Applied Posture Riding - the core muscle and horse riding

  • If Your Core Fails You What Else Is Failing You?

    If your core is failing to function properly then it is likely other parts of your body are also failing you.

    Horse Riders have been instructed to "Use your core" Strengthen your core"  "More core" Bring in that core" over and over again. If you are one of the many hundreds of riders who have heard this and still don't know how then you may well be suffering from a postural body breakdown.  Core hold

    So What is a Postural Body Breakdown? 

    Well, this is another one of my interpretations and common sense diagnoses. 

     A postural body breakdown is when the seven most common postural muscles fail you and refuse to do their part of the work to carry you around and keep you in good alignment. 

    The arch collapses, the knee cap moves out of alignment, the hip loses strength, the core fails, the pelvis stiffens up, the shoulder blades become uneven and the neck pokes forward.

    These are the seven most common areas the body lets go with age, with habits, with poor movements, with a lack of stretching and with poor biomechanics.  Past and current injuries also have a big influence on these seven body parts.

    Pain is a primary inhibitor of the core muscle. This is commonly known by Drs and Physios. It is not known by the general public and even most fitness coaches do not know this. The failure of the core often leads to other body parts failing too.

    Now how does this affect your riding?Rider Biomechanics 1websize

    If your core fails you your body has no structural stability. The biomechanical alignment from your feet up is not correct and this creates abnormal stresses and tension in areas producing pain, inflammation, and more failure.

    Your ability to ride is compromised. If your feet failure you and collapse as you weight bear on them then the whole body will be out of alignment Now we don't weight bear as much when we ride so why do you care about your feet.

    Well, you don't ride all day and you will not magically become biomechanically aligned int he saddle if you are not out of the saddle.

    Your instructor can tell you all day long to bring in your core and it still will not happen unless you adjust the failures in your body.

    As A physiotherapist treating common repetitive injuries I have discovered over many years there are seven common body areas that I seem to keep retraining. In each person, it has affected their daily life, their work their rest and their skills as a sports person. Horse riders seem to think more riding is the key.  In my experience NO.


    Each area must be independently isolated, woken up to be re-engaged as part of a biomechanical movement pattern.before and after APR websize

    I start everybody with the foot arch muscle then the knee, the hip, the pelvic tilt, the core crunch, the shoulder retractors and the neck.

    I teach this as a movement pattern in my membership program.

    As in the photo riding with a chicken, neck upsets the whole outline of the image. This is the result of weakness between the shoulder blades as well as weak core muscles.



    If you are having problems and need some help. Have a look at my online mentoring program

    Online Mentoring Program

    This is step by step program to train you to ride with good core strength and function.

    Contact me for more information I can help you change the way you ride.




  • Managing Injuries In Horse Riders

    We all know riding is our passion and we all know the general public, health professionals in particular label horse riding dangerous. Well everybody is right but to be fair more money is spent on contact sports to rehabilitate injuries than in horse riding.

    Horse riding produces more repetitive inflammatory injuries rather than high impact traumas. Although my injury is an impact injury from a direct fall many riders suffer ongoing pain, stiffness, and soreness in many parts of their body on a daily basis. Shoulders are a primary target for sprains, strains, and minor trauma injuries.

    Lifting, throwing, pulling, tugging, dragging, rails around the tail ramp on a float, etc all cause pain. All these objects including throwing rugs and lifting feed buckets, even grooming horses regularly all affect the shoulder and or upper limb joints. The lower back is another common and painful area to affect horse riders.

    So How Do We Manage Injuries In Horse Riders?

    I believe and state "horse riding is good for your body" I state "horse riding is not bad for your back". The job of caring for your horse is the damaging part of the sport. Also, obviously, I have to say falling off IS bad for you, but if you don't fall off and ride to your own level then horse riding is one of the best sports for fitness, tone, and happiness.

    Managing Skill level

    ben and rusty 2A strong lower leg is essential for confidence and skills. Horse riders seem to spend so much money on lessons. Well, not all instructors will teach you good skills. If you are progressing and your strength, confidence, and performance improve then your instructor is of good value. If your instructor begins to reproduce the same lesson over and over and repeats the same instruction then.

    1. You have reached the limit of that instructor and time to change, or

    2. You have a block in yourself you need another approach or more professional instruction, or

    3. You need more time between lessons to establish the skills you are learning.

    Re point 1. Many instructors are great with the initial basics and great to a certain level. This is a good thing but if you are advancing beyond the skills of your instructor then don't be held back and move on.

