Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘biomechanics’

The rider’s trunk and extremities interact and depend on each other. For example, hands and arms depend on shoulder position, which depends on the shoulder girdle, which depends on the position of the spinal column (in particular, the thoracic spine). All of this interconnectedness means that the common instruction heard in riding rings round the world, “Shoulders back!” is detrimental to correct and supple rider position—in fact, it leads to stiffness and tension.

“If you simply take the shoulders back without changing the position of the trunk,” explains Susanne von Dietze in her classic bestseller BALANCE IN MOVEMENT, “you exert a lot of energy and become cramped up in the process. It is a position you would not endure for long on a voluntary basis. Instead, start to straighten from the pelvis. The thorax is lifted automatically upward and forward; it is like pushing the thorax under the shoulder girdle. The building blocks of the upper body are then aligned once more and the shoulder girdle can be carried without any muscular effort.”

ComputerDamage.png

“There are a few very beneficial stretching exercise for the shoulder girdle,” von Dietze goes on. “One of the ailments of our civilized society—poor posture—especially when sitting, often causes the shoulder girdle to slide forward. In the long term this means severe tension in the area of the back of the neck, since the shoulder girdle is suspended there on the muscles of the neck instead of resting on the thorax. As a result the muscles in the front chest area shorten.”

Here is one exercise von Dietze recommends to stretch the often shortened musculature in the front of the body and open the thorax for better and more effective riding position:

OpenThorax.png

1  Stand with your back close to your horse’s side.

2  Bend your arms at the elbows and try to open them to the sides, touching your horse’s body with your lower arms.

3  Then try to stretch your arms out to full length, and if your horse allows it, lean your back gently against his side. This stretches your thoracic spine, expands your front chest muscles, and opens your thoracic cavity and breathing.

 

You can begin to understand more common riding mistakes and find ways to fix them in BALANCE IN MOVEMENT, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

Read Full Post »

Look at this image. Can you spot the differences between the horse on the left and the horse on the right?

bend

 

Which one is a horse that is bending correctly?

If you guessed the horse on the right is bending correctly, you were right!

The horse on the left shows how in an incorrectly bent horse, the vertebral column kinks to the inside in front of the horse’s shoulder. This gives the illusion of bend to the inexperienced eye.

“Never bend the neck more than you can bend the trunk of the horse,” says Dr. med. vet. Gerd Heuschmann in his book COLLECTION OR CONTORTION? “All additional important elements of bend derive from this maxim. Only a neck that ‘grows with stability out of the shoulder’ and is stabilized by the muscles in front of the shoulder can contribute its important part to the correct bend of the trunk. If a horse has an unstable, loose, ‘wobbly neck’ in front of the withers, he can’t be ridden in the proper balance, nor can he bend, straighten, or collect. Only well-developed pushing power helps the horse’s neck become stable on its axis…. To this end, it is explicitly required to regularly ride transitions from working trot to medium trot in the horse’s first year under saddle. On the other hand, suppleness of the inside trunk and the inside hind leg leads to the development of carrying power and correct bend of the neck. Said another way, the initial bending work and the required stability of the neck promote flexibility of the hindquarters. The neck must be seen as a stable component of the body that is securely attached to the horse’s trunk. Bend runs linearly and evenly through the whole trunk from the poll to the sacrum.”

COLLECTION OR CONTORTION? is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to download a free chapter.

GOODBADBEND

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

Read Full Post »

40-5-Min-Jump-Fix-300Popular clinician and biomechanics expert Wendy Murdoch has a way with words…and body parts. In 40 5-MINUTE JUMPING FIXES, the second book in her bestselling 5-Minute Fixes Series, she talks booty happiness—that is, the “Smiley Butt” vs. “Frowny Butt” phenomenon.

“There is an anatomical limit as to how much space the rider’s seat can offer to the horse’s back,” says Murdoch. “I developed the terms ‘smiley butt’ and ‘frowny butt’ to illustrate two of these positions: the former when the femurs are in a neutral position, and the latter when they are in external rotation.”

