Hanna Engström is coming to Graz! For the first time ever, Hanna, the „seat expert“ in the Academic Art of Riding is giving a clinic in the South of Austria.

If you are new to the Academic Art of Riding and you do not know Hanna at all – no problem – Hanna is introducing herself and her program for spectators and riders in the following interview:

What is special about your seat program in a view words? 

Hanna: The seat program is an individual inner journey in body awareness to understand the movements of yourself and your horse.

8 different riders and their horses are going to participate at the clinic. They all wrote an introduction about themselves that you can read on my Facebook page. What they have in common: Nobody is worried about a beautiful shape of the seat, they talk about back problems, or problems balancing the horse, problems with overflexibilty while they gain for stability. 

Why do so many riders suffer from back problems? 

Hanna: Well, there are still riders without any back problems 😉 But most riders come to me because they want me to allay their back pain. That is my specialty. It is interesting and also fun to find out together with the rider to solve seat problems in a way that they are much more comfortable and want to continue riding.

First we have to define the problem. There is of course the possibility that you recently suffered a trauma, in most cases riders suffer from sitting too much while doing their office work. Riding and being stiff after office does not fit quite good together. We have to find out if your muscles – especially the small muscles close to the spine – are stiff because of the lack of movability or because the muscles try to protect a special area in your body and block the pain. In all cases we have to find a better balance regarding the muscles.

How do you „find“ the problem together with the rider? What is the magic about your program? 

Hanna: I am working mostly though body awareness. If you have a problem and you feel any pain, the normal reaction is that you are not very eager to look deeply into it. You rather forget the problem and the pain or get some painkillers. But that tactic does not solve the problem. Most riders do not feel any pain while riding. That is also one way of painkilling. Then it is worse when you get off the horse and maybe you regret the ride. Through body awareness, going through my  seat program and finding out how to make the normal riding easier and smoother you can find a new way to approach the seat and ride. I have several more programs where I put the students on the horseback to learn more about the real character of the problem. Either if we discover a mental or a physical problem – most of them have their cause in an imbalance. What do we do then? We do the same with the rider as we would to it with the horse: We straigthen up the rider like we bring the horse to straightness.

We know that horses are individuals and so are our riders. I can not guarantee, that I can solve your back problem and the next person will be happy with the same program. I am just someone that knows how to ask the body the right questions. So there is no certain and fixed way. Individual body awareness is the magic ingredient I use.

How are you going to start our clinic? 

Hanna: First we have to listen to our riders and their wishes. Sometimes wishes are very similar and together we can create a special topic for the weekend that we of course discuss also in theory and in the practical part – also with the whole audience that everybody has the chance to work with his body. I often ask people if they recognize themselves in the riders. Of course everybody is very welcome to mention something and to ask questions.

What are the most common seat problems people face? 

Hanna: Well, that is a mental and physical conflict. The brain thinks how the rider should sit, but the body maybe needs another way to do it, to feel better. Sometimes we do not listen to our body that explains quite well how it needs to move to feel comfortable. That ignorance could create a lot of pain mentally and physically.

But many riders care a lot about the aesthetics. They want to sit in a special shape. 

Hanna: Therefore I really like the Academic Art of Riding. Looking good comes as a bonus when you have found a good function of the seat. It is all about minimizing the aids that we give to the horse. Also our body wants us to minimize the effort. First we have too see why for example the shoulder of the rider is not in the correct place right from the beginning. We always focus on the center of mass and on improvement of the balance. If the center of mass is in balance, we can work on the secondary aids (shoulder or legs are secondary aids). The symptoms are always disappearing when the main fundament of the rider is put in the right place.

I got some questions from riders who are still working their youngsters from the ground. If they do not yet ride, is a seat clinic still a good recommendation to attend?

Hanna: Thank you for the good question. In my opinion everything is about riding. When I am walking and working on the ground I also think about riding. Now I have the chance to educate my balance in movement, the schooling of the movement with my body together with the horse. I am also very fond of combining groundwork with the seat program – everything we do should lead to good riding!

Click me for more about the clinic

You want to listen to Hanna? Here you can find my podcast episode with Hanna