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What came first? The chicken? Or the egg?

Ahhh, it’s that often-debated conversation that always divides the country. Did the chicken first lay the egg? Or did the egg arrive first to produce the chicken that then produced an egg…

What has this got to do with physiotherapy, horse riders or horses we hear you ask? Well, nothing other than it’s a pretty good representation of asymmetry in the rider or horse or both! Was it the horse that caused the rider to compensate and ride unevenly or was it the movement dysfunction in the horse that caused an unevenness in the rider? It’s one of life’s little mysteries. But unlike mysteries, we can solve this one. Sort of. We can’t tell you what came first, but we can help you fix it.

In 2020 (when the rest of the world stood still) A study called “The Effect That Induced Rider Asymmetry Has on Equine Locomotion and the Range of Motion of the Thoracolumbar Spine When Ridden in Rising Trot” (1) was undertaken to decipher whether rider asymmetry had an effect on the way that a horse moved. In a nutshell, it is speculated that yes it can. As a rough overview of this small study, a small sample of 10 horses and 10 experienced riders were asked to participate in the study. A stirrup was shortened by 5cm to induce an asymmetric riding position and the relevant measurements from sensors on the horses’ bodies were taken. The conclusion of the study was that an increase in the fetlock extension on the contralateral side where the stirrup had been shortened and that there were changes to the thoracolumbar kinetics (movement of the thoracic and lumbar regions of the spine) You can view the full study here.

In layman’s terms, this means that when we’re riding ‘wonky’ the horse compensates in other areas of its body in an attempt to keep an equilibrium balance. While the study fully acknowledges that this is only a small sample size and while the changes shown were only of a small difference, over time, these repetitions may potentially change the kinetics of the equine athlete.

So, armed with this knowledge, what can we do about it? The answer isn’t easy but it is possible. We just have to find out where the rider is weaker and come up with a plan as to how we can improve these weaknesses to offer a more balanced rider.

Which brings us nicely back to the Chicken and the Egg scenario. By improving the rider symmetry, we may be able to improve the equine symmetry, and this is where our Rider Analysis clinics come into their own. Rider Analysis clinics are a unique way of discovering where in your body you are weaker or stronger and where body asymmetry is apparent. Our Rider Analysis Clinics are unique in that not only is Sune a Veterinary Physiotherapist, she is also a Chartered Physiotherapist and Pilates Instructor meaning that you’re getting an excellent, well-rounded viewpoint from an experienced and fully qualified practitioner.

So, what are you waiting for? For just £45.00 you can learn about the effects that your body is having upon your horse, understand the basic gait analysis of your horse and view the videos, so you can see for yourself where any weaknesses lay.

1. MacKechnie-Guire R, MacKechnie-Guire E, Fairfax V, Fisher M, Hargreaves S, Pfau T. The Effect That Induced Rider Asymmetry Has on Equine Locomotion and the Range of Motion of the Thoracolumbar Spine When Ridden in Rising Trot. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science. 2020;88:102946.

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