Your body – how to make the most of your natural body shape when horse riding

Your body – how to make the most of your natural body shape when horse riding

Hello, hi Julie thanks for organizing
the presentation and hello everybody
else who’s with us this morning or this
evening depending on which country
you’re in and we’ll get started, okay and
so a little bit about myself first if
you haven’t met me before, I have a
master’s degree in equine science and
apart from the other things that Stuart
and I do one of the things I specialise
in is horse rider biomechanics so I’ve written a couple of
books on the subject and I taught riding
for over 35 years I’ve been a board
member of Horse Safety Australia which
is a not-for-profit profit organization
in Australia great group and I’ve been a
member of the International Society
Equitation Science since it started and
one of the reasons I’m over here in the
UK now is I attended the international seminar for that a few
weeks ago in France and the author of a
few books one of them called horse safe
and the others as I said is the
rider biomechanic books Okay, so rider biomechanics – initially it
looks at the rider in detail rather than the horse rider combination so it’s all
about looking at you as a rider and what you can do to make yourself ride better
because unless you get yourself working as well as possible then it’s almost impossible for your horse to go as well as possible, so it’s
all about getting yourself working as well as possible first of all, and so but
we must keep in mind that no one is perfect and you have to work with what
you have. You can’t well, moving on from that point a
little bit, a lot of books about riding assume that everybody is built the same
way and that’s what I’m actually going to be talking about in this talk today is how we’re not built the same way at all and and so we have to work with what we have but understanding your own body will
help you to ride better so it’s about understanding what you have and what you
have to work with and how you can optimize what you have, so first of all
some of the main differences, straight up, there are quite large differences between the male and female body shapes so for instance men
tend to be longer in the torso than women and this actually means that
women have an advantage to some extent because this means that their center of
gravity is lower down when they’re riding a horse so straight away women
actually have a small advantage in that area in that their centre of gravity is
lower and because men tend to have that longer torso, so that means that more of
them is above the horse and less of them proportionately is below the waistline, whereas women are to some extent the other way around so that’s one good
thing that works in favour of women and and then just moving on to and if if we
were actually built for riding which obviously were not, we haven’t evolved to
be riders, we’ve evolved to be just humans and riding is just a by the way, but
if we had evolved to be just a rider then this is sort of what we would look
like, we’d look pretty strange really, we’d actually have a very small head
because the more weight that is higher up the harder it is to carry, the harder it is to balance so our head would be relatively very small we’d have
reasonably narrow shoulders in relation to our hips, we’d be flat chested because the chest just as far as a rider is concerned
doesn’t have much use it’s just top-heavy weight that we don’t need, we’d
have relatively short arms, we’d have wide hips for sitting across a horse and
we’d have very long legs so that we could with those legs we could keep our weight down either side of the horse, so basically what’s above
the waist would be very small and what’s below the waist would be would be more
stretched out so as said a bit of a silly picture there
but it just shows how, what we would actually look like if we were built
for riding, so we compare that to the more common body shape for a female we can see that and she has a relatively larger head relatively wider shoulders, longer
arms obviously she has breasts, medium to wide hips which is good because that
helps her to sit across a horse and relatively shorter legs so that’s that
the common sort of female body shape. Compare that to the common body shape
for a male, he’s again got the relatively larger head, medium to wide shoulders so he tends to be wider in the shoulders which is not necessarily a good thing, longer
arms, narrower hips, which again is not ideal because it makes it a little bit
harder to balance on a horse and relatively shorter legs.
Another common body shape for a female is where she’s carrying a little bit
more weight, so she has a little bit more weight up top if she has larger breasts
but she also has more weight on the hips and thighs, now this is actually an
advantage for a woman, if you if you’re going to have weight anywhere then you
need it to be lower down, and luckily for women, females, that’s where
that weight usually is and if she’s carrying a little bit more weight,
whereas if we look at another common body shape for a male which is very
muscular, it is actually, this is not actually a good build for a rider at all
so he’s got, it’s very top-heavy due to the muscles weighing a lot and also
being at the top of his body and he also has those
narrow hips and any muscling on the legs, and as you can see in that picture it
make these hips look a little bit wider but it’s actually just muscling, but most
of the muscle is up in the upper half of the body so that makes him quite
top-heavy, again comparing it to another body shape for women where she’s heavier
still, obviously not ideal but still it means that that weight, even if she’s heavy on the top half is counterbalanced by the weight below. So you know it’s still a better
body shape if you like than this next picture which is of a man who is
carrying more weight, a male who’s carrying more weight, which he will tend
to have a lot of weight up top from his hips upwards and not
necessarily hardly any weight lower down so this is actually the most
difficult position for balancing on a horse, basically it’s like a ball sat on
top of a horse, so it’s very difficult to balance in that position, so that body
shape would be the hardest in terms of balance, and so yes, that’s just to give you an idea of different body shapes and how they affect the
rider. Other differences is that people, that humans have, which are again not
really taken into consideration in books about riding and how you should
sit, are how the back shape is completely different shapes from person
to person, so in this picture here you’ve got relatively normal on the left, then
