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Here's what a mechanical horse rider physiotherapy session can do for you and your riding!

One of my first clients in her initial mechanical horse rider physiotherapy session was pleasantly surprised how much more she got out of the hour than she thought she would. Having treated her and her horse for a few years I was excited to get her on the stimulator and focus on her posture and movement without having to worry about her horse!

We were able to video her movement from the side and behind with stirrups then without stirrups and reins! During the mini test at the start with stirrups we could see her weight was to the left - can see the saddle sensors on the left hand of the photo show the graph line left of centre. The forward and back weight of saddle (bottom of screen) showed a good weight balance with a little blip in left canter.

Mechanical horse rider physiotherapy analysis session at the start, with stirrps
Riding assessment at the start- with stirrups.

We then repeated the test without stirrups and reins to see if there was any change... there was! The movement without stirrups was much more to the left and weight was shifted backwards

Mechanical horse rider physiotherapy assessment- without stirrups
Riding assessment at the start- without stirrups or reins

These data screens are really useful but that doesn't tell us what is the causing the shift to the left. Now having treated this patient before I had my suspicions however it was the videos I took during the test which gave us some answers as to why what was happening was happening. Here are some of the videos with and without stirrups from the start (check out the videos later to see the improvements!)

In the walk the first thing i noticed between the two was how holding the reins affected her upper body position (tipping forward) and lower leg position given the stirrups weren't that short when her foot was not in it. The lower leg on the left video has more knee and hip flexion (bend) and even with weight on the ball of her foot her heel was not lowered down.

In the trot I think her hips on the right look much more open and leg looks longer - because of this and not having reins to hold onto her posture looks a bit better- but given this position is more unstable she was gripping a little through thigh causing a bit of a bounce in the saddle.

From behind we can see the answer to the left centre of gravity shift we saw in the test data (and why its worse without stirrups given the movement looks more obvious as the rider has less stability without stirrups).

With a history of pretty significant fractures/injuries these asymmetries are not unusual or unexpected. But they do explain why she has been struggling with a right leg which shortens and grips when riding and finds one rein harder than the other. Other things to notice were left hand being further forward than the right and right elbow coming out to the side slightly.

And only with the real time data were we able to see how right leg was switching on even just when sitting and talking in a walk! Hard to see in this video but the sensors R1 R2 R3 are the different position sensors on the right side of the horse and if you look at those in the video you can see the green light coming on for R1 (at a walk) and also the green squiggly line on the graph for R1 but not for R2 and R3- telling us that right leg is on and is forward (aiming for R2 for leg aid position with R1/R3 used for transitions and dressage moves). Without these side sensors it would be really hard to see this subtle leg aid and makes it much easier for the rider to look at the screen and consciously make an effort to change with real time changes on the screen- brilliant feedback for learning!

We did some manual therapy and exercises off the horse and it was then time to get back onto the horse to practice the correct position now her body was free to move in to the 'right' position. This involved standing up in stirrups and shifting more weight onto right side then sitting back in the saddle. From here stretching up through the right side to prevent that collapsing down and get the right obliques and gluts working, followed by the rib cage needing to slide over to the left. This then corrected her position for a visual perspective and also from the sensor data. We then practiced maintaining this position and alternating left and right leg aids- making sure in the correct position and not using right side of body to put right leg on. This was hard work for the rider! But gradually got it.

Rider physiotherapy correction mechanical horse
Step 1- Get more weight through right seat bone

Rider physiotherapy correction mechanical horse
Step 2 - open up the right side of body

Rider physiotherapy correction mechanical horse
Step 3- slide rib cage over to the left

Rider physiotherapy correction mechanical horse
Step 4 - maintain this new position

We then practiced at a stand still maintaining this position and putting alternate legs on (needing hands on feedback from therapist for positioning and correct movement) followed by at a walk allowing hips to move with the horse.

Here are some of before and after videos the session with and without stirrups at a walk and trot. Can see the difference much more with no stirrups/reins compared to with them but given that's what we worked on in the session that's ok. Plan for next session is to maintain position with reins initially, continue to practice leg aids in correct manner. It is not a fast process changing these ingrained habits, will take time off the horse with exercises and time on the horse thinking about body awareness.

And lastly here are the before and after data sheets from the tests we did at the start (computer controlled so reproduces the same movements each test)

Rider physio assessment mechanical horse
Before and after session- without stirrups and reins. Look at that left- right difference! Now the graph lines are over the centre line as it should be

Rider physio assessment mechanical horse
Before and after with stirrups- can see that picking up the reins here shifted weight forward more than without reins so next thing to work. But again much better left to right positioning with the graph over the centre line as it should be

The rider had a riding lesson on her horse the next day and was able to feel when she was slipping back into bad habits and start to try and change them. Awareness of what you are doing wrong is the first step for me - if you aren't aware of what you are doing then you wont be able to change it. It's why in a lesson your instructor will be able to correct your riding and you will notice a difference but be unable to recreate the same changes on your own.

You've got to learn to understand your body- what it wants to do and what you want it to do!

Hopefully this gives a small insight into a rider physiotherapy session on the mechanical horse- but each session is so individual to the person so you're assessment may not look anything like this one! This is the level of detail we will go into in your riding position with a full assessment on the ground too.

If you would like to book in for an initial assessment its £125 for the hour and you get sent all photos and videos (like above) within 24 hours. Please contact Jen 07967 025775 or . For more information on rider physiotherapy and mechanical horse sessions click here

For more videos of the mechanical horse sessions please follow and like us on social media


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