Applied Posture Riding - physio for horse riders

  • Applying Biomechanics To The Horse Rider 1

    Part 1

    This is a topic riders, and coaches need to have more knowledge in. Biomechanics is the science of movement, the science of examining the living body, including how muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments work together to produce movement. The word biomechanics is the study of the structure and function of biological systems such as humans, animals, plants, organs, and cells and describes the application of engineering mechanics to these systems.

    A proper understanding of biomechanics is vital to understand the implications of sport’s performance, rehabilitation, and injury prevention, along with sports skills. An understanding of biomechanics in equestrian sports can explain the impact the how the horse and rider can work together.

    It is important for riders to understand how their posture and movement patterns affect their application of aids to the horse. stock photo 14431819 riding in the rainThe most common fault is using the reins to balance through. rider competing dressage competition classic estepona malaga province andalusia spain 34936377(Photo on the left). the rider in the photo on the right is balanced and you can see the difference. This poor balance in the rider directly affects the horses' mouth and hence their forward movement. Long-term use of "pulling" can result in muscle imbalance. Sadly the horse is the one in pain, imbalances in both the horse and the rider. 

     The rider will become stiff and sore and the horse may well develop a "bridle lameness" as well as behavioral problems. Humans naturally balance through their hands, so pulling or grabbing for the reins is natural. The horse will pull back to protect himself and use the pull of the reins to balance on as well. This sets up a cycle for both the horse and rider to learn to balance on the bit. This leads to muscle pain, fear, behavior problems, and certainly poor muscle building and unpleasant riding for the future. This cycle needs to be broken.

    Muscle Anatomy and Function

    The musculature of the horse and rider must be developed slowly over time.

    The building of a top line in the horse involves time, exercises, and knowledge. Incorrect training methods will develop muscles but... not the correct muscles for pleasant riding. A horse can carry a rider its entire life with its head high and back arched.

    This posture helps the horse protect itself from pain from the rider. The rider who does not train their body specific for riding will not be symmetrical or balanced in the correct movement patterns to ride with their horse.

    Signs of pain in a horse


    • not going forward

    • grinding the teeth

    • going against the bit

    • sweating

    • rearing

    • bucking

    • resignation

    going off food

    • aggression against humans or other horses

    • muscle twitching/moving the skin on or before contact

    • unwillingness to be touched

    • moodiness.

    The position and length of the horses' neck and the horses' back have a direct biomechanical effect on how the horse moves. A horse with a short back will have more balance than a long-backed horse. The quarters will be more under the horse allowing him the use them for balance and power.

    A horse does not carry a rider naturally and if you observe your horse in the paddock he prefers to hold his head high or neutral..not low as we want them to be. This is partly due to their flight and fight protection.

    Signs of pain in the rider

    • stiffness and lack of range of movement
    • weakness
    • poor movement patterns
    • asymmetry of movement
    • emotional stress
    • tears
    • inattentive
    • angry
    • blaming your horse

    3449626 backache Many of the horse's muscles have a similar action as in a human. The contraction of the abdominal (stomach) muscles, will tilt the pelvis backward in a human, rounding the back. In a horse, contracting the stomach muscles will also round the back.images 28 As the horses' back becomes round his quarters will come under him and his head will lower, (long and low). As a horse arches his back his head will lift. the horse will also lift his head to balance, for example approaching a fence.

    The rider must be balanced to allow this movement in their horse. If you examine the same action in humans you can see the same postures are produced. Many humans work in this posture and it becomes their norm. Sitting at a desk, driving for long hours, labor jobs, and many others. Humans tend to become stiff in their back with age.

    Two Wells Frank 005 websizeThis biomechanical action is important to understand in your training of both horse and rider. A majority of the spinal and neck muscles only attach and work on the spine and not the limb, again similar to a human. When carrying a rider the horses back will try to compensate for abnormal or one-sided loading of it (e.g. by lameness or rider).

    To stay balanced the muscles may well spasm resulting in increased muscle tension and pain. The rider is often the cause of early clinical signs of back problems in the horse without even knowing it. This scenario is equivalent to a human carrying a heavy backpack on one shoulder for long periods of time. 

    The different paces involve different movements of the spine and hence different muscle activity. The walk is a four-beat movement mostly under the influence of passive mechanisms. The swinging movement of the head, neck, and limbs moves the spinal joints passively. At the walk, the back does not twist through the thoracolumbar junction as it does in the trot and canter. The trot shows a very stable back with a reduced range of movement. The diagonal movement of the two-beat footfall allows the back to be symmetrical and stable. 

