How we effect our horse in our balance and riding style

This is a great video that shows the same horse being ridden in the same year by 4 different riders, all get a different response out of him.  The riders experience levels vary as do their techniques, age, weight, balance and way of motivating.  The video shows the different ways we influence.

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Tight Hip Flexors

The root cause of many people’s lower back pain and other health problems could be down to tight hip flexors.

lower back pain

The impact the hips have on the whole body was never totally clear to me until I trained as a biomechanist and started to understand the relationship between the hips and the body.

Tight or locked hip flexors can be caused from an instability or a rigidity in the pelvis and a lack of ability or understanding to hold it in a neutral position.  This can contribute to the following problems:

  • Joint pain in legs, lower back and hips
  • discomfort when walking
  • Discomfort in knees from a lack of movement in hips which then causes body to spin and compensate to balance from knees
  • Bad posture and inability to stand tall
  • Aching when sleeping and lying down
  • Lack of energy in day to day life
  • Lack of strength and explosiveness in sport
  • Anxiety from discomfort

Do you find it surprising that all of this might be simply caused by this one tight muscle?

Many people suffer from tight or locked hip flexors, especially those who sit for hours each day, but few realize the impact on your whole body.  Sitting for hours on end in simply in the same seat, and especially if not keeping the pelvis vertical, causes a strain on the hip area and lower back.  There is excessive weight in one position which pulls on the muscles and ligaments and creates a pressure on the cartilage in a particular angle.  Lack of movement brings along a restricted circulation – or a transfer of fresh nutrients to and removal of toxins from the area, which also causes a lack of lubrication so when one does get up to move there is a feeling of stiffness, which in turn can therefore be abrasive and cause wear and tear.

We are designed to move.  And to highlight – everything moving up and down the body flows through the hips.  They help to support the strength and health of your entire body.

HIP FLEXORS ARE THE BODY’S MOST POWERFUL, PRIMAL MUSCLE… … they need training and stretching

For more information please contact me on emma@biosphericperformance.com

Great article on Horse Scout

Here is a great article written on Horse Scout the networking site of the horse and equine world

Horse Scout

THE POWER OF POSTURE

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BIOSPHERIC PERFORMANCE-  Emma Westmacott

“There is little point strengthening your body with gym or fitness workouts if the structure and basis of your body is weak and out of alignment. It’s like building another storey on top of a house with bad foundations”, says Emma Westmacott of Biospheric Performance. And with a CV as impressive as Emma’s, you can take her word for it…..

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Emma understands the demands of sports both on a professional and a personal level. She has been a professional sailor for 30 years. Her achievements include three around the world race challenges, the Volvo Ocean Race, the Whitbread around the world, and a nonstop around the world record attempt called the Jules Verne – in all of these she was a watch leader/person in charge on deck and in many she managed the team fitness. She began as a skipper of private yachts running their programs and during these around the world campaigns, set up Biospheric Performance as a personal fitness and biomechanics consultant.

Alongside the demands of elite level sport, Emma cemented her knowledge as a personal fitness coach by gaining professional qualifications as a Personal Trainer – enabling her to advise on fitness and nutrition, a Pilates Instructor, as well as a UKBCA Biomechanics Coach and Gravity Trainer (a similar device to the pilates reformer – fantastic for enabling symmetry and control in the core and limbs). In addition her passion in athlete performance led her to understand the motivation and drive that takes people to the next stage in their life and sport by qualifying as a Master Practitioner in ABNLP and Hypnotherapy, giving her the ideal tools to work on her clients positive mental wellbeing and psychology. Therefore drawing the mind and body connection together.

Her client list includes athletes, such as Dame Ellen McArthur and Olympians from various sports, but now predominantly riders and just normal people looking to improve their quality of life, performance and avoid as well as return from injury. Ideally Her approach starts from a structural basis, assessing posture, balance and weak areas. Then working out a tailor-made program to help people be their best self and avoid injuries. However, there is a bit more to Emma’s service than you might expect from your regular therapist, physio or biomechanics expert.

“There is a difference in what I do, in that I take an all-round approach to fitness. I usually start by lying someone on a massage bed to assess them- looking at the whole body – feet, knees, hips, back, shoulders, neck. With riders, I like to see them on a horse if possible, either in life or at least in video.”