The femur (the bone of the thigh) has a wide range of movement because of the hip joint’s ball and socket design. External rotation is when the ball rotates in the socket so the legs turn outward (and internal rotation the opposite—ie, pinching with the knees), but there is only one position where the femur distributes the rider’s weight over the greatest surface area along the horse’s back and around the rib cage—and that is neutral.

“For the most width across the seat, the greater trochanters [the tops of the femurs] must be the farthest distance away from each other,” explains Murdoch. “This occurs when the thighs are neutral between internal and external rotation. The pelvis (via the hip sockets) moves around the ball without restriction. When viewed from the back, the bone shape of the greater trochanters and seat bones across the seat of a skeleton looks to me like a smile.

 

The skeleton folded into jumping position and viewed from behind. The shape of a smile is formed when the femurs are in neutral.

The skeleton folded into jumping position and viewed from behind with the femurs in neutral: “Smiley Butt.”

 

“When the femurs are externally rotated (knees out) seat width is decreased at the back, reducing the amount of space for the horse’s back underneath the rider. This position also limits the movement of the pelvis. As the greater trochanters rotate back and come closer together, the bones look like a frown on the skeleton when viewed from the back.”

 

FrownyButt

The same skeleton shown with the femurs externally rotated: “Frowny Butt.”

 

So remember the Booty Happy Test, riders. Because if your backside is smiling, you and your horse probably are, too.

 

Wendy Murdoch’s 40 5-MINUTE JUMPING FIXES is available at the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to download a free sample chapter.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of horse books and DVDs for 30 years, is a small company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

 

Read Full Post »

MusofLocFB

The major muscles of locomotion in the horse.

A basic understanding of how the horse’s muscles create movement is essential to riders and trainers as they seek answers to training issues, and it also allows them to play an active part in keeping the horse pain-free and performing well by including bodywork in their regular care regimen.

In THE DRESSAGE HORSE OPTIMIZED WITH THE MASTERSON METHOD Jim Masterson and Coralie Hughes teamed up with Grand Prix dressage rider Betsy Steiner and creator of the Anatomy in Motion VISIBLE HORSE and VISIBLE RIDER Susan Harris to provide a practical level of baseline biomechanics knowledge to support solutions to dressage training problems. Susan Harris painted the primary muscles involved in the work of the dressage horse on an equine accomplice, and hundreds of photographs capture their activity as the horse was then ridden through various movements.

“Muscles can’t push, they can only ‘pull’ (contract) or ‘not pull’ (relax),” says dressage rider and Masterson Method practitioner Coralie Hughes in the book. “Relaxation is as important as contraction—or strength—in the muscle….Tension that inhibits the muscle from being able to fully relax or contract reduces range of motion of the joint with the resultant impact on performance. Furthermore, a muscle that is tight is putting unnatural tension on its tendon, which can actually torque the skeleton. Prolonged unnatural tension can potentially cause tendon and joint damage in the feet and legs.”

For more on the specific biomechanics of the dressage horse, as well as dozens of Masterson Method techniques to relieve tension in the muscles, ease discomfort, and improve the horse’s performance overall, check out THE DRESSAGE HORSE OPTIMIZED, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION

Read Full Post »

Yes, you read that right: dynamic buttocks are the secret to moving fluidly with your horse, whatever your riding discipline. “Sitting on a horse is never rigid (static),” write sports physiologist Eckart Meyners, Head of the German Riding School Hannes Muller, and St. George magazine editor Kerstin Niemann in their book RIDER+HORSE=1. “It is always dynamic.”

You can break through the stereotypical static sitting pattern with these two exercises from RIDER+HORSE=1, intended to improve sacroiliac joint and pelvic mobility in the rider.

 

You can mobilize your pelvis by lifting and lowering your buttocks on each side of the saddle---riding is never static, it is always dynamic!

You can mobilize your pelvis by lifting and lowering your buttocks on each side of the saddle—riding is never static, it is always dynamic!

 

1  While sitting on your horse, slide one buttock down the side and out of the saddle, then gently lift and lower this side of the body 8 to 12 times. Repeat on the other side. You will feel this exercise pleasantly reorganize your entire body structure when you again sit centered in the saddle.

