The Journey Begins
In the Fall of 2013, I stumbled across the "Equicizer" and decided that it would make an excellent teaching and evaluation tool for my students. Besides, The Equicizer’s “COOL FACTOR” was definitely off the charts! In addition to using it as a teaching aid, I thought it could help me personally. I suffer from Fibromyalgia. I also have old back, knee and ankle injuries. It was becoming increasingly more difficult to be able to physically get on and off a real horse, let alone “ride” one. The Equicizer could be my ticket back to being able to RIDE again!
That decision led me to “meeting" Frankie Lovato Jr., the Inventor and Manufacturer of the Equicizer. Throughout the process his professionalism was outstanding and his dedication to creating an excellent product was quite evident.
Frankie called one day to ask me what name I wanted to give my new Equicizer so that he could engrave it on the brass name plate on the front. I thought for a moment, and decided to name it "Tuxedo II" in honor of my wonderful horse Tuxedo, who has been the perfect personal and lesson horse for me for all these years. I got Tuxedo when he was 4 years old and in 2014, he turned 16! Tux has done just about everything for me and my students--from teaching all level of riders, in many different activities, including dressage, jumping, cross country, Tetrathlon, and so much more!
When “Tuxedo II” – my new Equicizer arrived, I KNEW it would be great! The moment it was out of the shipping crate, I HAD to immediately get on it and try it out right there in the garage! Despite being surrounded by a mountain of packaging material, I tried a little bit of everything during that first ride—walk, trot, canter, flying changes—you name it and I tried it. I knew, right then and there, that Tuxedo II was going to be almost as cherished as my real Tuxedo! (P.S. The delivery man told me that he's delivered many strange things, but this was the first time he's ever delivered a horse!)
My First Equicizer Ride: The Evaluation
For this ride, I decided to take a slower, more methodical approach to discover what the Equicizer can do and how I might be able to use it for my teaching and for my own riding. I decided to leave the reins alone for this ride. Since the Equicizer isn’t going to bolt or buck, I had the freedom to explore the nuances of the seat, body alignment and movement. Also, I found that because the Equicizer isn’t crooked (like many horses or riders) it allowed for a heightened awareness and sensitivity.Before we got moving, I could tell immediately that I was sitting very heavily on my right seat bone. My left seat bone seemed to have disappeared! My torso was spiraling to the left and I was dropping my left shoulder and collapsing my left side. The top of my pelvis had also rotated forward, causing me to arch my lower back and have tension in my lumbar spine. Not a stellar way to start! So now what? I shifted around a little bit and that helped. But mostly, I simply b.r.e.a.t.h.e.d and allowed my body to let go of it's excess tension and come into alignment. My left seat bone came down from its hiding place and I felt better balanced laterally.To relieve the tension in my lower back, I allowed my pelvis to come into a more neutral position. For me, this enhances the feeling of a downward direction in the sacrum and creates lightness in the pubic arch in the front of the pelvis. With this better, more stable base, I noticed that my torso was no longer twisting to the left—I was effortlessly facing straight ahead! Now that my pelvis was balanced, it allowed my torso and head to float up without the twist! YES!
Ready for Movement
It’s easy to make the Equicizer move. When you move, it moves. So (still without reins) I started “walking” Tuxedo II. I paid attention to my following seat, and checked to see if I was still aligned. So far so good. Then I went through a checklist of the Centered Riding basics and standard concepts. (Note: When teaching with the Equicizer, I often create the movement for the rider, so that they have an opportunity "receive" the movement rather than trying too hard to make it happen.)
Breathing: I noticed that when I was breathing well and deeply, moving was easy. When I held my breath, or breathed high and shallow in my chest, Tuxedo II’s movement was stiffer and felt less fluid. I marveled at how this wooden horse’s movement reacted the same way as a live one would! WOW—instant and obvious feedback!
Soft Eyes: I have a tendency to look down. When I reminded myself to have soft eyes (looking ahead, being aware peripherally and planning my ride) accompanied with quality breathing, the movement was fluid again.
Building Blocks: I experimented with my Building Blocks. I purposely took my self out of alignment, both laterally and longitudinally. When I got out of kilter, even a little bit, my breathing diminished, I could feel increased tension throughout my body, and that caused the Equicizer’s movement to get “sticky.” When I came back into alignment, I no longer had to fight my balance. The tension went away and the easy movement returned.
Centering: During this ride, I kept “Centering” simple. I thought about rolling my center (for me, it’s an imaginary ball within my pelvis) back and down as I exhaled to allow my center to settle heavily in my pelvic floor near my sacrum. This helped me to maintain my neutral pelvis and remedied my tendency to tip the top of my pelvis forward and tighten my lower back. The result was a lovely stable and supple feeling. I now felt like I could use my arms and legs much more independently.
Grounding: Although you can use the Equicizer with a saddle, I was riding bareback this time. I thought about grounding my seat and my feet. As I thought of my connection to the earth, I felt my legs feel longer and my feet magnetically drawn to the ground, even without stirrups! I felt an improved connection to my horse.
So, as I continued to walk Tuxedo II, I reviewed the Centered Riding basics. Whenever I lost one or more of them, the horse’s movement would get jerky!
Movement and Two Sides of the Body
Since the Equicizer was mirroring everything that I did with my body, I applied and re-applied the Centered Riding basics as I rode. I also checked my own moving parts: my joints! I noticed that I occasionally locked one or both of my knees. Any time I did this, the movement deteriorated. So I mentally lubed up all of my joints and let the movement travel through my body without blocking it.
I also discovered that my “following seat” was following the Equicizer’s movement, but my pelvis tended to move forward and back as a single unit. I call this “Cinder Block Pelvis.” So I used the Centered Riding concept of “Two Sides of the Body” to improve my following seat. By allowing my right hip and then left hip to move alternately, the Equicizer’s movement improved even more. I went from a pony walk to a great big warmblood walk!
I knew that this concept worked beautifully on a real horse. When the rider allows the horse’s independent movement to move the two sides of their own body independently, the horse is allowed to move more freely. However, when the rider blocks the horse’s movement, as with a cinder block pelvis, the rider is automatically obstructing and even moving against the horse’s movement, thus inhibiting the horse’s movement. I was AMAZED how intensely you could feel this on a wooden horse!
As I continue to ride and teach using Tuxedo II, I've found many new ways of using him. Best of all, he never tires, and never requires feed, vet, farrier, or cleaning up after!
Centered Riding concepts can provide the tools that enable you to more easily access the mind/body and biomechanics principals to enhance your skills and help you to become an effective rider—regardless of riding level or discipline. For more information, go to:
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