you’ve got the rounded upper back, and you’ve got a very straight back, you’ve
got lordosis, which is a very pronounced curve to the lower back, and
then you’ve got a combination of those back shapes together, and then also added
to that some people have a certain amount of side curvature as well as
those other back shapes obviously, so that makes it a little bit more
complicated as well but incredibly people still manage to ride well even
though they have a variety, you know, have sometimes one or more of these so-called disorders, now I say disorders they are so common that the
norm is you know not really any more normal than any of the other shapes so
don’t think that you’re abnormal just because you have one of these back
shapes, again it’s just about learning to manage what you have. Everybody as
well also has very different amounts of flexibility naturally, and the way that
it is a good way to think about how flexible you are naturally by thinking
back to when you were very young when you were say four or five or six years
old, whether you had a lot of flexibility or
not because as people age they lose flexibility anyway, generally speaking,
not always but they tend to lose some flexibility and it all depends on what they do throughout their life, but if you think back to when you
were very young it gives you a good indication of how you started out and so
for instance if you could easily do back flips and the crab and the splits and
that kind of thing then you were very flexible ranging due to people who even a young age could not do those movements so what I talk about in my riding workshops are you need to think about are you are
floppy a flippy or a stiffy and so basically a floppy is suddenly who is
naturally very flexible, a flippy, oh I’ll go to the other end of the scale, a
stiffy, obviously something who has very stiff joints, a flippy is somebody who is
somewhere in the middle, now in terms of riding, flippy is actually in the best
position, so when somebody is very loose in the joints, if you speak to anybody
who is like that, who has very, very loose joints, yes they might be able to go to
yoga and put the leg behind their head or whatever, in terms of riding it’s
actually quite difficult if you’re very very floppy, because what that means is
that your muscles have to work much harder to keep the body in alignment and
still and also to give it the right amount of movement, your muscles have to work harder, if you’re at the other end of the scale, a stiffy,
then that stiffness will make you much more likely to bounce out of the saddle
because think about how with the horse all this movement is happening
underneath you, that’s the horse, the horse is creating all this movement,
that’s quite natural obviously and some horses have a lot more of this upward
movement than others and then with some horses it’s very soft movement in others
it’s very harsh movement, but either way it’s still movement, now your body being
a good rider is all about learning how to absorb and use that movement, so if
your floppy it is easier to absorb that movement but you have to be careful that
that movement doesn’t make you wobble even more, but if you’re a stiffy then
that movement will tend to ping you upwards out of the saddle at every
stride, so and being flippy, that’s somewhere in the middle, is best of all
because then you have the best of both worlds, and so yes if you’re a flippy
then you’re lucky in that respect because it will make it easier
to ride. The other differences that the human body has our differences caused by
previous injuries, so think about what’s happened to your body in the past so, it’s very common in humans for them for example to have one ankle that’s been
injured, sometimes both ankles have been injured, but more common is for one ankle
to have been injured, and what that means is that when you’re riding you will have
one ankle this that’s relatively stiffer and one ankle that’s relatively looser,
now it doesn’t necessarily mean that the injured ankle is the stiffest ankle sometimes it can be the other way around, it all depends on how you started it out and so on, but what is most important is just that you identify
that you actually have, that your ankles actually behave differently to each
other, because what will happen in that case is that the looser, your
bodyweight will always tend to fall towards the looser ankle, and will be
being pushed upwards and away from this stiffer ankle, so in that case there are certain things you can do to help even up your ankles so and where I again, at my
workshops I look in detail at the ankles because they are so important to
riding well and what I actually often do is if a rider has one ankle it’s looser
than the other then I strap that ankle so that it starts to behave more
like the stiffer ankle, it’s actually relatively easier to firm up a loose
joint than to loosen a stiff joint, sometimes a stiff joint, especially if
the rider has already been through physiotherapy and all sorts of things, and/or is also naturally stiff in the joints anyway, that joint is not
necessarily ever going to loosen up much, but by having its counter joint, by
it being too loose, then their weight will always be being thrown towards that
looser aside so sometimes you actually have to firm up that looser joint so
it starts to behave more like the stiffer joint, every rider is an
individual, it’s all about looking at what suits that particular rider the
best. Yes there’s just a couple of pictures there showing how
sometimes just starting off with a bandage on the outside of the looser
joint on the outside of the boot gives you a feeling whether it’s going to work
or not and then if it does work well then that particular rider may be as
well riding from that point on with an ankle support for instance because that
might be what they need to keep them balanced. So when we’re looking at
torso problems, about straightness in riders from front and back, when you look
at these two pictures here, and the rider doesn’t look too bad until you put the
cross on the back of the rider and then you can see a huge difference in
that rider, so what sort of things can we do to straighten that out, as I said some
people are you know naturally straighter than others so there’s always a limit to
how much straightness you can achieve but we should be trying to achieve as
much straightness as possible without making out putting ourselves in pain or
whatever, so this is what we should be aiming for obviously is to have equal
weight on either side of the horse, first of all if you think you’ve been riding
crooked or if somebody actually you know points out that you’ve been riding with
