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Riders are athletes too!!! Strength and conditioning in your rider physiotherapy session

I spent a brilliant day yesterday with the former strength and conditioning coach for Team GB riders who agreed with what I have been telling many of my clients....riders are athletes too! In her mind riders need the strength and stamina of a hockey player, need to have the skill and ability to judge distance like a golfer and have the balance and fluidity of a ballerina.

Why is strength and conditioning so important for riders? The exact same reason as its important for other athletes...

1. Improving performance.

2. Injury prevention.

So how specifically does it help with improving performance for riders, well here are just some examples:

Correcting asymmetry (are you told you are crooked? dropping one hip or shoulder etc)

Improving the effectiveness of aids (who doesn't want this?!)

Increasing flexibility (heels down, shoulders back anyone?!)

Improving breathing (did you know that during the cross country phase the increase in your heart rate from adrenaline has a similar effect on the horse which is not because of the cardiovascular demands)

Improving cardiovascular fitness (tiring towards end of riding doesnt do you or your horse any justice!)

Reducing the time to recover

Rider physiotherapy exercise in rehabilitation
An example of an off the horse exercise to help with polo swing

The next question you may ask is can an exercise program really help with preventing injuries? Neck, shoulder, upper back and lower back pain are very common in riders and we know that addressing postural aysymmetries, identifying weakness in scapula, core stability and gluteal muscles followed by a specific exercise plan can help with pain when riding. Most riders also normally have previous injuries from falls etc which have never fully been addressed and can lead to reinjury and/or compensatory pain.

For more information on overuse injuries in riders

I still might not have convinced you, you may feel that you don't have the time or money to see someone or do a program....but what if I told you that you may be hindering your horse. Research in 2004 found "As the horse and rider function as a unit, overuse injuries to the rider can affect the horse' training and responsiveness".

Now I have your attention! I'm sure most horse owners have a farrier, dentist, saddler, physio/chiro/oetso in addition to trainers/coache/instructors and spend £s on their horses welfare and try to improve performance. But you, as a rider, play just as much a part in the horse and rider partnership as your horse does. You make sure your horse is trained properly but often neglect yourself. Its why I offer joint horse and rider physiotherapy as so often the areas that need treating on the horse are from rider imbalances.

Exercising doesn't mean spending hours sweating in a gym (unless you want it to!),

Improving posture for riding with physiotherapy and rehabilitation
Importance of head on neck posture

it means having a few exercises to do which target your weaknesses in addition to changing postural habits. Read my previous post about why squats as an example are so important

Pegasus provides individual and group rider assessments and programs in Cheshire, Wirral, Liverpool, Manchester and North Wales, inc Anglesey.(

For online training resources check out:

Thanks for reading! Don't forget to like Pegasus Physiotherapy on Twitter and Facebook.

Jennifer Taylor

Chartered Physiotherapist and Veterinary Physiotherapist

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