I have a wooden horse and saddle in both my London practice and also in my teaching room in Dorset, and they are often a cause of curiosity to any new pupil starting lessons. It is not an ornament or curiosity but a very practical aid in the Alexander lesson!
Interestingly, the wooden horse and riding saddle is not only helpful for horse riders, but anyone who comes to me for lessons in the Alexander Technique who has leg, hip or pelvis problems, I can achieve a lot of release and freedom with them and the proper engagement of the supportive muscles in the back, by having them sit on my leather saddle and wooden horse. I can then work with my hands to gently release their legs, allow their hips and pelvis to free up. They feel quite released and very grounded on their feet afterwards; it is a great aid during a lesson.
It wasn’t FM Alexander who developed the use of the saddle in Alexander lessons, but his protégé Walter Carrington who trained with him in the mid 1930s and who subsequently trained me. Walter had apparently been working on a young girl with spina bifida and he had not felt that he had achieved as much change and improved co-ordination as he’d hoped. It was then that he had the idea that if he put the young girl onto the rocking horse in his study (which he’d had there to entertain young children as he worked on their parents), then her legs would dangle freely on either side and he could work on her legs much better. It was so successful that he thought if it could work for children, it will work for adults, so he had a trestle made high enough for an adult to sit on with a blanket for comfort, and it all worked well. Subsequently he put a proper leather riding saddle on it, improving the comfort and practical use. He used it regularly with adults thereafter and trained those of us fortunate to study with him for the three year full-time course, how to use it too. I use it every week, sometimes more than once a day, depending on who is coming to see me and their individual needs.
It is a curious thing to have propped up in the corner of a study or Alexander Technique teaching room, but I can assure you it is most helpful and can help bring changes that are otherwise difficult to achieve, for both riders and non-riders. My pupils love it!