    Re point 2. Many instructors are able to identify rider problems but don't have the skill or knowledge to fix them. Eg. commonly I hear from riders who are told over and over "You're crooked..straighten up", repeated every lesson. Yes, the instructor can identify the problem but the solution requires much more insight than just "Straighten Up"! This is one of the most common problems I hear about from riders. This is a problem that requires much more knowledge from a professional.

    The Applied Posture Riding program has detailed information about this. Gymkhana Clare 2012 068 websizeA rider will never be straight in the saddle if they can't sit straight on a chair, walk straight or lie straight. It may be their spine, it may be their hips, it may be their pelvis.  In many cases,  long term bad habits and lack of stretching can affect your riding posture.

    Without knowledge of the musculoskeletal system, a riding instructor will not be able to instruct a rider on HOW to fix their riding posture. Good skills lead to better and safer riding.

    Managing Minor Injuries and Pain.

     It seems a good idea to manage minor aches and pains before they become major aches and pains. We all manage pain... we don't manage NO pain. So if you have minor aches then learn to deal with them every day before they develop into serious problems that will require months of rehab, money, and time away from horses not just riding.

    A broken shoulder cannot even feed a horse let alone rug or, ride a horse. Minor shoulder pain can lead to a complete spontaneous rupture over time as it decays away slowly. Bang one day it is fine the next day it is ruptured! It happens!! Learn to stretch and exercise properly every day, don't assume riding is enough.! I have a great program to manage NO pain as well as manage existing injury.

    Managing Major Injury as a Horse Rider.

    stock photo 4145745 impromptu exit Lower back pain doesn't mean stop horse riding!  Of course, when you have a major injury you need to seek local professional medical advice and you need to follow it. Having scans and seeing specialists in their field is essential. If you break a bone and it takes six weeks to heal then it takes six weeks to heal, you or I cannot speed time up. If you try, it usually ends up needing more time because you wreck it. A CT scan or an MRI scan tell the truth, it is what it is. Healing time is real as well.

    I look at the cause of pain and deal with why you have pain as well as how to manage and fix it. I look at the state of the injury and give advice about the mechanism that will harm and help. It may be as simple as changing the way you do what you do not stop what you do. EG. I stand on a bench to brush my horse to protect my shoulders. I use a sack trolley to move feed around. I have gaps in my fence to walk through rather than climb under or over. I use a back brace for pain control in my back.

    My passion is horses and I also love seeing riders return to their passion after injury and most of all love seeing riders achieve what they have been told to stay away from If you have a problem with your riding and have reached a block in your progress and have a look at the Applied Posture Riding program. 

    If you want to follow my way of training join my, follow Applied Posture Riding Membership Program

  • The Horse Riding Posture And Muscle Imbalances

    The horse riding posture uses all the posture muscles as well as all the stabilizing muscles.   

       internet hpto These muscles must be in balance for a rider to ride well. These muscles must be in balance for a person to function well. It is important to look at a rider as a person before fixing any riding problems.  Good posture both on the ground and on the horse starts with good alignment. A vertical line dropped down from the ear goes through the shoulder, hip, and heel. The shoulders are relaxed and down, not forward, though, the pelvis is in a neutral (vertical) position, and the legs are under us.

    When the body is in good alignment, we need a minimum effort to stay or sit upright. Because we have to keep our balance on the moving horse (which is a task in itself), we need to train all the riding, muscles for posture as well as riding. The ideal static and dynamic posture have a balance between all the front and back muscles.

    Because we have to keep our balance on the moving horse (which is a task in itself), we need to train all the riding, muscles for posture as well as riding. The ideal static and dynamic posture have a balance between all the front and back muscles.PELVIC TILT B diag The Pelvis should be in a neutral (vertical) position. If it is in a forward tilt the back will be tight and arched.

    This creates stiffness in the spine. If it is tilted backward, the spine will be flattened, this creates a round shoulder posture and a bent spine in the rider. The pelvis will move in and out of these postures, though, as the rider applies aids. The pelvis is controlled by the lower back muscles the hamstrings the glutes and the abdominal muscles. The stability of the pelvis and spine is controlled by the core muscle, (transverse abdominal muscle).