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Emma then uses her wealth of experience and knowledge and a number of her many “tools of the trade”. With her extensive training in Biomechanics, she assesses alignment and symmetry, looking for potential areas of limitation and establishing if restrictions are bone/soft tissue or neurological issues. She uses both a passive (lying and standing still) and an active assessment of the person moving before mobilising and often manually stretching the body.

The process then involves designing a first “getting into a neutral position regime” followed by stabilizing and then strength orientated exercise program to make a lasting difference. She offers personal training as well as Pilates Instruction on a short or long-term basis.

“There are heaps of online courses and apps out there and yes you can make some changes if you follow them religiously, but you are never going to get life-changing result” Emma states. “Posture is not just about standing up straight, it is vital for better performance and preventing injury. If your body is aligned in every angle, you will be stronger and more powerful in whatever you do. I am trying to give people a tool box for life so that they exercise in a way that stabilises and strengthens the body for the long term.”

“ There are also many people and practitioners from all levels giving out exercises – but doing 20 “step ups” a day or 20 pilates “hip openers” is not going to combat the 20,000 steps that someone does poo picking and moving around with their horses in correctly (put another way 60 min classes or work outs will not combat the 16 hours people are awake moving incorrectly) – all exercise will be absorbed to change action to some extent but most people actually need the movement of everyday actions broken down and built back up ”

With her philosophy of looking at the whole athlete, Emma also provides sports psychology and consultation to help her clients get over mental hang-ups and works on focus and motivation, whatever their goals may be.

Based on the South Coast, Emma works from home as well as a centre in Winchester, but she also visits clients in their homes. She is available for group sessions and workshops as well as one-to-one. Ideal for riding clubs and Pony clubs.

Her prices are very competitive she gives discounts for block and group bookings

Read more about Emma on her Horse Scout profile

https://www.horsescout.com/professionals/emma-westmacott/profile/1405

 

Written by Ellie Kelly

https://www.horsescout.com/blog/general/the-power-of-posture/

The importance of “Recoil”

The importance of “Recoil”

Recoil is an interesting concept.  Do we need muscle strength?  Maybe our bodies move in fact through stretch and release – through recoil.  In golf, cricket, tennis to even handball player would we be able to throw the ball as far if we just had strong arm muscles but no body tension?

Recoil will only work if the trunk is stable and in correct alignment and posture in order to “winde the body up” in rotation or stretch so when released it can spring back to create power and movement.

Animals in the wild do this all the time.  Look at the cheetah – he lands with his back feet way under him and then he pushes off and fires his body like a catapult over the top of his legs and stretches out to as long as he can be and then releases the stretch and his feet come back through under him again.

 

There are hundreds of examples if this with other animals

 

In order to get the most power out of our bodies we need to do the same.  We either stretch in one plan or in rotation.  We need to hold the core strong and in good alignment in order to create maximum stretch in length and in tension. Just like the animals, as the runner’s leg hits the ground and the gluteus muscles pull the body forwards and over the foot, if the core stays strong and straight and the foot remains in contact with the floor creating maximum stretch down the front of the leg, hip and body, then the athlete simply picks the foot off the floor and flicks it up behind and in the process the muscles down the front of the body will contract and pull the leg forwards and through and so running becomes effortless.  When the body is not held strong and hunches over or bends at the waist, then running is an effort and leg strength is needed to push the body forwards through a bending and straightening of the knee, the knee then gets a lot of wear and tear, as does the spine, due to a lot of bending, becoming weakened and loads on the front and back edge of the discs creating more movement which can lead to irritation of the nerves at the facet joints plus due to excessive movement the discs degenerate and wear down causing even more likelihood for irritation of the nerves.  When nerves are irritated they cause pain either at the site or along the length of the nerve – sciatic pain is a good example of this.

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Other sports such as golf and tennis are great examples of rotation and how if we corkscrew the body around we then can let go of the turn and the torso will spin back to its neutral position creating power.  For example the serve in tennis, general shots like forehand, the golf swing etc all demonstrate that when a large back swing is used it will project the ball with more power.

 

We learn as we grow and develop that if we can really stretch we can be more powerful.  Here are some wonderful pictures of Thaïs Brûlé, a young handball player in France – really getting good height and great power as she stretches her hand away from her toes.  If she were to simply jump up and then throw she would get no where near the throwing power and accuracy, her play looks light and strong.

