Take 5 Things- How to improve your riding with Biomechanics

Updated: Jul 13, 2020

Welcome to this weeks edition to our Take 5 Things series with EquiNation, in this article we have Georgina Bull to talk to you about Rider Biomechanics, she will talk you through what is Rider Biomechanics, as well as talking about why rider Biomechanics is important, before giving her 5 things to look for in order to improve your Rider Biomechanics.

About Georgina

Georgina Bull is a registered Osteopath in the UK, who alongside treating horses and humans, takes a special interest in the relationship between how horse and rider move together. Georgina is a rider herself, owning 2 horses and competing in Endurance riding. She has worked with the Team GBR Elite Endurance Squad travelling with the riders to European and World class competitions. She also runs a clinic in Northamptonshire, where she regularly holds Rider Biomechanics workshops both on and off the horse.

This picture shows the imbalances in the riders position on a mechanical horse

What are Biomechanics?

The phrase ‘Biomechanics’ is getting popular in the equestrian world, but do you really know what it is? We’ll look a little more in depth at Biomechanics for riders and give you 5 quick tips on how you can improve yours!

Biomechanics is the study of how the body moves in relation to its structure and function. During sport, the laws of mechanical principles are applied to the body in order to help us understand what is and isn’t working well, leading us to areas to work on and that need to be changed to improve our performance. Of course, for riders, not only will this help us look at all the little wiggles, twists and tilts we do to correct our posture and improve our performance, but it will also help lessen the pressure on our horse, helping them to perform better too!

Why are Biomechanics important?

Biomechanics helps us make sure we are functioning well with our body, keeping us flexible and balanced, to ensure our horse is as comfortable as possible when being ridden. This helps us as riders to make sure our horses have a long and healthy career, and that we don’t hinder their movement and limit their performance.

Let’s put that into an example: If we sit more to one side when we ride, or if we alter our posture from the idea of “perfect posture” we significantly change how the horse has to carry our weight. If we ride a bicycle and we wobble to one side, we will topple to the same side until we correct our posture. Thankfully for us, our horses are very adept at compensating for our poor posture and balance. Our posture and balance can cause such significant problems for the horse that we can contribute towards issues such as shorter stride lengths and flatter jumping techniques, just by forcing the horse to work in a posture that isn’t normal for it.

We all spend money on physical therapy and saddle fitting for our horses, but we are one of the biggest influences as to how our horses use their bodies, so we need to take time to look at ourselves too. When both bodies are working at optimum performance, and that has to be optimum for the individual combination, whether simply hacking out, or doing 5* Eventing, we can minimise injuries, train more effectively and correct poor performance before they ever become a big problem.

This picture shows uneven stirrups that can occur due to rider imbalance

5 things that affect your Biomechanics

Let’s look at 5 simple things we can check whilst riding to see if we need to dig deeper into our own Biomechanics to make changes:

  1. Seat: - Do you have equal weight in both of your seat bones? Sit on a hard chair and find the sensation of sitting squarely on your seat bones. Do they feel equal or do you feel there is more weight to one side? We can check this by sitting on a piece of corrugated cardboard (if it’s from a box, make sure you’re sitting on the wrinkly bit itself, not on the flat cardboard. You may need to peel a layer off!) and comparing the indents our seat makes. Is one bigger than the other? If you feel you sit more to one side, or the indents are larger one side, there is some work to be done by you to create symmetry!

  2. Legs: - When riding, halt your horse in a safe environment and look down at your knees in the saddle. Do they both sit in the same position on the saddle flap? Are they both the same height? If one sits higher than the other, or further forward than the other; maybe one sits off the saddle flap, it’s indicative that there are things that can be corrected to improve your posture.

  3. Arms and Hands: - Check your hands. Do you have the same length of rein in each hand? Do you wear one glove out more than the other? Our contact with the horse’s mouth isn’t just from the hands, it comes all the way from your shoulders and upper back, and changes from higher up can affect your hands.

  4. Head: - Where you look when you ride has a huge impact on your body. If we constantly tuck our chin in, we will have a tendency to tip forwards through our body and influencing where our weight is distributed through our seat and causing asymmetry. This will also be influenced by our daily habitual patterns such as sitting and work. Can you change little things to make a bigger difference?

  5. Whole Body: - We are conscious as riders that we should have routine checks for our horses from a qualified body worker, but do you spend money on yourself? Your body has a huge impact on how the horse’s body works when we ride, so every time you have your horse treated, you should treat your own body to work through our own tight muscles and joint problems. Your horse will thank you!

Before and after a biomechanics session, yoou can see on the left how the rider has become straighter

We owe it to our horses to be fit enough to ride, but that doesn’t mean we all have to take up running! There is such a huge array of fun exercises that can help riders and with the added use of gym balls, therapy bands, small inflatable balls and the like, that everyone can enjoy exercise, so we improve our overall balance and posture. This can also help any niggly aches we have in day to day life and help us to combat repetitive habits we have; Yes, they also affect your horse!

There are many elements to consider when looking at Biomechanics, including the tack we use, but by making subtle changes through several areas of our lives, we will help our horses to work to the best of their ability with as little discomfort as possible.

Georgina Bull

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You can even check out her work with Team GB

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