The unbalanced body of the rider and the failure to reach the objectives
All equestrian sport reflects a partnership between horse and rider, a partnership build on (non-verbal) communication. Much of this communication is coneveyed throught the rider’s body position. The higher the team aims to perform, the more subtle these postural clues need to be.
Only a relaxed rider, sitting correctly, can apply aids ( the signals by which the rider communicates with the horse) well.
Body imbalances of the rider can result in ‘disconnect’ that may adversely affect performance. For instance, if the rider’s posture has become imbalanced or asymmetrical, secondary to a vertebral or pelvic malalignment, this information will unwittingly be communicated to the horse. The horse may then respond to commands that the rider is unaware he or she is making.
Unexpected or unwanted responses (e.g. failure to turn as easily to one side as the other) frustrate the rider and can be inaccurately attributed to a behavioral, training or limb lameness issue in the horse.
Another example involves the use of aids. The intensity of a rein aid, for example, is made by slight pressure from the ring finger, by a rounding of the wrists or by using the whole arm. The intensity is sustained while increasing forward drive aids to the horse. When the horse submits, the hand relaxes and light control is maintained. An imbalance and asymmetry of the scapulae associated with pelvic malalignment will unwittingly interfere with rein tension.
Complaints of the rider
Malalignment is most likely to result in complaints involving the facet, hip or sacroiliac (SI) joints, as well as the scapular region. Pain can result from these sites being put under stress either directly or as a consequence of malalignment-related impairment of pelvic, spine or limb function resulting in abnormal or increased strain while riding.
Sacroiliac joint pain
Decreased mobility at the SI joint can alter the ability of the rider to achieve a deep seat in the saddle. When the range of movement is lost at the hips, vertebral and sacroiliac movement must increase to compensate. Pain from the SI joint usually radiates into the buttock, the groin, and/or down the leg of the affected side . On examination, the pelvis is no longer balanced, the right ilium is probably elevated if the left hip is lowered. Tests intended to stress specific structures, such as the anterior and posterior sacroiliac ligaments, may be positive, indicating SI origin pain. In addition to realignment, the preferred treatment for sacroiliac and lumbosacral pain includes the following Yumeiho procedures: 1. Deep tissue massage in the pelvic and lumbar area; 2. Manipulation of the sacroiliac joint and the lumbar vertebrae.
Facet joint pain
Facet joint injury can result from:
1. Prolonged or excessive compression
For example, when the right innominate is rotated ‘anterior’ and the pelvis elevated on the right, there is usually a lumbar curve, convex to left, with subsequent vertebral rotation into the convexity of the curve. The facet joint surfaces on the right are compressed; whereas those on the left are separated. The pain that can result in prolonged or excessive compression is often felt as a ‘deep in the bone’ ache, which is commonly referred from the low back to the buttock, and can also be referred down the thigh to the knee.
2. An acute sprain or strain
With an acute right lumbar facet sprain or strain, spasm of the surrounding muscles (e.g. para-vertebrals and quadratus lumborum) elevates the right pelvis, narrows the lumbar disc spaces on the right side and prevents rotation through the lumbar spine. Pain is commonly referred forward or around the iliac crest and into the pubic area.
Alterations of weight-bearing and ranges of motion
1. Leg orientation and foot posture patterns
The therapist should look at the legs:
a. with the feet in the stirrups, when the horse and rider are stationary, and
b. from the front and the back, when they are moving toward and away.
With the ‘more common’ presentations, right innominate rotated ´anterior’, the right leg may be obviously externally rotated, with the knee falling outward to the point at which the right foot ends up on tiptoe with the heel elevated (plantarflexed). The left leg may, however, be internally rotated, the left knee hugging the side of the horse and the foot collapsed inward and dorsiflexed (pronated). The opposite pattern may be seen with, for example, the left anterior and locked’ presentation.
2. Hip ranges of motion
These are tested to determine the ability of the rider to have the correct leg position, which is needed to communicate with the horse using pressure signals from the calf, knee and thigh. Malalignment results in an asymmetry of hip range of motion. For example, with the right pelvis elevated and rotated forward in the sagittal plane:
a. external rotation of the right leg is increased, as is adduction and abduction; whereas right internal rotation is limited
b. right hip flexion is decreased and extension is increased.
Hip joint pain
Pain from the hip can be referred forward to the groin and goes down the anterolateral thigh to the knee. It can radiate down the anterior aspect of the lower leg but stops proximal to the ankle joint. Hip joint pain can be assessed by deter- mining the hip ranges of motion, both passively and on resisted movement. Note should be made whether:
1. there is any weakness;
2. pain occurs on passive and/or active movement;
3. pain is experienced at a particular point of the available range.
With an imbalance of the scapulae, the rider complains of pain in the paraspinal muscles between the shoulder blades. This imbalance also decreases the range of scapular abduction and retraction when the shoulder is elevated and can lead to inconsistency with rein aids. Imbalanced rein tension communicates unwanted signals to the horse. Furthermore, rigidly held reins can prevent the horse from bending or flexing correctly.
Riders, especially those who engage in hunter-jumper, 2-3-day eventing and endurance activities, occasionally develop hand numbness when riding. Pain into the arms or tingling may indicate a thoracic outlet syndrome but other tests and appropriate investigations are needed to confirm or eliminate this often elusive diagnosis.
Harmony in riding can only be achieved when the horse and the rider are both in alignment and the saddle fits properly.
Balance is the key factor, for the horse and for the rider.
Good rider biomechanics isn’t necessarily about how relaxed they are, or how good they use their muscle and strength, but is more about how good their body is balanced. That’s how they can have the full control of the horse.
The way in which the rider position his/her limbs, how stable they are, and how they are able to influence their horse is done through the biomechanics of your body.
The health of the rider will influence the balance and the performance of the team as a whole.
If you want to do what is best for the team, for your horse and for yourself, Yumeiho® can help you. Finding your balance will create the environment for the best performance.