2  Again sitting on your horse, imagine you are sitting on the face of a clock: when you lower your pelvis to the right, you are sitting on three o’clock, and when you lower it to the left, you are sitting on nine o’clock. Lower your pelvis to three o’clock only several times, then nine o’clock only, and then combine them in one fluid motion. Vary the pace of your movements and do not strain.

 

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

You can find more exercises to improve your balance and aids, and identify and respond to the motion sequences of the horse in RIDER+HORSE=1, available from the TSB online bookstore where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of horse books and DVDs, is a small, privately owned company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

Read Full Post »

Not many of us come to riding with the anatomical understanding of a medical doctor, and so it is often our aids and position are caught somewhere between a mystery and a miracle—we’re not sure how or why they work, but we are thrilled when they do! Dr. Beth Glosten does have that knowledge of the human body and how it functions, and she found that it was integral to her progress as a rider when she came back to horses after years away to pursue her medical degree and residencies.

In Dr. Glosten’s flat-out fantastic book THE RIDING DOCTOR (available from the TSB online store CLICK HERE), she provides clear, practical explanations of the realities of the human body and how it can be trained to accommodate the shape and movement of the horse, as well as the skills necessary in all riding sports. More than 50 easy-to-do exercises help develop fitness and mechanics specific to riding. It has been described as “a more technical, practical Centered Riding…sort of Centered Riding for the rest of us” and “a wonderful resource.”

We recently caught up with Dr. Glosten before her busy season of teaching and clinics begins, and asked her a little about her path from “Doctor Doctor” to “Riding Doctor,” as well as how she hopes her book will help other riders in their own journeys.

 

TSB author Dr. Beth Glosten and her horse Bluette.

TSB author Dr. Beth Glosten and her horse Bluette.

 

TSB: You grew up riding; then there were a number of years while you were in medical school when horses couldn’t be part of your life. When you came back to horses you were in your thirties, and found riding wasn’t as easy as it used to be! What discoveries did you make about yourself, your horses, and riding at this time?

BG: I was reminded how learning a sport comes relatively easily when we are young. When I came back to riding in my 30s, I was uncoordinated, out of shape, and all “in my head.” I had been in school for so long, everything I did revolved around thinking, not moving! As you might imagine, this approach doesn’t work very well with horses and riding. I was pretty frustrated for quite a while!  I didn’t realize this at the time, but looking back I can see how disconnected I was from my body, and as a result, struggled to move with and communicate clearly to the horses I rode.

 

TSB: How did being a medical doctor impact your pursuit of riding and eventually dressage?

BG: I was hooked on horses and riding before going to medical school. Horses were not a part of my life during my medical education, and I wasn’t sure at that time that they would be a part of my life again, I was so busy and consumed by my training. It wasn’t until I started to have some time for myself, after medical school and residency training, that the idea of riding again entered my mind.

While I did do some jumping when I got back into riding, dressage proved to be the perfect fit. It matches my detail-oriented, perfection-seeking mind! While a practicing physician, I was an Anesthesiologist—again, a detail-oriented profession—and one would hope every Anesthesiologist seeks perfection in their practice!

 

TSB: When did you discover Pilates? Why did you choose to become Pilates-certified and teach other riders Pilates exercises?

BG: I found Pilates after back surgery for a herniated disc. I knew I needed an ongoing fitness program so I could go back to horseback riding. I tried Pilates when I saw an article written by a dressage rider in a local magazine. Like dressage (and medicine), Pilates is detail-oriented, so it fit my personality. But more important, the instructor I had was quite good at sorting out my movement habits that likely contributed to my underlying back problem. I was really intrigued with how difficult it was to sort through and change these habits! But the real selling point was my rides after my Pilates sessions were my best rides, by far! I was amazed at how much better I could sit in balance, and move with my horse. I knew I hadn’t gotten stronger in the session, but clearly the session had made a profound difference in how I could use my body.

