We often hear phrases like ‘sit them on their hind limbs’, ‘ride forward into the hand’, ‘lift the back underneath you’, but what this all does mean in a practical sense and why should we bother trying these things that might sound impossible against a half tone animal?!
It’s all about us aiding our horses to use their body correctly to produce movement that is rideable, enjoyable to watch and also kind on their joints and muscular structures! Over time we have evolved horses into athletes but the reality is that they are not built for the purpose of carrying a rider. Therefore, we need to make sure they are strong enough to cope with the demands of this task and to do it safely, without compensations which can lead to injury or wear and tear down the track!
The horses back should be able to flex or ‘lift’ under the weight of the rider so the hind limbs can engage to propel the body forward. To be able to do this the horse must be able to activate its gluteals and abdominals effectively. By allowing flexion of the spine to occur, it ‘gaps’ the space between the dorsal spinous processes, reducing the risk of irritation, inflammation and bony changes causing pain or behavioural changes when ridden. One of the most important postural muscles attaching to each spinal segment is known as Multifidus. This muscle is also vitally important in providing stability to the spine and mediating the movement produced by bigger more powerful muscles of the trunk. Riding the horse in it correct posture also allows it to be suppler, so bending the horse to each side becomes easier for them and for you and if the muscles of the trunk are strong it allows the spine to move more freely even with the weight of the rider on top! A terrific set of exercises for developing Multifidus strength and coordination are baited stretches! Get those carrots and mint licks ready!
Copyright. Megan King Physiotherapy