In the final piece of this series, we’ll connect all the dots and provide examples of exercises that can easily be done to help improve your performance and efficiency in the saddle as well as fix bad habits in your riding.
Without fail, during each lesson I took with my last horse, our horrid left drift became a point of conversation. It wasn’t that we weren’t working on our straightness, but despite our best efforts it was nearly impossible to go more than one lesson without it showing up at least once.
When I was a teenager, I was diagnosed with scoliosis, my spine clearly and severely curving to the left. Coupled with a general ambivalence about posture in those teen years, this diagnosis would render me in a state of omnipresent pain for most of my adult life.
Yet, not once did I draw a line connecting the dots that were my curved spine and my horse’s left drift. It took getting into a consistent physio program to correct my own body imbalances for me to understand exactly how much my balance was affecting that of my horse.
The relation that our bodies have to our horses cannot and should not be underestimated – but as riders, we’re often very guilty of prioritizing our horses’ comfort and wellness over that of our own. In doing this however, we’re holding back our progression as athletes – and sacrificing a lot of physical health to boot.
In the preceding parts of this series, I pulled in my physiotherapist, Britta Pedersen of The Performance Refinery in San Diego, California, for her expertise on spotting imbalances both in and out of the saddle. In part one, we discussed how to spot asymmetry out of the saddle. What habits do we all have that are transferring to the saddle? In part two, we went into more detail about asymmetry in the saddle. Now, let’s pull these concepts together with some notes on fixing these issues.
“Balance is the ability to control your body’s position,” Britta explains. “In order to improve our body’s position in the saddle, we must first have four areas, which are strengthened through balance training, dialed in.”
First up: Awareness. “Body Awareness is the sense of how your limbs are oriented in space, also known as proprioception,” Britta says. “Balance training will help to improve your body awareness, which improves our position in the saddle and helps to decrease the likelihood of injury.”
Next: Coordination. “Balance training requires your entire body to work together.”
Third: Joint Stability. “Balance training promotes working knee, ankle, hip and shoulders stabilizers. This can help to prevent a large array of injuries!”
And finally: Reaction Time. “Balance training can help to improve your reaction time, which is fundamental to all equestrian disciplines.”
The following are three exercises you can work into your exercise routine (or use to create a new routine), as demonstrated by Britta. You can also find many more examples on The Performance Refinery’s YouTube channel here.
Note: You may need a basic resistance band and/or exercise ball for some of these exercises.
All photos courtesy of Sally Spickard.