Applied Posture Riding - best exercises for horse riders

  • Lower Back Pain...How To Manage It As A Horse Rider


    4820068 spine I think lower back pain is the single most inhibiting factor for horse riders. It certainly seems to be the most common problem horses riders suffer. It also seems to be the problem not well managed by the medical profession as far as horse riders are concerned. Every horse rider who has emailed me has been told to quit riding and find another sport. 

      I was told the same at 18 years old to never ride a horse again. I recovered and went on to ride at an international level, I still manage my lower back pain and live life as I want, not by a doctor's standard.

    The most common causes of low back pain are:

    • Overuse of muscles, ligaments, and joints
    • Repetitive movements
    • lifting and twisting
    • jarring eg. machinery
    • osteoarthritis
    • the trauma of various kinds

    Leg pain (nerve pain) can be caused by pressure from the disc, swelling, inflammation of the joint.

    When osteoarthritis affects the small joints in the spine, it can lead to back pain. Osteoarthritis in other joints, such as the hips, can cause you to limp or to change the way you walk. This can also lead to back pain.

    Spondylolisthesis, a defect that allows one vertebra to slide over another. Spinal stenosis, or narrowing of the spinal canal, which is usually caused by getting older.Fractures of the vertebrae caused by a lot of force, such as from an auto or bicycle accident, a direct blow to the spine, or compressing the spine by falling onto the buttocks or head. 

    Lower Back Pain and Horse Riders

    The most common injury in horse riders is a disc herniation or a disc prolapse. This comes fromrepetitive loading and vibration. 

    4870095 ruptured diskAlthough this injury is serious and very painful it does not mean the end of your riding career or your dreams, 95% of people suffer the same, and many recover to live normal lives. The disc is the shock-absorbing structure between the vertebrae. It is the cushion that allows us to bounce and jump and run and ride and absorb the impact through our bodies.

    The disc is under pressure from all our activities in life, not just horse riding. Lifting, bending, twisting, coughing, sneezing, sitting, running riding, and many more life activities put the disc under pressure. The disc is damaged from these micro repeated pressures and eventually bulges into the spinal space, this is called a disc herniation.

    This often progresses to a disc prolapse, this is when the disc cracks and the pulpis (center structure) ooze out into the spinal space.

     The level of the prolapse determines the symptoms presenting. The symptoms depend on the position the prolapse occurs, sometimes the nerves are involved and in others, they are not. In my case, it completely squashed the L 5 nerve root and I had complete numbness and muscle weakness of that nerve root.

    I was lucky  I did not get leg pain I only had lower back pain and the tilted posture. The management of disc prolapse is determined by the level of the prolapse and the symptoms presenting. A person with a lot of pain needs to take pain medication prescribed by their doctor. Sometimes it is a matter of trial and error with drugs.

    Treatment on the spine is so useful to treat pain, muscle spasm, and joint movement. Everybody needs advice on posture, daily activities, and how to do what they do. The disc will heal over time and it needs to be protected as it does. The body recognizes the prolapse as a foreign body and the cells will slowly eat the prolapse away and the nerve root will recover to a point and the pain settles.

    Management For a Disc Injury. Lower Back Pain and Horse Riders.

    I prescribe a back bracein nearly all my back pain patients. Absolutely core exercises are started immediately and functional core training is started. Pain medication must be taken as necessary and heat is also very useful. Not everybody improves with heat, some respond to ice, so try both if you are not sure which is correct for you.

    Avoid sitting for long periods and also standing. Lifting, bending twisting, running, coughing, sneezing all increase the disc pressure and increase pain.

    Rest from loading is absolutely necessary. Rest from riding is necessary too. Rest is a word horse ridersdon't like to hear and all ask how long. Well, it is just a fact it takes a split second to be injured and months to heal...a fact of life riders!!! We are all prepared to allow our horses to rest the maximum time required, so do the same for yourself.

    Back Brace jpgAs a physiotherapist, I also treat my back pain patients. I use acupuncture, mobilization, and of course advice on lifting and work and exercises. A back brace or taping are also adjuncts to treatments.

    Some patients need to be referred for a prescription of anti-inflammatory drugs, but many just take over the counter medications.