more weight on one side of the horse than the other the very first thing you should always do is have your saddle checked because if you’ve been riding un
straight for quite a while then the chances are are that your saddle may be
more compacted on one side than the other, or it might even be if you’ve
got a secondhand saddle, the saddle might have started out un level so therefore it’s almost impossible for you to ride straight because the saddle is not straight in the first place so that’s
one thing to have a look, at then there’s various little things you can do to help
yourself to ride a bit straighter, so for instance there’s some exercises you can
do, such as straightening up the side that tends to collapse or putting
your arm in your lower back on the side that tends to collapse, but again do
everything on both sides and learn how to feel what feels right and what feels
wrong and so on or what feels harder or what feels easier, and in the picture in
the middle there, there’s a picture showing a rider riding with one of those
back supports but with the firm bit on the side again that can help a rider
who tends to collapse on one side to notice when they’re doing that and to
straighten themselves up so there’s all sorts of little tricks and things that you
can do to help yourself to straighten. One of my favourites is this exercise where a rider rides with a whip under their thumbs or a piece of dowel,
it doesn’t matter what it is, it just needs to be something you can throw
away easily, if you need to do, and to ride around with something under the
thumbs, now initially, many years ago I used to use this exercise just to teach
riders how to keep the hands still, but since then I’ve come to learn that
the hands are actually the last things to improve on a rider with straightness
issues, everything else has to be sorted out first before a rider actually has a
chance of keeping their hands still, but by using this exercise and listening to
the feedback from riders as they were doing it I’ve actually learned how
valuable this can be in teaching the rider about what is actually going on in the middle of their body in the core of their body, because if you ride
with your thumbs on a stick like this and then rise to the trot for instance
you will immediately feel if one side of your body is working much harder than
the other because what happens is this exercise stops you from being able, well you notice if your hands are twisting as they’re coming up out of the saddle for
instance, straight away as you rise to the trot if you don’t if you have
this, sorry do have this stick under your thumbs you
will notice that as you rise your hands will twist and you will feel it and
see at the same time it’s much, much more apparent than if you don’t have
something under your thumbs, so if you actually start trying to ride keeping
the stick as still as possible then you will notice how if you have straightness
issues you will straightaway notice that muscles on one side of the body or on
one diagonal are having to work much harder than the other way so it’s a really good
exercise to play around with but also be very careful, only build it up very
slowly because it’s actually such a powerful exercise that you can actually
strain yourself quite quickly so it’s good for telling you whether you’re
straight or not but it’s also good for sorting out straightness issues but as I
said be very careful because it can actually be you know you can overdo it
if you’re not careful. But remember whatever shape you are, whatever your
body shape is, it’s all about keeping your center of gravity as low as
possible, so as as I’ve already pointed out some body shapes make it easier to
keep the center of gravity low than others so if you are top-heavy you will
you will always find it harder to balance than somebody who is bottom
heavy and so you need to make sure for instance but if you are top-heavy that it
is even more important that your stirrups are exactly the right length, it
might even be that if you’re top-heavy then, and that your center gravity is
very high, it might be that there are certain horses that you find extremely difficult
to ride, that would be horses with certain kinds of movement, a lot of
upward thrust for instance and that those kind of horses for you, would be
quite difficult to ride, because any little amount of unbalance and you’re
going to lose your balance, a lot easier than somebody who has that, who has
a lower center of gravity, so again don’t beat yourself up if you find certain
horses hard to ride because it might be down to your body shape. So until a rider
sorts out any position and balance problems they cannot ride to the best
of their ability so it’s all about getting your position and balance as good as they possibly can be within the limitations of your own body shape and as I said also for flexibility issues
and past injury issues as well, you’ve got all those sorts of things to take
into to consideration as well but I must keep saying remember no one is perfect
and you have to work with what you have and riders do incredible things with
a body that’s not perfect so it’s actually even more important
than your body shape is your drive to ride well or whatever because it’s
incredible what you can do and even with a severe disability so it’s not all
about having a perfect body shape it’s about learning how to do the best with
what you have and you can read the first chapter of The Horse Riders Mechanic
Workbook and the first two chapters of Workbook 2 – for free on the website so
have a look at that if you haven’t seen them already, there’s lots of
free information on there, there’s also lots of articles on the
website so make sure you have a look at those and we also have a Facebook page and group so make sure you have a look at that as well. Links below… anybody’s got any couple of questions
and I’ve been happy to answer those now

3 thoughts on “Your body – how to make the most of your natural body shape when horse riding

  1. Really enjoyed your video of your webinar…… It complements your book perfectly which I have just purchased and am currently studding…… Your books and now your videos of reinforced understanding are improving my understanding of my riding ability which I have only achieved through natural ability, which have created both good and bad habits…….. Thank you so much for sharing…….. 🙂 ……….I am really looking forward to work book 3…..

  2. Thank you for watching my video, please let me know what you think in the comments below and don't forget to subscribe to my channel so that you do not miss the next one!😀

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