Are you a Help or a Hindrance?

Last week I was able to start 121 training with my clients again-outside so we can social distance but most of my clients are familiar with an arena so training in there isn’t an issue. It’s just nice to have a sense of normality back and see people face to face again rather than via a screen. Hopefully it won’t be too long before I can have classes in that arena too-I’m banking on the first week just being a massive pony gossip catch up week, if we do it whilst sat on a gym ball I’m sure that counts as productive training!

I imagine for some of you lessons have also been restarted which hopefully has given you your focus back.

One thing I’ve really enjoyed about lock down is the amount of online training experts have made available. I’ve been watching webinars from Dr Russell MacKechnie-Guire of Centaur Biomechanics about his research into horse and rider asymmetry.
On one of his webinars he said something that really resonated with me and what I want to achieve for both myself and that of my clients.

“ A rider needs to be strong enough to absorb the movement of the horse and correct the forces of asymmetry.”

A strong muscular system is able to absorb the movement of the horse and remain stable and therefore able to give clear aids. It is also able to hold itself in self carriage. Can you imagine the difference for your horse between the rider that wobbles about, moving side to side, forward and back trying to stay on board versus the rider who is able to hold themselves still and in control. It’s like the difference between having a well packed ruck sack on your back versus a wriggling, floppy child of the same weight on your back. Which do you think is easier to carry?

Also think about all those little asymmetry’s that occur when you’re riding? Your horse falls in a little on that circle, he’s not quite straight down that centre line. Whether the asymmetry comes from you or your horse it is still your job as the rider to address correcting them.

If you can have the control from your body to ride a perfectly straight line you have a much better chance of training your horse to do so.

I’m going to address the effect of rider asymmetry next week, but for now I want you to think about how good a load you are for your horse to carry.

Are you a help or a hindrance in your partnership?

If it’s hindrance and you want some help I’ve got an arena I can help you change that in!

Are you part of the problem?

Last week I talked about how it was your job as the rider to be strong enough to ride your horse straight and work with him to correct his asymmetries.

This week I want to talk about how your asymmetries may affect him.

According to Dr Russell Machkenie Guire’s research

  •  a horse took 6 weeks to adapt his locomotion to rider asymmetry. 


  • There is an increase in horse asymmetry when the rider is asymmetrical in trot.


  • Rider asymmetry destabilises the horses thoracolumbar region


So I’d say that makes it pretty clear that our own asymmetry affects our horses way of going. If it affects their gait then over time of course this could contribute to lameness issues. 

Now I know none of us wants to do that intentionally.

But of course we don’t always know we are asymmetrical. The horse can give us clues but it’s always really helpful to have eyes on the ground as our perception of how we are is not always what is happening.

I ask my clients to send me videos of them riding so we can assess any issues and then implement that into our training. 

Why not set up your phone at the side of the school, or ask a friend to video you and then watch it back. Look at what your body does on turns, does it differ on each rein? Are you sat in neutral? Equal front to back left to right? 

Your findings can help you decide what to focus on in your off horse training and of course long term help to keep your horse sound-not accounting for the many new and inventive ways horses can injure themselves…….

Insurance policy for injury

Riders that exercise off horse can fall into a couple of different camps.

Those that want to be fitter, stronger etc generally.

Those that want it to directly influence their riding so-core, symmetry etc.

And those that do it under duress because their instructor is constantly telling them to strengthen their core!

I’ve got all of those types in my mix of classes and 121 clients.

However what many don’t consider and yet it’s probably one of the most important reasons to train off horse is prevention and fast recovery from injury.

One of the biggest reasons for muscles strains, ligament damage etc. Is a limb being taken past it’s comfortable range of motion.

So, it stands to reason the more flexible you are the bigger range you will have before an injury occurs.

Secondly a stable joint-that is one supported by strong muscles is better able to withstand force whether that be just the absorption of force from riding a horse or from a more direct force being applied to it like a kick for example.

Of course the inevitable can still happen as horses are big powerful animals and the ground is most definitely hard!

However if a joint, tendon or ligament already has a supportive network of muscles surrounding it the healing and indeed strengthening process is much quicker. You may have noticed top athletes recover much quicker from injuries and are back to top performance much quicker than that lady in work who still can’t put full weight on the ankle she broke 5 years ago…….Of course athletes also put full effort into rehab programmes and that is something you should co wider for your own injuries. However this process is much easier if there was a base of strength to work from initially.

Another way to demonstrate this is an injury recovery in an elderly person versus a younger person. It is not merely the age that is the factor here it is because as we age our muscle mass declines UNLESS we actively continue to train it and therefore build it. So an elderly person is more likely to have very little muscle mass to support the injury versus the youngster.

So, whilst most of us still have a little extra time on our hands why not consider starting a strength programme-it doesn’t have to involve heavy weights or equipment your own body weight will do. Just think of it as your insurance policy for old age and injury.

If you would like some help with bullet proofing your body I have space for 121 clients-currently via Zoom of course!

Nicola x