Most riders are very aware of the aches and pains that result from riding, but aren’t necessarily aware of how their day to day activities can contribute to the muscle stiffness, asymetry and tension that lead to those aches and pains.
In order to help riders develp better body awareness, Daniel Stewart created a system that helps riders to determine their strengths and weaknesses of their individual body types and provides them with an custom exercise plan based on their body type assessment. His book, “Ride Right With Daniel Stewart” goes into great detail about how developing greater awarness of body type, center of gravity, posutre, breathing patterns and balance will increase a rider’s ability to ride their horse safely, gracefully and confidently.
The book begins with various self-tests and check lists that will help riders to assess their balance, posture, body type and breathing style, among other things. During his years of work as a personal trainer and a coach to the US endurance riding team, Mr. Stewart has developed some horse-specific and sometimes very “cutesy” ways of explaining his methodology. For example, he describes different rider body types in terms of horse breeds (i.e. a short and slender rider is a “Shetland”, whereas a long-legged rider with an hourglass figure is a “Warmblood”).
Although some readers might have prefered it if Mr. Stewart had used more technical terms and had tone the “cute factor” in his book down a bit, the cartoons, sidebars and short, lighthearted anecdotes in “Ride Right With Daniel Stewart” turn material that could otherwise be pretty boring into a book that is relatively entertaining. However, sometimes Mr. Stewart tries too hard with his analogies and doesn’t flesh them out completely, which can be a little confusing, and leave the reader with thoughts such as “I still don’t get why riding a horse is like climbing Mt. Everest. . .”. Portions of “Ride Right with Daniel Stewart” bear some similarity to Sally Swift’s “Centered Riding Two: Further Exploration”. This is no surprise because both are books that are as much workbooks as reading books, and they’re both chock full of exercises that develop riders’ body awareness. However, “Ride Right with Daniel Stewart” is unique in that it contains only unmounted exercises, many of which are perfect for riders to practice at home on days when they can’t make it to the barn. Mr. Stewart’s book also places a much greater emphasis on the importance of a rider’s stamina and flexibility than either of the “Centered Riding” books do.
The perspective that Daniel Stewart gained during his years as a personal trainer also shine through in his book. Chapters on injury prevention, healthy eating and what to expect from the “Ride Right” exercise program (including tips for sticking with it) are a major component of the book. He also dedicates a large portion of the book to mental training for the rider, and outlines techniques for succeeding at the mental aspects of riding. Goal-setting, reducing fear and anxiety, increasing focus and awareness and using mental-imagery to improve riding skill are all covered in “Ride Right with Daniel Stewart”.
Although “Ride Right with Daniel Stewart” is a bit “touchy-feely” and does contain some techniques that may cause some readers to snicker, it is a comprehensive plan that would improve just about anyone’s riding and overall fitness level.