    Controlling back spasms is primary. Time and knowledge are important. It is important to get your body back to a posture that it can heal in. Regaining muscle length, joint position, and flexibility and not aggravating it is important.

    As far as returning to riding, the core strength and the jarring need to be managed. Lower Back pain stops the core working so overriding the mechanism is important. I teach my patients the core crunch and how to use the back brace to improve their core. I advise you to ride in a back brace and certainly have it on while around the horse yard.

    To finish off, each person is different but the injury is the same. It affects your whole life, not just your riding. It is important to get and follow professional advice. I do allow my patients to ride early because riding is not bad for your back...putting the saddle, on, though, IS.

    If you are returning to riding after an injury and want to follow my program then join my

    Applied Posture Riding Membership Program

    . Good luck and enjoy your riding 

  • Pilates For Horse Riders Published Article Part 1


    Part 1  Pilates For Horse Riders By Annette Willson

    Functional, strong core stability is a crucial element for good posture. Good posture on the ground is essential for a good riding posture. To be a skilled, effective rider requires a stable and functional core. This is a technique every rider can learn.

    Physiotherapist, Pilates Educator Rider Coach, and Author of the program “Applied Posture Riding” Annette Willson, explains how specifically-designed exercises and movement patterns based on Pilates can improve every rider’s strength, posture, feel, and all-around riding ability.

    before and after APR During a riding lesson, it is common to hear and witness or experience an instructor telling the rider to keep their shoulders square, soften their hands, use more leg, keep their seat in the saddle, stop bouncing at the sitting trot, stop moving their leg, use more seat…more impulsion…more bend, etc, etc. The rider, frustrated and trying as hard as they know how often compounds the problem and will stiffen up through the whole body and block the horse’s movement as well as their own. Many lessons are repeated ditto. Riders pay lots of money for the same lesson.

    Does this sound familiar?

    Many instructors see the problem but lack the knowledge on HOW to fix it. Riders are beginning to realise the average riding instructor does not have the education to train them in posture.  The ability to sit well in the trot and have a deep independent seat will not be taught by an instructor. To achieve a strong but flexible upright seat in the saddle and keep the legs still through all paces and aids are elements of riding which riders need to address themselves. All of these problems are based on the strength and use of the deep core muscles.

    Training to develop core stability will greatly improve every rider’s seat. Riding lessons will become progressive both with the horse improving in obedience, less resistance to poor riders aids, and the rider more skilled and confident. Core stability and strength can be trained in the gym or Pilates classes. However, these sessions will not train functional riding movement patterns; a rider needs to learn specific horse rider movement patterns to ride with skill. Riders must learn how to use their strength, not just be strong. Applied Posture Riding is the perfect way to apply Pilates to riding.

    Pilates For Horse Riders

    Pilates has become a very popular exercise routine for both the general public and for sportspeople. While most people may have heard of Pilates, many don’t actually know what it is or understand its principles.

    Why is it called Pilates?

    Over the years, professional people have discovered special features about individual muscles.

    These discoveries are generally named after the person who actually made a difference by studying that muscle.  Joseph Pilates was the man who discovered the special features and function of the deep Transverse Abdominal Muscle. This muscle is a postural muscle that runs transversely around the belly. It does not move any joints or body parts; its main function is to stabilize the spinal joints and flatten the tummy. This is known as core stability. The single most important muscle for posture and pain control As a Physiotherapist; I see a gap in the knowledge of many gym and Pilates teachers. Unfortunately, the true function of this muscle and its biomechanics is not well understood.

    The teaching of core stability is generally not complete as it must be taught by an expert. In reality, a Pilate’s class should be no different from any other class because every person exercising, working, or just walking around should be engaging their core muscles. Pilates classes should be called posture classes.

    Movement pattern 1 compressed Pilates is the function of the deep core abdominal muscles and simply drawing in one’s ‘tummy’ in preparation for doing an exercise is NOT Pilates. This is a good start but more education on HOW is not taught. It is important to know if the transverse abdominal muscle is working properly, and even more important to know if it isn’t.

    Core stability must be learned from an expert, to be performed properly.

    Why is Core Stability important for the Horse Rider?