It was also at this time that I had made a decision to leave the practice of medicine. As you might imagine, I really needed something “to do.” I was not at all used to having so much time on my hands! I was so impressed with how Pilates helped my back and my riding that I wanted to share it with other riders. Plus, for me, it was wonderfully empowering to recognize how I could help myself heal from my back problems with this program of mindful movement (as opposed to having someone work on me).  In the end, this is what inspires me the most today—helping people help themselves move through their day more mindfully and comfortably.

 

TSB: How do you feel your medical career and knowledge of Pilates principles helps your riding and the riding of your students?

BG: Understanding a bit of anatomy helps me solve my riding position problems and the horse’s training problems. While riding can feel magical, being successful does not happen by magic. I believe that wonderful feeling of riding in harmony comes from thoughtful consideration of what is going on. There is a great deal of this kind of problem-solving in medicine.

Many of my clients come to me because of prior injuries or pain issues while they ride. My medical education helps me understand their problems, and hopefully pin down movement or riding habits that could contribute to their problem. My own history of injuries, I hope, helps me approach the issues that my clients have with compassion and patience—at least this is my goal!

 

Dr. Glosten with a student.

Dr. Glosten with a student.

 

TSB: What is the most common issue you see in your riding students? What is the usual solution?

BG: I would have to say it is a rare rider that doesn’t have some postural issue to work on. Posture is so fundamental to a balanced position in the saddle, both front-to-back, and side-to-side. Problems with front-to-back posture (being arched, or rounded, in the spine) can interfere with staying precisely with the horse’s movement, and not being left behind. Lateral, or side-to-side, imbalance is also very common—that is, a rider sits heavily on either her right or left seat bone, all the time, rather than staying balanced over both seat bones.

The usual solution is first helping the rider to be aware of the problem, and with feedback from mirrors, help her recognize that what feels “normal” is not correct alignment. Activating the relevant muscle groups to help stabilize correct alignment helps the rider keep the good posture. Feedback from the horse, by way of improved movement and responsiveness, is the most powerful, positive reinforcement for keeping, and believing in, the prescribed postural changes.

 

TSB: What are three things you hope riders can take away from your book THE RIDING DOCTOR?

BG: I hope riders are empowered to take seriously the important role their posture and balance plays in the success of their horse’s training.

I hope that riders come to believe that they can change posture and movement habits that interfere with their riding and performance.

I hope that riders come away with a system to consider their position every step of the ride. That they can ride along asking themselves, “Where am I? Where am I?” to maintain awareness of their own body while riding.

 

TSB: You are an active competitor. What are your training and showing goals for 2015?

BG: I am looking forward to 2015 as a training year. The horse I ride now, Donner Girl, is one-year post-rehabilitation for a ligament injury. It has been a slow journey back to training, but she is going really well right now. I don’t want the pressure of the show ring to change the path we are on. Maybe we’ll be back there in 2016. Also, this summer is pretty booked for me teaching clinics on the weekends—which I thoroughly enjoy.

 

TSB: Tell us about the first time you remember sitting on a horse.

BG: I’m not sure I remember the very first time. But I do recall, when I was perhaps 7 or 8 years old, friends up the road came by with their horses. I remember thinking that they were HUGE! Now, they might have been 16 hands or so, but for a kid, it was a long way up! I definitely recall the wonderful smells of leather and the horses’ sweaty coats and warm breath. I remember feeling both fear and joy as the horse I sat on walked off, marveling at how natural it was for the horse to move this way, but how foreign it felt to me.

 

TSB: Tell us about the first time you remember falling off a horse.

BG: This I do recall! The same friends I mentioned, who lived in our neighborhood just during the summer, not only had big horses, but they also leased two ponies. Perhaps a year or so after my first ride, I remember going to their house to ride the ponies. There was a little trail through the pasture we used to ride on, back and forth. One day the pony I was riding “took off” on this trail in the downhill section. I landed face first in the dirt, with a bloody nose. But I was back on the next day!

 

Dr. Glosten and Donner Girl ("DG").

Dr. Glosten and Donner Girl (“DG”).

 

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a friend?

BG: I don’t think I can name just one quality. Sincerity and honesty come to mind, but also the willingness to simply bear witness—that is, just listen to my story. Give advice only if asked.

 

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a horse?

