The answer to this is probably not! This may sound harsh but most of us carry some form of imbalance that we might not even be aware of. So it is time to get aware and sort out these imbalances to help our horses.
Often we get regular bodywork, physio or chiropractic work done on our horses but do you also get yourself treated? The answer is often no. As a rider our imbalances can affect our horses and vice versa. When you ride your horse you can often feel when something isn’t quite right and you will seek a professional to come and help your horse be more balanced. Well, have you ever stopped to think that perhaps your horse would like you to get yourself sorted as well!
So how can you go about improving your musculoskeletal imbalances?
Go and see a sport therapist, massage therapist, physio or chiropractor who can help identify any imbalances and give you treatment. It is best to get this done at a similar time to your horse, so that you both can feel better together. Receiving regular soft tissue work through massage can help ease tension from everyday life. This will allow you to be more supple in the saddle.
Join a Pilates Class
This doesn’t need to be a rider specific Pilates class as most Pilates exercises are beneficial to horse riders. A good class will increase your body awareness. It will allow you to understand your core muscles and how different levels of activation can be used when riding. This will improve your feel in the saddle as well being able to make small adjustments to your points of contact with your horse.
Pilates will also offer a gentle way of strength training and mobilising. Strength exercises, cardio fitness, stretching and mobilising should all be included in your daily activities. Strength training does not mean you need to go to the gym. Bodyweight exercise are perfectly good enough such as lunges, squats, and press ups . You could use hay bales or bags of feed if you really want to push yourself but make sure you gradually increase the load and quantity of exercises.
We expect our horses to be fit so we also need to think about maintaining a level of fitness to deal with the riding activities we want to do. Cardio fitness is important so adding running, cycling or another sport is beneficial.
Lastly mobilising and stretching regularly is highly important. This can be done in front of the television or even on a break at work. This will especially be beneficial if you have a desk job. Also include warm up exercises either on your horse or before you jump on. You warm up your horse so you also should warm up yourself.
Increase your Awareness
Pilates will help with this but there are a number of other things you can do. Professional input from your therapist, but also from a riding instructor can help you identify areas that need work. For instance you may have less rotation through your torso on one side but not realise. Having someone highlight this allows you to make the right adjustments. Videoing your riding can also help with this. Wear a jacket with a straight piece of tape down your spine and another across your shoulders as this will give you more visual information to see if you are wonky.
Take static photographs of yourself off the horse. You want to include front, back and both sides. This again will show if you are level and highlight areas of potential tension.
Lastly when riding and if it is safe to do so try and feel where you might be holding tension or carrying yourself differently. Start from your feet. Are your ankles soft and supple? Is your heal positioned correctly? Work your way up your body assessing your knee, thigh, hips, rib cage, shoulders, neck and head. This will allow you to identify problem areas and begin to correct them. This may change regularly so its a good thing to do often and you will get to the point that when you are doing more complex activities you will find yourself correcting it due to having an increased awareness.
All riders at some point suffer from muscles imbalances this can be due to everyday living or an injury. To help your horse move better having yourself treated, working on your fitness, stretching and mobilising regularly will really make a difference to the way you ride, ultimately benefitting your horse. Your horse will appreciate it.