Horse stance

About two years ago I had a hard fall which I described here. At the time I thought I had come out of that fall pretty well, because it could have ended so much worse. I took it easy for a while and I thought that time would put things right again. Unfortunately, some injuries don’t improve with time. One of those things was tinnitus in my left ear; I had some Cranial Sacral therapy and it did help, but it wasn’t a cure, and the tinnitus kept coming and going. There were other things. Aches and pains. Stiffness. It wasn’t too bad as long as I kept moving, but first thing in the morning or after driving I felt like an old woman. The last couple of months I got this weird feeling that my right leg was shorter than my left leg, and I began to feel a bit unbalanced.

When I was a child I wondered why the ticking of my clock was louder at night than during the day. My dad explained that it was because it was quiet at night, with no distractions from other noises, but also that the tiny muscles inside your ear relax at night, so your hearing is actually sharper. Tinnitus is like that ticking clock; what is bearable during the day becomes a high-pitched shrieking siren at night. Last week I had the worst tinnitus ever. It was keeping me awake. I felt wrecked. Then I had a visitor, the mother of one of my son’s friends came to collect her son. She remarked that I looked tired, so I told her it was lack of sleep due to an overdose of noise in my head. She looked at me and said: “You know, when you sat down there just now I noticed that you moved your head in a way that actually cuts off the flow of energy. Did you ever damage your spine?” She gave me the number of an acupuncturist who is also a Qigong teacher.

After I fell off that horse my GP sent me to the hospital for X-rays. They were clear. Basically that means no broken bones, because that is the only thing they look for; if anything has shifted it will go unnoticed. However, I always felt there was something wrong at the base of my skull. I can literally put my fingers on it. Anyway, I went to see the therapist and she observed how I moved as she asked me to stand, walk and sit down. Then I had to lie down. The therapist checked a couple of things and then she put her fingers right on the base of my skull and on a spot on the left side of my pelvis. She told me I had been knocked out of alignment and that my body had tried to cope with that by contracting on one side. Consequently, my right leg was now marginally shorter than my left leg.

Well, it is always nice to know that you’re not imagining things. Better even when there are exercises you can do that will improve the situation. A lot of physical injuries are compounded by bad or incorrect posture and exercises that improve posture will help the body to heal the effects of old trauma. Everybody who rides horses is aware of the importance of a good riding position. From our first lesson we are told to sit up straight, keep our heels down, our hands low and to keep your head up and look ahead instead of down at the horse’s shoulder. If your position on the horse is correct, than in theory you should land on your feet and be totally balanced if the horse suddenly vanished from underneath you. Interestingly, this a position called the Horse Stance in Qigong. The Horse Stance helps to realign the spine and is a basic Qigong position. Apparently, many riders find it extremely difficult to stand correctly in this position. I stood with my weight on my heels and my chin slightly lifted and stuck out. Both are very common when riders assume the Horse Stance for the first time and they originate in “heels down and head up”. And it is totally wrong.

Here is the correct way to assume the Horse Stance:

  1.  Stand with your feet shoulder-length apart, measuring from your inside heels. Your toes should be pointed slightly inwards or parallel to  each other.
  2. Knees should always be slightly bent and leaning out slightly.
  3. There is part of a groin area where your hip and thighs form a crease. This place must always be indented.
  4. The chin should be slightly tucked in, eyes softly looking ahead.
  5. The spine should be straight, the tailbone tucked in. Visualize hanging from a piece of thread from the top of your head, the rest of your trunk sinking down, just as if you were about to sit down on an imaginary chair.
  6. If you are standing properly, the back of your thighs and buttocks should be totally relaxed. They should be soft and shake when you pat them.

Sounds easy, but to stand without tension in your legs or back can take a bit of practise.

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6 thoughts on “Horse stance

  1. This is all very interesting to me since, yes, I’ve had many falls. Yes, my back does hurt because of dislocated discs. I also have tinnitus and sometimes it’s maddening. I might look up a therapist instead of going back to the ear doctor who said nothing could be done for the ringing. The only thing they recommend is no aspirin, Advil, caffeine, nicotine etc. The only safe thing to take is Tylenol. So maybe a little physical therapy and acupuncture could help. Thanks for putting this post up.

    • When I went to the doctor with the tinnitus that’s just what he said: “You better try to get used to this”. Initially I trusted his opinion, but after the Cranio Sacral therapy helped, I changed my mind. As far as I understand it what Cranio Sacral does is it removes blockages, but not always the cause of the blockage. What it proved to me was that the tinnitus wasn’t set in stone, as it was coming and going and also changing in severity. Sometimes I can ignore it, but at other times it can reduce me to tears because I can barely hear myself think.
      The therapist I went to commented on the way I used my head when I sat down. I lean my body forward and bring my head back to counter balance. She said that happens a lot when people have had a whiplash or spinal damage, but it works like a guillotine on the nerves in your neck. She gave me this exercise:

      Sit on a chair or stool and let yourself relax completely. Move your head slowly and steadily backwards as far as you can manage. Keep your chin tucked down and in as you do this, that is very important. At the same time, gently push your elbows your elbows down. Stay for a few seconds and release. Do this 10 times, 6 times per day.

      Practising the Horse Stance a couple of times a day is good for re-aligning the spine. Again, you have to keep your chin tucked in.

      I find these exercises very tiring, but they do bring relief and a release of tension. I hope this helps.

  2. Thanks, I’ll give it a try. The ringing is driving me crazy today. Some days it’s not so bad. I’ve also found that sleeping with a sound machine on the night table helps at night. I have mine tuned to the ocean waves but there are many machines you can buy with different sounds. I think I got mine from Brookstone catalog online or Herringtons, can’t remember which but it does help.

  3. Geez, tinnitus sounds awful! To be honest I have never felt 100% since I fell off twice within a month of each other, I became really creaky. I am now dealing with a shoulder injury that I think I am going to have to seek physio help.

    Horse Stance points 2 through 6 I can work on because I think that this position can be used for both English and Western. But number 1…well, I always had problems trying to keep my toes pointed slightly in when I rode English. It wasn’t a comfortable position to me and actually made my knees hurt. In Western, toes in is not an issue. It’s been a couple of years, but I am going to try English again this summer. Hopefully, my balance has improved. Re point 6, if my thighs and butt shake when I walk, does that count?? 😉

  4. Wolfie, falling is no joke when you’re getting a bit older, the “bouncebackability” of the body just isn’t what it used to be. Hope your shoulder will be allright, but going to a physio is probably a good idea.

    The Horse Stance in Qigong is one of the main positions, and not specifically for riders. If you find it hard to turn your toes in just keep them as straight as you can, the idea is that you get your second toe to point straight ahead. My knees used to hurt as well, until I got Icelandic stirrups; the eyelet that the leather goes through is at right angles with the stirrup, so the leather hangs straight down with the stirrup at the right position for your foot and there is no twist. Re point 6, you’re obviously really relaxed when you’re walking!

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