 

For more information on how to work on posture and core strength plus to have an assessment to look at your alignment please contact us on 07748560077.

Straightness

It is all very well to correct our straightness and our posture in a controlled gym environment but what we really need to be doing is correct it in al the actions and things we do in life.  This is where a static biomechanics assessment is invaluable – take a look from head to toe at the body and look at alignment, tightness, locked up areas and work out where the issues are and work out how to release and strengthen.

Ankle strength and stability

If your ankles do not have the same range of motion or strength – will that affect your body?

Maybe there is no pain – but if you do not move and stabilise the same on each side you will compensate at your knee or at your hip or at your lower back in order to produce the action.  You will possibly not travel the hip through straight and will swing more on one side – this will create a shortening of muscles in one of your hip flexors.  Which will then effect your performance in your sport – either the power of your stride at take off or in the stability at the landing,  at any rate the balance will be affected because of the asymmetry of the action.

This will have an effect on all sports – cycling – there will be a twist in the lower back as the foot is pushed into the down stroke.

Cycling from behind - straightness

In running as the leg travels behind the body and then through – in the image below see James in the middle his hip twists to his left and his shoulders to his right, and he is bending to the left at the waist, with an inward collapse of his knee – he is loosing energy in the movement of his body.  Merritt on the other hand is solid – his shoulders and hips are square.  His limbs are powering him forwards.

Merritt may not be quicker – because he is heavier – but he will sustain less injury and have a longevity in his sport through lack of discomfort.

running style -hip twisting

In horse riding where one is “sitting”  but one needs to be straight.

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If you see pictures of yourself crooked – it may not be due to your “tool” or your ability – it may be due to your internal/intrinsic biomechanics.  So get it checked out.

 

The role of the Seat and Leg when riding a horse

There is a lot of discussion around seat and leg position in riding horses – the role of each, what one is trying to achieve etc. To strip away all of the detail what we are trying to do is sit on our horses back as lightly and relaxed as possible, to go with their movement whilst remaining in balance and not pulling them of one way or the other.  If I were to sit on your shoulders and lean one way or another I would pull you around and possibly make you loose balance.  This is what we are doing on a horse.

The aim therefore is to sit as lightly as possible using our legs, and stirrups to help us to stay on top of the horse, while using our core as our main stabiliser.  Our own balance and stability keeps us there – we should not be gripping with our thighs and knees and hanging on to the reigns.

When we hang on to the reigns we are literally jabbing the horse in the mouth with the bit, which is at worst “cruel” and at best “not very comfortable”.  This causes the horse to lift his head in the air sink his back and prevents him using his core and driving from the back end.  I would hasten to go so far and pointing out that this can be a major contributor to soreness in horses backs.

Our trunk should be able to support itself. If we hold a weighted bar vertically it does not take much effort to keep it there – if we lean it even every so slightly we will have to grip onto it harder to hold it from falling down.  This is the same as us leaning our body forwards from our hip joint (leg to pelvis) we will feel a substantial increase in core load as we do this – providing we remain straight and do not fold in the middle – as in the jump position in riding and to a certain extent going around a corner.

The second pointer is not to be gripping with our knees and thighs to hold on.  If we look at various teachings we need to be at one with the horse, without being heavy.  We need to be sitting around him and going with him without inhibiting his movement and “blocking” him.  If we push into the stirrups we will lift our bum off the saddle and have a tense leg.  Tension in our legs is hard and not comfortable for the horse, and one of the signals to slow a horse down is to “hold” or “block” them. To slow out movement and they will follow.  With time the horse will become responsive to simply the movement of the pelvis as a sign to speed up and slow down.

We cannot be light on our seat if we are not balanced and clinging on.  clothes-pegA good visualisation is that of our legs being like a clothes peg down each side of the horse and our body straight up.  The area of strength is at the top of the arch, where the string goes through – our bum.  So we stabilise from our bum.  As the horse turns or we wobble we should be using out bum – our gluteus muscles to hold our torso above out centre, rather than centrifuging off to the outside of the bend.  I think a good thought is to be pushing from the feet into the head – so lengthening the body and becoming lighter all the way through – not pushing up from the feet and lifting the seat off the saddle, but sitting taller and lighter.  As if standing.

The key is in strengthening this core control so that we can hold our balance and be independently balanced on our horse.  Only then can we use our hands and arms and our legs freely to guide and aid the horse with symmetrical actions.