BG: I really appreciate a horse that tries hard to do what you are asking. Donner Girl is this way— and of all the horses I tried when looking for her, it is the characteristic that made her stand out.

 

TSB: If you could do one thing on horseback that you haven’t yet done, what would it be?

BG: Breeze a racehorse.

 

TSB: What’s in your refrigerator at all times?

BG: 1% milk for my morning coffee, mirepoix (carrots, onions, celery), eggs, cooked brown rice, vegetables, cheddar and parmesan cheeses.

 

TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

BG: Good health, good companionship (people and/or critters), and acceptance.

 

TSB: What is your idea of the perfect meal?

BG: First, it must be made from real, natural ingredients. I am a committed omnivore, but care that any meat I eat comes from an animal that was humanely treated.  While I’m a meat-eater, I love vegetables. The perfect meal is satisfying but balanced so I don’t feel grossly full afterward. And the perfect dinner is always accompanied by a lovely wine—an Oregonian or French Pinot Noir would be delightful, thank you!

 

TSB: What is your idea of the perfect vacation?

BG: A perfect vacation inspires me, and exposes me to new ideas, new art, new food. Relaxing is not what I seek—I want something different. Recently I traveled to Thailand on my own. It was nearly the perfect vacation, except that I sprained my ankle halfway through.  If this hadn’t happened, however, I would have never experienced Thai acupuncture!

 

TSB: If you could have a conversation with one famous person, alive or dead, who would it be?

BG: Siddartha Gautama, or the Buddha. His teachings weren’t written down until 400 years after his death. I wonder how close they are to what he really taught.

 

TSB: What is your motto?

BG: Perfection is the enemy of good.

 

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

Read more about Dr. Glosten’s book THE RIDING DOCTOR and download a FREE sample chapter on the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE

Read Full Post »

Closing the ring finger on the reins is like completing an electrical circuit.

Closing the ring finger on the reins is like completing an electrical circuit.

In her book 40 5-MINUTE JUMPING FIXES, expert riding instructor Wendy Murdoch explains the “Ring Finger Connection” when you hold the reins while riding. According to Murdoch, when you hold the reins and activate your thumb and index finger, there is a pinching action. This action causes the front of your body to flex forward; you round your shoulders and drop your chest. Plus, you are vulnerable to being pulled out of the saddle due to the tension created in your biceps and shoulders.

The muscles attached to the ring finger, however, connect closer to the point of the elbow, so when they activate, they in turn initiate a line along the back of the arm rather than the front. Using the ring finger, you can resist a a pull from your horse with your triceps rather than your biceps. You sit wide and open in the chest and allow the horse to pull you into rather than out of the saddle.

Closing your ring finger (or middle finger when your ring finger is too short to manage the reins) on the reins is like completing an electrical circuit that runs from your horse’s mouth through the rein to your hand, along the underside of your arm to your back, down to your seat (which deepens in the saddle), and cycles through the horse from back to front and to the mouth once again. An “open” hand, in contrast, does not complete the circuit; the horse can easily pull the rein from your hand.

 

Try this simple exercise from 40 5-MINUTE JUMPING FIXES to better understand the actions of your fingers on the reins:

1  Hold your right hand in riding position and pinch your right thumb and index finger together. Now, use the fingers of your left hand to feel how this pinching tightens the muscles on your right forearm. Pull on your pinched fingers with your left hand. Feel how you resist by tensing your biceps and chest. Notice the tendency to round your shoulders as you resist.

2  Now close your right middle and ring fingers firmly against the palm of your right hand and slowly “pulse” the pressure. Feel the lower part of your right forearm with your left hand. Notice how the muscles contract and relax.

3  Wrap your right ring finger around the index finger of your left hand, keeping all the other fingers slightly flexed. Pull against the ring finger with your left hand. Feel how you pull back with your elbow to resist rather than tensing your shoulders. Notice how your collarbones widen and your chest expands.

 

Now think how these minute movements translate through the reins to your horse, and how your hands affect your position and performance when you ride.

 

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

Wendy Murdoch’s 40 5-MINUTE JUMPING FIXES, as well as her bestselling first book and companion DVDs, are available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO SHOP NOW

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: