The Basis of Circulation, Stability, and Strength

Updated: Sep 28, 2020

The Winning Warm-UPS guide to warming up correctly for your workout. We will learn baseline postures that we will be able to build movements on top of, because we are calibrating healthy muscle memory techniques.

This module is to integrate circulation into the stability postures. The more circulation we have with in our stable baseline postures, the more we will achieve acute proprioception to better serve our horsemanship and horse. The healthier posture we have, the more awareness in our body/proprioception we have The more we can evaluate where there is pain, we can then replace with healthy movement patterns and progress!

The goals and primary focus of the course is to circulate, stabilize and strengthen our body. We do this through the principles of posture, proprioception, eliminating pain patterns, and making progress.

posture is: a baseline strength to give our body space to move in and from.

proprioception is: the ability to feel of, through, and together with our body's posture.

circulation is: the movement and energy carriage of blood and oxygen in our body.

So, what is the difference between failure, flail-ure, and flow? In our sport, it is how fast and clean you get a run done. It is better to do things correctly and slow, than to flop, flail, and fight your way though a sloppy run. Ideally, it's better to ride fast and correct. But we can't do that unless we practice the principles at a pace at which we can't get it wrong, and then add speed and difficulty from there. This portion of the course will help us dial into that.


Why does posture matter? Posture is often looked at in the dressage or ballet world as being un-useful, impractical 'fancy flourish' or reflection of a 'snooty' attitude. But what we're defining and valuing posture as is: a baseline strength to give our body space to move in and from.

Good posture isn't a fringy 'flourish' it's functional.

Posture isn't just for fancy people! Think of posture similar to a house's foundation, or even a horse's training foundation. If the foundation is well built, the possibilities are endless - but if the foundation is bad, cracked, or missing a few key supports, it CANNOT hold anything.

Our bodies need to be able to offer us a response in the blink of an eye and needs to be able to facilitate our horses movement too. If we don't have the right posture in a static or dynamic form than any movement (command or cue coming from us to our horse) is not going to be clear or as good as it could be.

We will talk more in detail at the end of the course about body positioning in humans and horses, for better form around the barrels. For now, let's get our eye's calibrated to observing what looks 'off-balance' and what looks like 'good posture'.

The weight

Notice in the left picture a hunched side profile. The weight of our head craned forward this way, unsupported by the core, puts 80lbs of pressure on our quarter-sized cervical vertebrae. Our seat bones jam into our horses back (even through the saddle) which cause him to protect his back and move it away from our seat.

The rate

Notice the horses posture through the top line and the horse's expression. The more balanced our body is, the more it directly translates to the horse's ability to balance and have a good attitude doing so. When the horse has to feel like they are having to escape the hard and concentrated pressure from our weight and seat bones they will arch their back. When they arch their back it takes away from the natural gait and power of movement. The consequence of an arched back is the head coming up; which we usually think is a training issue. Then the head is up we wrestle it back down with our arms and tack, when really all he's doing is reacting to....US.

The shape

If we never correct our posture, and find our center of gravity, balance and core strength, then everything that flows out of it will be unclear to the horse. When our balance is compromised, and we ask for shape in his body to prepare to turn or to turn, the way it will come across to our horse will be rude. The cues from our tack will be unclear, sloppy, and over baring. The cues from our body weight will scare and hurt him more than translate to mimic the athleticism for a maneuver in our body. In a sloppy 'ask' we will get a sloppy 'execution'. Flailing around the turn to save a barrel and stay on eats up time and soundness.

The guide

The difference between asking for the rate and the shape of a turn with good posture, sets us up for a good 'guide'. If we don't set our horse up well physically for an athletic maneuver like rating, turning and propelling - we will be behind him through the whole run. All the micro adjustments we make to correct the horse's body position and adjust our own, eats up time. All the adjustment we make take a toll on the soft tissue. With a good guide flowing from a solid base (posture) we can set our bodies and the horses execution of the task up, so it feels like a powerful fluid motion.


Focusing on 'feeling' our posture is a form of proprioception. Our bodies have 'feedback' systems to let us know where we are in the form of space and time. Proprio-receptors are nerve endings in our muscles/fascia/tendons and joints that tell us how we need to react according to the position we are in (kind of like a car's back up sensor) and how fast the stimulus around us is happening. This sense of self-movement is key to athleticism.

Another way to grasp this concept is to try to do a range of basic-to-athletic tasks as you usually would, but with your eyes closed or ears plugged. By our other survival senses systems, our body being blocked and has no choice but to default to the ones inside us to gauge where we are. If we can't see where our feet our running or see what surface our feet need to step on to balance, then we rely completely on feel. If we can't hear in an environment that requires us to act physically in response to audio stimulus (like a ball team) then our body takes over by becoming 'super' aware of where it is and what it needs to do.

Proprioception is also a powerful way to identify the root of movement strains and pains. If we are able to find 'right' alignment in our body and add a correct movement to that; then there shouldn't be pain there (unless there was a pre-existing problem) . If we are able to notice when our body is in pain during a certain movement, we can usually track it back to the baseline posture it comes from and we will notice the posture is misaligned (like the foundation of a house) and the muscles and bones have trouble being mobile when there is a 'kink' in the 'link'.

Have you ever been going down or up a set of stairs and missed one? What about went to grab your reins and grabbed your horses mane instead? If you've run into this challenge by accident, it's not because you're dumb, you might just need to check in on your body awareness. Proprioception has to do with our 5 senses calculating our awareness of both space and time.

What is proprioception?

Try this:

Activity 1: Find your fingertips, then your reins

With your eyes closed or open (with no mirror peeks)put one hand in the air above your head, and the other hand points to your nose. Now raise up the hand on the nose to the hand above your head. Use your pointer finger to touch your nose, and raise back up to meet the hand in the air. Go between pointing your nose and stretching up to touch your thumb on the raised hand. Back down to the nose, now back up to the pointer finger. Repeat for each finger on the raised hand. Then switch hands.

Do the same exercise, modified with finding you're reins. Sit in the saddle and hold the reins with both hands. Now with one hand, let go and grab the horn. Go back and forth between grabbing your reins (properly in a balanced way) and your horn.

Activity 2:  Find your spot

Hold a piece of paper on a table top with one hand and hold a pencil in the other. Draw a barrel on the paper. Next, raise your pencil hand above your head, close your eyes, and make a circle or dot on the paper on the barrel as close as you can. Open your eyes and check the accuracy. Repeat a few times with eyes closed. Then try with eyes open.

Activity 3: Write your goals

On a lined sheet of paper, write "barrel racing". Place your pencil on the same line next to what's written , close your eyes, and write "barrel racing" again. How close are the words to being straight and legible?

Any place you fumble around in these exercises or in your riding, keep trying to find ways to make it easier for your body to recognized the steps of completing the task. If something is hard, DON'T rush through it and make it sloppy. See if you can cause the feeling of tension, rushing and frustration to be replaced with a fluid/relaxed confidence that can flow through the task. The more slow and correct you practice a pattern for a task, the better retention you'll have.

(*For proprioception exercises for equines, please sign up for the horse course!)