    Horse riding looks so easy, but those who ride know better. Sitting on a horse requires energy on its own, and asking a horse to perform requires much more effort. Riding requires control, strength, and symmetry from both sides of the body. It is essential to have strength, coordination, feel, and precision from all body parts. Control, independent movements, and strength will all improve with good core stability. There are many factors that inhibit core strength.

    Lower back pain is a huge inhibitor in training the transverse muscle. Many horse riders suffer back and or neck pain. Severe stiffness will create pain and hence, weaken the core. These problems are self-feeding. That is, cause and effect run the circle. Pain causes inhibition, this causes weakness, and weakness results in poor control and stability and then again, causing pain. The cycle must be broken. Managing pain is another topic on its own but the first step is to start training core stability and understand HOW. Women have the greatest challenge post-childbirth. The separation of the front muscles and the regaining of strength is such a battle.

    Training the transverse abdominal muscle is the very first step for women returning to riding, post-birth. I have so much information on this subject but not in this article. Many women have drastically weakened core stability (and therefore strength/balance) following childbirth, due to the stretching of this muscle? These women, in particular, benefit from core strength training. Horse riding is very different from the ball or athletic sports. The riding postureis very static (but mobile) and should appear to be still. Ball and all athletic sports are dynamic, which means fast-moving in many directions. Most sports are one-sided, using the dominant side repetitively, e.g., tennis and eye-hand coordination is very important.

    Horse riders, on the other hand, need to feel movement through their seat, and this does not come naturally to many. Riders need to be equally talented with both the left and right sides of the body; people generally find it difficult to coordinate their left and right hands at the same time (rub your belly while patting your head), let alone coordinating feet, hands, and seat altogether. When what is required to ride well is analyzed, it’s easy to understand why riding isn’t that easy. Good riders make it appear easy, but why?

    Go to Part 2 for the next part of the article. If you have questions or want advice then contact me I am happy to help, I love this topic and I love seeing horse riders become the best they can.

    LIKE and Follow me on Applied Posture Riding Facebook for tips and advice.

  • The Control Of The Lower Leg Horse Riding

     Training The Lower Leg Before Any Other Body Part Is The Key To Good Riding!

     I believe the lower leg is the most important body part to train for stability, control, and strength in horse riders. I see and hear from many other instructors the training of the seat is the first priority. Well, I am confident to challenge this concept and train my pupils with a different process.

    In the photo to the right, the rider's lower leg is too far forward and not solid against the horse's side. The hamstring muscle is not engaged, and she is pushing her heel down using her quads muscle.DSC 0088 This is common problem riders have. Their lower leg either swings forward or away from the horse's side. This is most obvious at the trot.

    Both the rising trot and the sitting trot create a movement that the rider cannot control. This control can be gained if the rider is taught how to use the lower leg properly.

    The hamstrings are the key muscle to control the lower leg movement and stability. I know this because I am a Physiotherapist. The lower leg can sit solidly against the horse without putting pressure on the horse. This is a skill to learn.

    Once a rider can keep the leg still, the seat is the next target to train for riding. The deep independent seat is the aim and end result of our rider training but the end result needs to follow certain steps before it can be achieved. Horse riding is so different from other sports because we are trying to balance, control, and direct a live animal with its own personality.

    Horse riding exercise programs need to acknowledge this. A hockey stick or a basketball will go where you direct it. A horse does not always comply. In addition, they decide to spook at imaginary things, spontaneously. Good balance makes for a safe confident rider and a strong stable lower leg will provide a rider with good balance and strength to support their seat, body, and hands. Once the seat becomes dislodged a rider will always grab the reins.

    The seat is less likely to become dislodged at spontaneous movements if the lower leg is solid. Once the lower leg is solid and the use of the hamstrings and quads is coordinated then a rider can move on to train the pelvis, lower back, and train for a deep independent seat. The seat is only independent if the lower legs, trunk, and hands can move and be used without the seat bouncing in and out of the saddle. I call these horse riding exercises…. movement patterns.. and these patterns are unique to my program. A movement pattern is a practiced part of a whole movement. For example, if we want to learn to walk again after a major injury the physio will break up the pattern. So back to the

    DSC 0094So back to the horse rider. The hamstrings bend the knee. If the hip is fixed the heel will move closer to the butt. If the heel is fixed and the hamstrings tighten the hip will move closer to the horse. This is the movement pattern that riders want. This movement is the aid to apply the lower leg and engage the seat into a deeper position. This is a difficult concept to write about and for riders to understand.