    These muscles must be strong to be able to ride well. The core or Transverse Abdominal muscle is the single most important muscle to train, use, and control in horse riding. This muscle is the key stabilizer for the spine and hence the body and all posture. The Applied Posture Riding Membership Programhas a huge emphasis on training this muscle. Apr 3 

    The shoulder blades and neck are controlled by special muscles around the shoulder and upper back. The long back muscles also hold the spine vertical so the scapular can remain in a good position. The shoulder muscles control the movements of the arm. If the balance of the shoulder blade muscles is strong and stable then the arm and hand can apply independent aids.

    The Applied Posture riding program will teach you this. The hamstrings control the knee and lower leg as well as the amount of the weight in the seat. If the hamstrings are not engaged then the lower leg is not useful as an aid or as a stabilizing tool and most of all, the rider is not safe if the lower leg swings. The calf muscle is not used in riding and should always be in a stretched position.

    Muscle Imbalances

    Muscle imbalances are very easy to recognize. Our lives are very repetitive and we do things in a certain way over and over again. We feel very comfortable. This comfort creates our crookedness and unevenness. For example, if you are a right-handed person then you will use your right hand for just about everything you do.

    You will use your right hand to carry things, mix horse feed, clean your gear, your work, throw a ball, etc. All these activities require your right side to be very active and become short and tight over years of repetitive use while the left side has a different function. Tightness will develop in the muscles as well as stiffness in the joints, this is what creates the muscle imbalances. Unless a rider knows their own problems they cannot fix them.

     Muscles Imbalances In The Upper Body

    The most common problem is round-shouldered posture. This posture is not only a result of muscle imbalances but also habit and laziness. When a rider looks down their head follows, then their shoulders, their elbows move away as the wrists round as well. The poking chin rounded shoulder posture is now evident. This is a common problem and one riding instructors are always trying to fix by telling their pupils to "sit up"... "sit up" again and again. This posture fault must be addressed out of the saddle. The Applied Posture Riding program looks at the cause of this imbalance and how to fix it.

    The Applied Posture Riding program looks at the cause of this imbalance and how to fix it. 212 

    Stretches as well as strengthening the weak muscles is a good start. Learning how to use the shoulder independent of the body as a movement pattern is a key to using these muscles for riding. A good rider is able to keep the body stable as they apply a rein aid or use their seat or legs. This is the idea of an independent deep seat.

     Common Muscle Imbalances in the Lower Body

    The pelvis and lower back are stiff in nearly every rider, riding actually promotes stiffness in the back. A stiff lower back will block the horse in all movements and add to pain in the back as well. Lifting, hours sitting, age, repetitive loading will harm the back. The joints wear and the muscles react. Stiffness is an easy problem to fix. Lower back disc pain from wear and tear or a herniation or a prolapse, other injuries, as well as childbirth all, affect the riding posture. All these problems create pain and weakness.

    All these problems need to be attended to out of the saddle. Pain has a huge effect on a rider. It creates tension, fear, and pain inhibit the use of the core muscle. If a rider is returning to riding after childbirth or injury they must pay very close attention to the core. I find this is neglected and many riders set themselves up for problems.

    A riding instructor is not the person to turn to fix these problems. A Physiotherapist is probably the best professional to speak too. I am able to teach you all of this. The abdominals are often weak and the core is in many riders not functional. The core must be trained individually and then a rider must learn how to use their core for riding. This can only happen if the rider has enough flexibility from stretching.

    corect loer legThe hips are another point of imbalance. Again our lifestyles and our age are the cause. The hips are always tight in the same direction often weak in the opposite direction. This causes the rider to swing their legs and toes in the wrong position. The rider will find it very difficult to keep their knees and toes in against the horse's side.

      Dressage riders, in particular, need to stretch their hip joints. Weak glutes,  hamstrings, and or adductors all create problems in the saddle.  The rider must be symmetrical. The rider may tilt to one side, with more weight in one seat bone.  I always check this as part of my posture rider assessment. Unless the rider has a leg length discrepancy or scoliosis or a  medical condition that creates these imbalances then the rider should be symmetrical. This is a whole topic on its own.

    Compensating for these imbalances in the saddle will affect the way your horse responds to you. Leaning on the bit, rushing through the aids, dropping the shoulder, lameness, evading the legs, not "getting it"  are not all horse problems. Look at yourself before you blame your horse.

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