Alexander Technique and Physical Therapy
The Alexander Technique



The Alexander Technique is an experiential learning process that reacquaints the rider with the easy, but elusive, balance of head, neck and back that are so essential to any riding technique. Riders investigate the Alexander Technique to learn to move efficiently and gain a fuller appreciation of how their thinking and moving directly influence the horse.

By focusing on simple activities of sitting, standing, walking, and sitting on the saddle mounted on a stationary wooden horse frame, the rider is acquainted with a variety of kinesthetic experiences from locating hip joints to reducing muscular effort in the legs, neck, low back, and wrists. This is the aim of the Alexander Technique: to reduce tension and simplify the body's carriage for optimal function.

In each Alexander lesson the student identifies harmful muscular and postural habits and their associated habits of thought. As the student becomes more skilled, a new way of thinking and responding replaces inefficient movement patterns. When the rider applies these principles to the physical and mental demands of riding, the rider's back lengthens easily, the legs hang and wrap around the horse, and the arms and hands become soft conduits which allow the horse to step into the bridle.

The horse benefits, as well. The Alexander Technique's 'use of the self' is analogous to the horse's 'way of going.' The rider's poise of head and use of muscular ease in neck and back directly influence the horse's head, neck, and back.

In the case of riders with recent or chronic injuries, I combine physical therapy assessment and treatment with the educational experience of the Alexander Technique. This unique combination offers an efficient way to recover and return to riding equipped with new skills to be used on and off the horse.

Bonnie Fahrner, Tryon, North Carolina breeder, owner, rider has been my teacher of dressage this past year. From her own in-depth study of the Alexander Technique she concludes, "any activity which leads to greater body awareness and better balance will have a positive impact on your riding. However, I am particularly enamored with the Alexander Technique because in addition to addressing issues of body awareness and balance, it deals directly with muscular tension.”

Bonnie’s trainer, Eric Herbermann, author of The Dressage Formula, emphasizes: "Excess tension is the single greatest enemy of good riding."

copyright Idelle Packer, 2001


Lessons with riders on and off the horse  (photos)

"Riding is all about feeling--feeling what you're doing, identifying habitual patterns of movement and
learning how they interfere with intent."

- Saundra Code from
Dressage Today, July 2001