    My Applied Posture Riding Membership Program has much more detail than I can write here. The Quads straighten the knee,  and we all know this. If we are sitting in a chair and we decide to stand up we transfer weight from our seat to our feet. Because the ground is fixed our heels and feet stay still. Our body moves over our feet and then straightens up.

    There are quite a few changes in the center of gravity to get upright. When we stand up in the stirrups our weight transfers from our seat to our stirrups, as in the rising trot. Because the stirrups are not fixed the weight transfer will cause the stirrup to move and in every case, the lower leg will swing away from the horse's side.  To stop this when we are rising trot we need to learn a movement pattern to train the lower leg to stay at the horse's side. 

    The horse, in fact, should not feel any different pressure because, in fact, the lower leg will now BE STILL. Training the hamstrings to bend the knee is one of the most important movement patterns in dressage riding. It is not the calf muscle!!! When the horse rider is sitting deep and upright and wants to apply an aid it is the hamstrings muscle that comes into play. The seat will follow. It is not the seat then the legs…It may well feel like it but if the lower leg is not engaged first the seat has nothing to stabilize. Very good riders do all this in a split second and appear to be doing nothing. The learner rider needs to train the individual movement patterns to be able to achieve the end result. There is a simple exercise you can do immediately on a gym ball.

    If you want more information on this or just want some advice then Please LIKE my   Applied Posture Riding Facebook page and put up a post. I’m sure your question will be the same as many want to ask.

    Enjoy your riding and good luck

    Annette Willson.

    Remember to look at yourself before you blame the horse.

  • Training The Horse Rider To Ride, Train and Compete

    Rider Biomechanics is a growing industry.

    There is new research out all the time to prove that training your core and your riding muscles has a significant effect on your riding and on your horse.  It has been proven that unmounted, correct rider specific Movement Patterns will train you to be a better rider than any Pilates class or repetitive exercises you have been given by a personal trainer. You will have changes immediately and then build your skills. Once your posture has been reset you can apply this in the saddle.

    When you have established your new posture with symmetry, core strength, and function your horse will also become balanced and can enjoy being ridden. The fighting will stop and the fun will begin.

    You cannot fix your posture in the saddle, it has to be trained out of the saddle. By training your core and fixing your muscle imbalances out of the saddle you will correct your own little habitual muscle problems.

    • you will stop confusing your horse and blocking him with your asymmetry's
    • you will be able to sit upright and engage your seat effectively
    • you will be able to apply your lower leg with consistent correct aids
    • you will stop using the reins for balance and allow your horse to move forward
    • jumping will become fun and safe as you stay with your horse over fences 

    None of this will happen unless you identify your own muscle imbalances, your own weak areas, your own areas of stiffness, and your own habits. Yes, we all have habits to be reset. Injury has a huge effect on your riding as does having a baby or just having a break from riding to live your life.

    Riders need a new way of training, but it needs to be correct training. Elite riders already do this, naturally.

    Unmounted correct rider specific Movement Patterns will train you to use the riding muscles as an elite rider does. By training using Movement Patterns rather than exercises, you will have more efficient use of your time to gain success.   You will have changes immediately and then build your skills.

    The Core is the Basic Training For All Riders.  Dressage is the Basic Training For All Horses.

    • Do you know if you have a weak core?  Yes! Do you know how to test it? No!
    • Do you suffer from lower back pain and been told to quit riding? Yes!
    • Do you know how to train yourself for riding? No!

    Correct Testing of all your muscles and then applying the correct movement patterns is what you need. Many riders are doing floor exercises and attending classes and still not changing their riding! Why? 

    • Exercises are not enough!
    • You need to have a starting point
    • You need to know your own  muscle imbalances
    • You need to know your own areas of weakness and stiffness
    • You need to know just how dominant or one-sided you are with your posture

    You will have habits and resting posture that affects your riding.

