We recently asked our physiotherapy team a hypothetical question that is a common problem many of our para patients face. Click below to read the answer.
“I’m a para rider with limited leg use due to my injury. I’m really struggling to keep my horse straight and some lateral movements are a challenge, especially leg yield which my horse does well to the right but not to the left. My coach continually tells me that I’m collapsing over to the right but no matter what we try I can’t seem to resolve this. Can rider biomechanics and physiotherapy help?”
Regardless of whether you are a para or able-bodied rider, our job on the horse is the same.
A rider needs to:
For an able-bodied rider, the use of their legs plays an important role in helping to maintain their own balance and position on the horse. When this is affected, such as for para riders who are paraplegic, amputees or have another neurological disorder with limited use of their legs, you need to learn to keep your balance and position using different strategies.
One of the most important of these is learning to improve your trunk control. To maintain their own balance a rider must keep their centre of mass over the top of their base of support. A rider's centre of mass is located in the middle of their chest. If this centre of mass moves outside of their base (seat), the rider will become unbalanced, negatively impacting how the horse moves.
Riders also need to move in time with and absorb the movements of the horse. Some riders may brace through their trunk to help keep themselves stable, but this can affect their ability to move in harmony with their horse or maintain a steady rein contact. Your horse may have to stiffen his own body to try to keep the rider stable or move to the direction the rider is collapsing to keep themself balanced.
Take for example your problem of your horse not performing leg yield well to the left. If you are collapsing over to the right, it is likely that your horse will also have to shift their centre of mass over to the right to compensate to keep you both over the top of the horse’s centre. It is then going to be really difficult for them to move sideways to the left while they’re trying to balance both of you over on the right!
Consequently, the horse’s ability to maintain a steady rhythm or to remain straight in lateral movements will likely only be resolved by first addressing how you are riding. Examples that may be impacting the horse in this way can include:
Essentially the goal of physiotherapy and rider biomechanics is to help you both learn how to balance your own self on the horse and improve your symmetry, or evenness from side to side, as much as is physically possible.
While some of this will come with time and practice, working on specific strength, balance, coordination and breathing exercises will be essential to help improve your riding. It is essential to develop these skills off-horse as well as applying them to your riding technique.
At Equimotion, our rider physiotherapist has a strong background in neurological physiotherapy and understands the that for many para riders we need to also consider training techniques that align with fatigue management, timing training with medication peaks, neuroplasticity training principles, along with managing issues such as contractures, spasticity, dystonia and pain.
In addition to the exercises that you will be prescribed to do on and off the horse, your physiotherapist will provide you with ongoing support and guidance. Ultimately our aim is to help improve the partnership that you have with your horse.
Have an obligation free chat today with Hannah to discuss how we can help!
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