Is your horse too exhausted to complete a cross country course? Do you struggle to mount from the ground? Is your horse’s inability to relax throwing off your round in the hunter ring? With this summer’s show season cancelled almost entirely across the board, equestrians everywhere are turning their focus to schooling instead of competing. It’s important to use this time wisely to analyze last season’s events and see where you can improve.
Sports physical therapy can not only help you identify the root of your problem but can also provide the solution as well.
With this summer’s show season cancelled almost entirely across the board, equestrians everywhere find themselves frustrated. As riders turn their focus to schooling instead of competing, it’s important to use this time wisely to analyze last season’s events and see where you can improve.
As a Doctor of Physical Therapy, I work closely with equestrians to identify where rider and equine performance commonly break down. Sports physical therapy can not only help you identify the root of your problem but can also provide the solution as well.
Lack of Fitness
Does your horse tire out by the end of your cross country round? Do you leave the dressage ring lathered in sweat? Do you feel that your horse is “lazy” and unable to power forward from the hind end? Alternatively, are you struggling to hold a proper half point by the end of your equitation round? Do you feel that you lack the strength to truly hold that frame?
All of these issues could be due to a lack of fitness. If you’ve done any research into building equine performance strength, you’ll find that one common theme is hill work and trail riding for the horses and lots of cardio for the humans. Unfortunately not all equestrians have access to hills and lots of room to ride. Besides, cardio and hill work may not be the right approach to build fitness in every horse or human.
Core stability fitness is crucial to optimize strength throughout the rest of the body. For example, when holding a two-point, you noticeably feel the burn in your thighs. However, if your core is weak, you’re unable to use the muscles in your legs efficiently. The same goes for your horse. They may be unable to efficiently power forward from the hind end, but the true root of the problem is a lack of thoracic sling strength and fitness.
A sport physical therapist can help you and your horse to build fitness with a program of prescribed exercise, even if you don’t have access to hills or acres of trails.
Tension in Horse and Rider
Nothing is worse than struggling with tension in your ride. Your free walk may feel short and choppy instead of long and fluid. The rider may not be able to easily follow the rhythm of the horse and relaxation feels impossible to obtain. You and your horse suffer when your hips are not flexible enough to drape over the saddle with the relaxed feel required for shock absorption. All of this tension can significantly impact the quality of your ride and the enjoyment of your horse. No one likes to ride around tense and anxious!
Not only is a tense ride stressful, but tension can lead to poor posture and improper movement patterns in both horse and rider. There are several biomechanical reasons for tension. For example, it could be difficult for you and your horse to relax due to pain, a lack of flexibility, or functional imbalances. You or your horse could also be compensating for an old injury, leading to added tightness in other areas of the body.
Physical therapy can build appropriate movement patterns and relieve injury-related pain, leading to a more relaxed horse. For example, an imbalanced rider can make the horse compensate in their movement, causing even more tension in the rider until you and your partner are stuck in a feedback loop of increasing anxiety and poor equine performance. Sports physical therapy can help you build the strength and balance to move with your horse, thereby relieving tension in your ride.
Does your horse struggle to bend? Are turns on the haunches or forehand tough to accomplish? Does your horse travel crookedly, even on a straight line? On the other hand, are you unable to mount from the ground? Do you have a hard time moving fluidly with your horse?
If any of these questions sound like a struggle you’re familiar with, you and your equine partner could be dealing with a lack of flexibility or balanced strength. As with all things related to a living creature, there are many causes for a lack of flexibility. Some examples include pain, poor training, improper movement patterns, or even simple genetics.
With the help of sports physical therapy, consistency, and persistence, you and your horse can increase your flexibility over time. Guided stretching exercises completed with the help of a physical therapist develops correct muscle memory without risk of injury.
Sports Physical Therapy
for You and Your Equine Partner
Once you pinpoint where your performance is breaking down both in and out of the show ring, you can work on isolating and solving the problem. A physical therapist is crucial throughout the process, to help you rebalance and evaluate any biomechanical issues.
At Physio Equine Solutions, I apply extensive knowledge and experience with both equine and equestrian physical therapy to optimize your performance and help you reach your goals. If you’re ready to take your ride to the next level, contact Physio Equine Solutions today.