     At the canter, the back is influenced by the three-beat movement and has periods of flexion and extension, which is not evident in the walk or the trot. Muscle activity has a restraining function instead of an initiating function. The diagonal support of the trot and canter sees extension and twisting of the spine in the areas where pathologies are often found. Abdominal muscle strength, as well as hip extensors, are important in stabilizing the back and preventing these injuries. There are clear relationships between back conformation and movement that are likely to be important in diagnosing pain. Continue reading Part 2


  • Physiotherapy Rider Clinic

    250px Transversus abdominisThis clinic is a One Day Unmounted Rider Biomechanics and Physiotherapy Clinic. 

    All riders attend an unmounted training education day. (no horses).

    The whole group stays for the whole day. 

    I recommend following up with a mounted clinic at a future date to apply and progress the training and techniques.

    The whole day is about Rider Biomechanics and Physiotherapy advice and what is involved in training the posture for riding.


    • You will learn about the Anatomy Of The Riding Posture.
    • You will learn about The Riding Muscles and Their Function in Riding.
    • I will discuss The Transverse Abdominal (TVA) muscle in detail and its relevance to riding.
    • I will teach you "The Core Crunch". This is the starting point for all of your training.

    Movement pattern 1 compressed

    This is the starting point for all of your training.

    The Core Crunch is the first Movement Pattern you will learn, there are 18 more specific to riding.

    Muscle Testing is important and once you have the Core Crunch you will then test all of the major riding muscles.

    • You will also perform a simple test for your balance.
    • You will learn the difference between an exercise and a Movement Pattern and how to apply them to your riding.
    • I will talk about injury, work, habits, and resting postures and riding.
    • I include a session on the injury, age-related changes, pain management, and the use of braces.
    • I will talk about My Jargon. My program has been designed by me, therefore learning my language is relevant.
    • What is a Core Crunch and Coordinated Breathing?
    • What is a Movement Pattern?
    • What Is Independent Isolation?
    • What is a Resting Posture and What Does Self Carriage Mean?

    My Unique Jargon When Teaching Riders will be addressed.

    • What is the difference between a Training Aid and an Invisible Aid and the Sloth Aid?

    Once you have the above information we can move onto learning the Specific Movement Patterns I have designed for the horse rider.

    APR movement patterns

    The Movement Patterns will teach you how to apply Rider Biomechanics to your riding.

    • I will demonstrate exercises for different body parts to train strength.
    • I will also give Advanced Strengthening Exercises for the future.
    • We can explore the OOV and The Body Blade for daily routines.
    • Managing injury and individual problems will be included during the session.
    • At the end of the day, you will have a completely new and specific way of training yourself for riding.

    I absolutely guarantee this is a clinic like no other you have attended or looked at.

    Included in the cost of the clinic is the "Applied Posture Riding The Fundamentals of Riding" manual.(value $100)

    This workshop is about finding out about your problems and you as the rider, not your horse.

    At the end of this clinic, you will know everything about you and what you need to do to ride with skill and fun.

    Ongoing support via email or by phone is also offered.

    As a Physiotherapist, I am qualified in all Rider Biomechanics, Injury, and Rehab.

    • I am able to offer riders professional information and detailed individual assessments not offered by a riding instructor or personal trainer.
    • I am able to give medical advice where needed and offer ongoing support.
    • I am able to prescribe, fit, and supply the correct horse rider brace and exercises where needed.
    • I am able to assess what you think of your riding, what your instructor says, and what I find and fix it.
    • I am able to prescribe specific horse rider exercises for you.
    • What Is Required?

    For this clinic, the following is required

    • Your own physio gym ball, the correct size is mid-thigh height.
    • A length of theraband,
    • Wear sports clothes, not skirts or jeans.
    • Sandshoes or bare feet will be fine.

    The One day workshop is $250 per rider

    Maximum of 15 unmounted riders

    The One Day Mounted Clinic can be arranged at a date in the future. This format gives you the best assessment, training, and education package  I offer. If you try and pack too much into your training without the basics then you will not get the ultimate results. This is the ideal clinic for a club to offer its members. It is suitable for all riders from beginners to elite. We all use the same muscles and we all have similar problems unrelated to your riding but directly affects you riding,

    If you want to host a  Clinic contact me directly to arrange dates,

  • 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.