rather than pushing out with your core. This opposes what I teach, but she claims that "this position is hard to maintain for long, and rigidity of the spine is not ideal in riding." I can attest to the first, and I'm not certain that this posture has ever maintained 'rigidity' in my spine. She also says, "I personally have explored both methods of stabilizing torso position in the saddle. I find the inward corset approach logical, doable, and effective. What's more, this technique of core stability and support is what you see in any sport or activity that requires balance and movement. After all, you don't see ballerinas pushing out their bellies, right?"

So that's going to require some more research, experimentation, and thought on my part. Engaging a wall of muscle and pushing my guts against it doesn't appear to result in me "pushing my belly our" nor does it have me "hang my belly out in front of me." When I try to "tighten the corset" I find my rib cage drifting upwards, away from my pubic bone. Maybe it's a vernacular thing and they're both talking about the same thing (I find this the most likely answer.)

Dr. Glosten emphasizes often the importance of soft gluteal muscles throughout the course of the book (always a good reminder.)

This ball migrates about the apartment, making random appearances when I get inspired...
The first exercise I tried from the book involved sitting on the ball, setting a metronome, and matching my bouncing on the ball to the metronome's beat. This is to improve focus on rhythm, as well as to get a sense for organizing my whole body into maintaining a tempo. It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, but that might be because in the past few weeks I've been torturing students and myself with a metronome in your boot.

There are a bunch of exercises in the book. The cover says more than 50. Many of them are staples - planks, side planks, bird dogs, etc - but many of them are slow-motion exercises with specific things to think about during the motion. The idea is to increase body awareness and tone in order to ride pain free. I look forward to doing more of them in order to be familar enough with the exercises to recommend a few to students. 

I thought I'd try to post a picture/video of me trying a few of the exercises, but this was the first one I picked and it's hard. Maybe not...

Anyhow, keep an eye out for quotes from Dr. Glosten populating this blog in the future. I liked the book, found it informative and useful, and look forward to applying more of the information. 

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