Horse Riding without Pain —
My experience of The Feldenkrais Method®


by Mabel Smith


I grew up healthy, happy and physically active. I rode horses, sailed, walked and used my push bike for transport and I have maintained a physically active life style with either riding or walking taking precedence at various times.

Six years ago I bought a pony, which both my daughter and I could share. From the start he had an on-going problem with his back caused by traditionally fitted saddles which were not allowing him sufficient room to use his body. We went through several saddle fitters and saddles until I discovered a totally different philosophy on saddle fitting called ‘Balance Saddles’. This was the turning point for the pony. At last he had a saddle, which enabled him to move his body naturally beneath it. Unfortunately, I found it very difficult. The whole experience of riding had changed. I was obviously stuck in the old physical pattern of riding, he was not and, as a consequence, I got backache every time I rode. My daughter decided he was too small and moved on to other people’s horses at this point.

I looked in my ‘Balance’ manual and discovered this was not an untypical problem and they recommend the Feldenkrais Method® to enable the rider to discover other ways of using their bodies to ride in harmony with the horse. I did not want to give up riding so I tried the Feldenkrais Method. Within a couple of sessions I was able to ride painlessly and as a unit with the pony which was my objective, but I enjoyed the Feldenkrais sessions so much I continued with them.

Several things which I had thought of as part of me changed. I have discovered how to use my bones to support my frame instead of the muscles. This enables me to walk farther, to sit on stools without an aching back and to stand still in queues without aching legs. I am no longer plagued by sore ankles from frequently turning them over. Surprising things have happened in my emotional health. I have given up things which no longer suited me to do, things I had kept on because I felt obliged to — I now feel less restricted physically and emotionally.

The pony? After two years of doing it all alone I decided he was not the type of pony I would have chosen for myself. In May I sold him onto a woman who continues to use the ‘Balance’ saddle and says he is the best pony she has ever ridden.

In the last six months I have enjoyed walking with my husband when we walk about fourteen miles, which I can now do without feeling strained, just nicely tired. I have recently started to ride again and have found the physical sensation quite different. I can feel the movement coming from the horse and traveling up my spine and into the base of my skull. It is a very enjoyable experience and I feel immediately in tune with someone else’s horse. I can perform everyday movements with greater ease and fluidity, the movements are generated in my centre rather than just the limbs and I feel there is less wear and tear on my body. I am reassured by my new physical awareness as my mother had severe arthritis and died aged 64 because the prescribed painkillers destroyed her kidneys.

I have continued to have regular Feldenkrais sessions and am looking forward to the next stage in my emotional and physical evolution.

’Tis good stuff give it a whirl!


© Mabel Smith
Feldenkrais Method® is the registered trademark of the Feldenkrais Guild UK Ltd., Reg No. 1563759.