Rider biomechanics is such a massive subject area and one that I am very passionate about, but I don’t want to get in too deep in a simple blog but it is important to me not only as a coach, trainer and rider, but also as an equine physical therapist, it is such an essential aspect of riding that for some reason is so often over looked by coaches. Everyone knows that poor riding can have a negative effect on the horse, their health and way of going. No one likes to think of themselves as a “poor rider” but to me this includes poor rider biomechanics too, as this can massively have a negative influence on the horse. Its not just about having a pretty position it is so much more than that.
So many riders have been taught incorrectly or using out of date research over many years and this has become their body’s default riding position. There is now so much more data that shows how we need to sit, our weight aids, posture, harmony, neutrality, and now it is not been corrected by many coaches and because you can now “ride” you go to coaches that are going to get you jumping higher, wider, bolder, braver, doing higher level dressage moves etc., rather than concentrating on these foundations and the basics of your own biomechanics which if they are not correct, your centre of balance is in the wrong place, your weight aids are incorrect, the horse can’t carry you properly in balance, or you cause him to brace through his back, blocking him, which affects his dynamic posture, he doesn’t move right which over time leads to a long term compensatory lameness issues, but not because of his own compensations (he has those to deal with as well any way!), but because of compensating for you. So in a nutshell; YOU CAN MAKE YOUR HORSE LAME! I see it so often, more often than I would like. Even in some riders at quite a high level, they don’t understand why their horse is blocked through the back when they ride, struggles with certain movements and I can feel it when I come to treat them. Then when I strip everything back and watch them ride, look at their biomechanics on the horse it all becomes obvious. Sometimes all it takes is a few tweaks to their dynamics here and there and it can make a massive difference to the horses comfort and way of going.
A lot of the time when I first start coaching people I take lots of photographs and video’s and use an app called the coaches eye so I can slow everything down, draw on it and show riders exactly where the issues lie, and we can compare the beginning of the session to the end, or in a few sessions time to see the differences that such small alterations make to the horses performance. So often when riders look at videos people take of them they are looking at the horse; is his head in the right position, how much is he clearing the fence by, etc. not at themselves, or they can pick out their flaws but are not sure how to correct them, and some are completely oblivious that their posture is causing the horse to shorten his stride, tighten on the left side etc.
Studies have shown correct seat and position are the basis for a good performance. One study in particular aimed to measure deviations from the correct seat, test a seat improvement program (dismounted exercises), and investigate whether horse behaviour was affected by the rider’s seat and found that in particular improvement of backward tilted pelvis, which I see very often, showed a reduction in horse behaviour classed as “evasive,” and the horses’ heart rate decreased (elevated heart rates are associated with stress and pain). Heart rates of riders decreased therefore it was a either a lot less effort for them to ride in a biomechanically more efficient posture or it was less stressful for them too when the horse is less evasive. 78% of riders felt the exercises improved their riding performance.
It also applies if you have any physical medical issues, tightness, old injuries in your body that affect what you can do, your posture, movement etc. This is when you need to go see a good human body worker yourself, get yourself sorted, as again you will be affecting your horse. Most people put their horse first but there is no point in getting the horse treated if their problem is being caused by you. I work in conjunction with some really fantastic human bodyworkers so that together, both specialists in our own field can get you and your horse to be happier, healthier, sounder, in better harmony and balance so that you can achieve your goals.