Hippoi Athanatoi

A Matter of Anatomy

In the course of debating how much a horse can carry over at the A Song of Ice and Fire board, Elio came across the webpage of the Equine Studies Institute, and pointed me to a fascinating article called Best Built to Ride.

This article explores the anatomical differences between men and women, in particular in the pelvic region, and the impact these differences actually have on how men and women sit a horse. As one would expect, the guidelines for a good posture on horseback were all developed by men, and the author of the article argues that women cannot physically accomplish the same position as men on horseback, at least not without risking injury.

Now, I have often thought that I personally do not have a great body for riding, being relatively compact, wide-hipped and short-legged rather than slender and long-legged, and I have blamed this for the back aches I have been suffering for the last year or so. However, I have never really considered the fact that this might be a general problem for women, and one that really ought to warrant a different approach to trying to obtain the best possible posture and balance in the saddle.  Especially considering how women dominate in non-competitive riding today.

While some of the problems noted in the article are no longer an issue (at least not here in Sweden)—no one asks for your toes to point straight forward any longer, for example, or for the inside of your thighs to lie flat against the saddle—I do feel that there’s still a lot of focus on an hollowed-out back and forward-thrust hips. Unfortunately, the article didn’t have as much information as I would have liked about what women can do to get a good posture without, figuratively and literary, breaking their backs, although I think I will have to bring the matter up with my instructor tomorrow (well, today, actually, well past midnight here). I also need to check out Sally Swift again—when I first tried to read her (ages ago), I was perhaps a bit too young to really grasp the ideas she puts forward.

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