COMPANION

Saddle Work

Saddle work refers to working with a pupil who is sitting on a wooden horse and saddle. It was developed shortly after Alexander’s death in 1955 by teachers at Ashley Place. It developed as a teaching-aid for a little girl of four-and-a-half with spina bifida, first using a toy donkey. Walter Carrington relates

. . . one day someone suggested that it might be a good idea to use a toy donkey: the little girl would find it fun to sit on and it would be easier for us to work on her. We went out and got a toy donkey and it worked out very well, because we could get her sitting on her sitting bones relatively easily and then work on her legs. Time went on and she grew and became too big for the donkey, so we substituted a four-legged trestle with a padded seat. Then someone – I’ve forgotten who – very sensibly suggested that we use a proper saddle. This was a distinct improvement because it was more secure and certainly more comfortable. After this initial experiment we started to put other people on the saddle and found it tremendously helpful in working on people’s legs. That motivated us to get a special saddle-horse made rather than continue with the bits and pieces we’d been improvising with.[1]

(Walter Carrington also relates this history in An Evolution of the Alexander Technique.[2])

Walter Carrington used saddle work in his private teaching and taught it to his training course students. It has been adopted by many teachers trained by the Carringtons.

The way of working with the legs in saddle work is also used with riders sitting on a horse. It enables the rider to balance the pelvis correctly, allow her weight to rest on the saddle while maintaining an upwards direction and developing springiness in the spine. The movement of the horse can then be absorbed more easily and the rider can stay balanced, promoting harmony with the horse.

Purpose

Mainly to decrease the tension and interference in the pelvis, hip joints, and legs, while the pupil maintains tonus of the back. It is also of interest by many horse riders for the purpose of improving their seat.

Descriptions

  • The only description of how to work with a pupil with saddle work is in a short article, ‘The Wooden Horse’ by Sherry Berjeron.[3]
  • Saddle work is briefly mentioned (and illustrated) in BodySense.[4]
  • A description of a workshop for training course students is in STATNews.[5]

Video

  • A DVD with Walter Carrington teaching contains a demonstration of saddle work.[6]
  • A video of Walter Carrington demonstrating saddle work is on YouTube.[7]

See also Horse riding.

References

[1] Personally Speaking by Walter Carrington, Seán Carey, (Mouritz, 2001), pp. 48-49.
[2] An Evolution of the Alexander Technique by Walter Carrington, Dilys Carrington (Sheildrake Press, 2017), p. 257.
[3] ‘The Alexander Technique: The wooden horse’ by Sherry Berjeron in AmSAT Journal issue 13, Spring 2018, p. 13.
[4] BodySense by Sally A. Tottle (Kenilworth Press, 1998), pp. 6, 9, 10.
[5] STATNews vol. 6 no. 24, January 2008, p. 24.
[6] Walter & Dilys Carrington Demonstrate the Alexander Technique DVD filmed by Jørgen Haahr (Constructive Teaching Centre, 2016).
[7] “Walter & Dilys Carrington: Saddle work and interview” posted by Anthony Kingsley 13 November 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbP1s1WyoFU.