    Do you know what they are?

    You will have micro muscle injuries due to working with horses and from your daily living activities, do you know your shoulder will be developing an inflammatory condition as you use it in a repetitive way.

    All of these problems need to be identified, self-tested, and then fixed.

    My name is Annette Wilson I am a Physiotherapist, I am a retired elite rider and Rider Biomechanics and Posture Training is my specialty. My program Applied Posture Riding Membership Program is a complete program to train the rider for riding and for a better way of living. Applied Posture Riding is all about YOU the rider. This is not a program for your horse it is all about the rider.

     Applied Posture Riding is a complete program to self-test and self-fix your riding posture.  

       Apr photo AMWThis Unique program will teach you the fundamentals of the riding posture. Most importantly how to test your muscles prior to starting, how to strengthen, train, and use your core in daily life and in the saddle. This program will teach you how to train balance and coordination. This program will teach you how to stretch and have symmetry and independent isolation of all your riding muscles and aids. The movement patterns are the secret to this program. Designed by an elite rider with musculoskeletal education.

    The rider here (left) has lost her lower leg balance. This has caused her toes to push down, her foot to slide deeper into the stirrup and her body to tilt forward. In this case, we are using a neck strap to stop the horse from being gobbed and started balance exercises out of the saddle as well as in the saddle. A gym program or a Pilates workout will get you fit, but what about riding skills and riding principles?

    Balance is an assumed skill. Do you know your balance is good?

    Balance is lost due to injury, age, stress, loss of power, reflexes, and many other physiological reasons. Many riders do not even know their balance is poor until their horse starts to react to their riding. Balance for riding is a  learned skill, it is tested with a very simple test and then trained to apply various exercises.

    Balance requires strength and synchronization of all your postural muscles. Being able to ride the canter and the sitting trot requires a good balance.

    A strong functional core, as well as a supple, flexible, pelvis, and lower back, are key skills for good balance. Riding with an independent seat is only achieved once a rider has stability through the lower leg and core and then training for good balance. Riding with an independent seat is only achieved once a rider has achieved skills in balance,  suppleness, and stability through the core and the lower leg.

    Training balance, your core, and become supple and flexible are just three of the many objectives you will achieve following my Applied Posture Riding Membership Program.

    These are essential for the injured rider as well as the weak rider.   Your posture and riding skills all start out of the saddle. Every rider has their own issues...even elite riders.  Stiffness, weakness lack of stability, injury, pain, and age-related changes all affect how we ride and all can be fixed. Your horse has to work through the same problems, so why not you.

    Now more questions. 

    1. Does your lower leg swing out when you rise trot?  This is easily fixed with a simple movement pattern.

    2. Do you drop one shoulder when you apply a canter aid? You won't once you know how to apply your core and lower leg in sync with each other.

    3. Have you been injured? The Injured rider has many more problems to address. Returning to riding after injury requires professional advice and a specific training program. You can ride again if you follow sensible advice and exercises.

    4. Have you ever suffered from a back injury or had a baby or had your shoulder ripped apart from a fall or a horse trauma? As a Physiotherapist and Horse Rider consultant, I treat and prescribe rehab exercises and support riders through their return to riding.

    Isn't It Time To Focus On You.....The Rider??

     You can train yourself to be a better rider if you know HOW.  I suggest you spend a small amount of time learning about the horse riding posture, the skills required, and then learn about you and your body. Learn how to test yourself for stiffness, weakness, balance, and independent movement patterns (in your own home) and then learn how to fix your problems...It is really quite easy!

     Progress in learning specific strength training exercises for your core, your back, and your lower leg, and your riding will improve even further. Move onto the advanced training exercises and learn how to apply your training in the saddle...The strength, balance, and symmetry you achieve will be evident in your riding skills. The outcome is your horse will break his habits of stiffness, weakness, and be able to move with suppleness and rhythm. If you are a good rider can ride any horse if you are a poor rider you will ruin every horse!.

    It is all about the riders' skills and ability to apply independently balanced limb and seat aids.

    If you have any questions contact Annette Willson. We all have the same passion. Applied Posture Riding Membership Program is unique and every rider following it has been successful.