When you think of injuries associated with horse riding most people think of traumatic incidents such as fractures resulting from a fall, indeed studies of common riding injuries have shown that the areas of the body most commonly injured are the upper extremities head and neck, with fractures, sprains, whiplash and head injuries being the most common types of injuries. These types of injuries are widely accepted in the equine world as just part of the sport and indeed if your beloved nag has decided today is the day to send you on a flying lesson then there is little you can do except brace yourself, prepare for landing and hope nothing hurts too much once you’ve bit the dust!
What people don’t think of is the stress and strain they put their bodies through doing all the daily tasks involved in caring for their horse. The buckets of water you dragged across the yard, the wheelbarrow which felt like half a tonne, all that lifting and carrying of shavings bales/hay bales/feed bags – ever considered what that might be doing to your body and the way you ride?
So much of what we do with horses is very one sided, mucking out, sweeping the yard, carrying buckets, next time you are doing those daily chores have a think about which side you do everything on – bet you it’s all one sided and probably on your right. This will lead to greater muscle development in some areas of the body more than others, that coupled with old injuries that most riders carry will lead to crookedness in your posture. You may already be aware of this, perhaps something your instructor has mentioned, maybe you can never get your stirrups level. Having a crooked posture whilst riding is not something that it is purely aesthetically displeasing it will also affect the way your horse reacts to your aids
If you think of a seesaw, in order for that to sit level the weight has to be equal at both ends, this is the equivalent of a rider sat with a straight spine and an even weight distribution being transmitted down the seat bones, through the saddle to the horses back. Now if we add weight to one side of the seesaw it will tip to the heavier side, this is the same as when a rider sitting straight in the saddle wants to turn, they will look and turn their body towards the direction of travel thus putting more weight through the seat bone on the side of the direction of turn, giving an aid for the turn. In the rider that sits with a crooked spine the weight distribution is already unevenly distributed effectively meaning they are constantly giving an aid to turn. Let’s consider that a rider sits in a crooked position where more weight is transmitted through their left, in order for this rider to ride a left hand circle it should be relatively easy as their weight is already predominately on the left, however when it comes to riding a right turn the rider will find it much harder.
So if your horse has always been stiffer to work on one rein despite having had his back, teeth, tack, feet and everything else you can think of checked, maybe, it’s time to get yourself checked out too?!