How can Osteopathy help Horse Riders?

Horse riders are a special breed of people: We work hard to care for our horses, we bend, twist and lift heavy weights on a daily basis and that can play havoc with our body. We often habitually muck out one way, or sweep one way, heavily favoring one side of our body, yet we expect to be able to sit centrally on our horse to help his body and use each side of our being independently. That takes some serious skill!

Riders don't think twice about trying to work out what's gone wrong with our tack or our horses if we encounter a problem, but riders ourselves generally are very last on the list to ever get any attention, and the impact on our horses from that can be huge.

Did you ever think that your own body and your riding can be hindering how your horse uses his body? If we sit in an unbalanced way, our horses have to not only compensate for their problems, but ours too which will limit how well they perform. Certainly not what we want if we are competing!

Osteopathy can be a really useful tool for riders. Not only does it help ease new injuries we pick up from when gravity gets the better of us and we find ourselves sitting on the floor and not the horse, but also it helps to identify and treat tight and weak areas of muscles that create underlying strain patterns that become our "habitual" patterns.

To ride well requires balance, coordination and muscular control of our bodies. Riders often have problems with the gluteal and hamstring muscles, and poor back strength. To balance itself, the body creates tension in the quadriceps at the front of the thigh, which directly pull the pelvis forward, tipping the rider forward in the saddle and hollowing the lower back.

The rider's posture can also be influenced by the saddle, leaving them having to fight to keep their posture aligned. Back pain and riders sitting heavily to one side have to be the most common complaints I hear, often coupled with riders saying one stirrup feels longer than the other despite them both being even. As we sit in an asymmetric pattern, we compress the flocking of the saddle slightly more to one side, which influences how we position our body. This can be likened to always sitting on one side of a sofa, eventually the springs will alter, and the sofa will "give" slightly. We fight not only against our own body's asymmetries, but the saddle too, to create a vicious circle which goes around and around until both the flocking of the saddle and our bodies asymmetries are addressed to break the cycle.

Sadly, the common belief that simply doing core exercises to correct the issue won't work to make everything better. Just like our horse's athletic training, our own training should include strengthening weaker areas and stretching tight ones. Combined with osteopathic treatment to help keep pain and asymmetries at bay, your osteopath can create a rehabilitation program to help you work on yourself, including a good stretching regime to do on a regular basis.

Something simple like treatment can and will make a massive difference to you and your horse together, keeping you balanced and supple and able to maintain a correct posture with ease on your horse. This hopefully means unplanned dismounts are few and far between! In the unfortunate event of an unplanned dismount, and you're sure you've not broken anything, the use of an ice pack or heat pack can work wonders, and gentle stretching can make a big difference... 

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