As riders, we are always looking to improve our technique and performance in the saddle. However, it is all too easy to develop bad postural habits which affect our position in the saddle. The Society of Master Saddlers has carried out research to establish if physiotherapy can positively affect rider asymmetry and balance in the saddle.
A number of semi professional riders were assessed by BEF World Class Physio Andy Thomas for any imbalances and weaknesses in their posture, especially in the pelvic area.
Each rider then sat on a Pliance seat mat on a saddle which was placed on a static wooden horse. Pressure readings were taken and biomechanical data was taken at four main areas; the head, shoulders, knees and toes.
Russell Guire of Centaur Biomechanics explained that it is common to see riders who are crooked, riding over to one side or gripping up with their knee more on one side than the other. These small misalignments can have a significant effect on how your horse moves and can cause him to become crooked too.
Half of the riders were then selected randomly and given simple exercises to do by Andy to help correct their imbalances. Following this the Pliance and biomechanics data were taken again to see if this had made any difference.
Those riders who received exercises from Andy significantly improved their postural stability by reducing sideways movement. The control group, who did not do any exercises, did not improve their stability measure.
At all four points of the biomechanics testing it was noted that those who had taken part in the exercises were sitting up straighter in the saddle.
The Pliance testing correlated with this in terms of improvement measured in pressure. However, if a rider was sitting more to the right, the pressure mat recorded a larger contact area on the right but higher pressure on the left. This would imply that the rider is ‘hanging on’ with their left side.
The riders who exercised were significantly more symmetrical showing pressure readings that were much more even on both sides when tested again.
Tips for Perfect Posture
Improving core strength allows other muscles to work more efficiently, reduces fatigue, helps prevent injury and improves technique.
Improving your overall fitness and suppleness is very important; it is not all about strength.
A strong pelvis helps riders to absorb the forces of their horse’s movement without losing control of their arms and legs.
Try some hip and knee exercises with resistance bands to help strengthen the legs and pelvic area.
Upper body exercises such as ‘upper body’ press ups can help stretch and strengthen the lower back and core muscles.
Exercising two to three times a week can help significantly improve your posture in the saddle and hopefully help improve your riding too.
Most importantly you need to make sure you are exercising correctly and not encouraging a bad posture. If in doubt make an appointment with a physiotherapist for a personalised exercise programme.
For more information on research carried out by the Society of Master Saddlers visit www.mastersaddlers.co.uk