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.

 

 

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Eye opening account of a woman’s journey with Anti-depressants

A fascinating insight
http://davidhealy.org/the-pill-that-steals-lives

screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-15-01-56Are we medicating people for the right reasons.  Is medication always the answer.

Surely anger, sadness, anxiety, happiness, laughter, depression are all part of the cocktail of human emotions and are reactions to situations.  Surely childhood is about developing a tool box of coping strategies for situations.  Anti-depressants definitely have a place as a short term fix, but is it right that we have 1 in 5 people on Anti-depressants in some of the most highly populated cities.

Do anti- depressants really answer the questions?
What horrendous side effects do they have – headaches/ stomach?  What are they doing to your insides?  To your personality?  Are you as loving now as before – do you get as happy?
Do you have to take other medication to protect other parts of your body?
And then when you feel worse – they say – “wow you really are depressed, maybe we need to up the dose ….”

“You are lucky” I hear people say that you have not experienced depression – no I have never let depression take hold.  I have had happy times and sad times, I have had break ups and lost jobs, and felt a financial burden, but i have learnt the things that balance the “downs” in my life.  I was brought up slightly with a “grunt up and get on with it mentality” which when you are down can feel like no one cares and ones sadness is swept under the carpet – but in retrospect this gave me a healthy balance – go and do something nice and fun if you are feeling down.  And here lies the problem, many people cannot remember what they did for fun, they don’t have time/money/people to do things with.

So then we get to the bigger problem – are you living your life or are you living someone else’s?
What did you do as a child that made your heart sing – that you loved – that made you laugh/smile/ be happy?
What was it about that that you you loved?
What of that are you not getting or doing now?

These questions are the answer to the way out.
Looking at having fun, not over burdening oneself with things one cannot solve, manage.

Normal conditions such as shyness, worry, fear of public speaking are becoming conditions.
These are human behaviours, they should be managed by overcoming them not with drugs.  Drugs mask the situation and dull it rather than solve it – the problem is still there but left in the “can’t cope with that basket”.  I am sure those of you reading this who have taken or do take anti depressants will try to tell me that it is an illness and that you simply cannot get up and move on – and i agree – I think NOW you cannot – but back then when this first started – that first “down moment” – if you had had better skills to deal with that time, maybe just maybe now you would be ok.

Food for thought – great read by someone with first hand experience and a lot of research and medical knowledge in it as well.
But shocking truths like – when medicine is tested do they report all the results – so 50% success rate – or do they say this was successful on 100 people and ignore the fact that 100 others it was unsuccessful with.  I will leave you to google and investigate that – i know what the answer to that question is!!

Pelvic Stability, Knee stability, ankle stability …. which is first?

So the question seems to be where does instability start.

The symptom is often knee pain/ hip pain/ lower back pain/ sore shins/ sore ankles.  How often does one have one of these issues and after seeking help it goes away for a while and then niggles and comes back.


We walk and run and skip and play sport.  All of these actions require us to stand and move from one leg to the other.  We move on a stable base when we walk, dance, run – in rugby, tennis, and golf etc, but sports like sailing, windsurfing, surfing, kiting, horse riding, all require stability in order to move and have control on an unstable or moving platform.
How can we perform to the best of our potential if we cannot do the simple action of stepping from one leg onto the other with stability.
How can we avoid injury and pain if we are unstable – we will be relying on the stronger areas of our body which will get over worked and over used.

If you know you cannot balance, or have experienced instability then maybe you should get in touch – the source of the problem could be one of many things – it could come from poor ankle posture, unstable hips, restricted upper back mobility, tightness in one shoulder and not the other – it may not necessarily be from  the joint that you are thinking or that is sore.  This is the foundation of repetitive strain injuries in knees, backs and ankles.

Race Horse Trainers – Jenny and Chris Gordon working on their core strength along side their fitness for their sport.

Chris and Jenny have both competed racing horses throughout their life – they have had many wins between them on point to point jump courses, none less than they have both taken on the Grand National Course at Aintree.  Now, they train horses and have a consistent stream of runners.  Recently they have decided in their own way and using their own approach to work on agility and fitness for their work and sport for training race horses.  One of the biggest problems with professional sports people is the time commitment and the regularity required to regain consistency when travelling.

Possibly to the surprise of many – “fitness training” is not always thought of to be necessary when one is on ones feet all the time, however, as we get older the niggles catch up with us and the aches and pains start to make our day to day work difficult.

Both Chris and Jenny have had:

  • An assessment to create a picture image of what is going on skeletally,
  • This shows how much certain previous injuries and postural habits are actually affecting their overall movement and performance.
  • This is followed by stretching and mobilising exercises
  • Which in turn has been followed by stabilising exercises
  • Then strengthening will follow.

The problem for jockeys is the race position – which is hunched over and bending forwards.  The shock absorbing and weight loads end up through the knee due to the leg position and there is a lot of pressure on the back from the hip position with short stirrups, and what is thought of as an aerodynamic back posture, also created in order to keep the weight off the horses back and allow freedom of movement and speed.  This race position becomes a way of life in walking, standing and sitting and due to the excessive curve in the thoracic spine potentially puts a huge load on the vertebrae, and hip joint and may even switch certain stabilising muscles off.

The aim is to keep and regain the full range of motion around their joints which in turn will lessen discomfort as the loads required to ride will be spread more evenly around the body, all the while fitness will be increased through doing more diverse exercises to embed the postural corrections.

Richard P made it – at last achieved his goal of completing the Etap du Tour at the age of 60.

Emma  – Many thanks – made it ! Thanks in no small part to your excelRichard Plent programme and cajoling. Hugely appreciated.  Col de Joux Plane 11.9km at 9% was a struggle at the end of the day. The 3 of us 60yr olds were all between 7.5 and 8hrs and everyone got round safely on a hot day.  Now to think of the next challenge !“

 

Hope you enjoy the attached You tube and pic !    Very best wishes  – Richard”

“I want to thank you for the significant contribution you have made to my and my family’s life over the last year.”

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 10.58.51“I want to thank you for the significant contribution you have made to my and my family’s life over the last year. I am looking forward to keeping up this level of flexibility, strength and ph
ysical confidence. I am absolutely sure that if it had not been for your input, I would not be in the significantly improved physical state I am in now.  In case you need reminding, you are incredibly good at your job and I am so grateful and happy that our paths crossed, albeit for a second time!

This is an excerpt from a lovely client of mine – Emily Davidson.

Emily is an avid sailor and came to me a year or so ago after having had intensive physio for a back issue.  She had had a herniated disc in her late teens and has had a partial discectomy, way back then.  A year ago this was bothering her again, and led her to further scans and pain management etc, and a fear that she would not be able to achieve the family goal of sailing off into the sunset on their yacht was causing concern.  Anyway the decision was not to operate, but to learn to manage this – her journey started with some physio and then we looked at her posture and the way she moved in life and around the yacht, which led to a year of hard work.  The journey was probably helped by the knowledge that I have of sailing and the conditions that she is likely to encounter out there, a huge part of many peoples journey is regaining the “belief that they can do it”.

So here we are she has reached her goal and has now set sail for an amazing adventure with her husband Tom and two kids aged 7 and 5.