Applied Posture Riding - lower leg and riding

  • How to Control The Lower Leg Using Quads And Hamstrings

     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.

    DSC 0088 In this photo,  the riders' lower leg is too far forward and not solid against the horses’ side. The hamstring muscle is not engaged, and she is pushing her heel down using her quads and gastroc muscle. This is a 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.  Control of the lower leg 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 and I teach Rider Biomechanics.  The lower leg can sit solidly against the horse without putting pressure on the horse. This is another skill to learn for horse riding. Once a rider can keep the leg still the seat is the next target to train.

    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 routine. So 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 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.

    Erin and Leanne Home feb 2012 059 websizeTraining 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.

    Bending your knee is different from applying your lower leg, however, the action of moving your knee is the technique to learn.Erin and Leanne Home feb 2012 062 websize

    If you want more information on this or just want some advice go to my  Applied Posture riding Membership Program.

    So If you get a wobble up in your lower leg when trotting or even at the canter then this means the use of your lower leg muscles when riding is not correct. 

    Enjoy your riding and good luck

    Annette Willson.

    Remember to look at yourself before you blame the horse.

  • 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