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  • Writer's pictureChristian Brix, DC

Chiropractic for the Equestrian

The relationship between a rider’s conditioning and the resultant performance of the horse has always been well understood. Conditioning refers not only to strength, balance, and form but also to a rider’s ability to effectively communicate with the horse and produce a consistent result when asking for a movement. As in any sport, the ability to produce a consistent result is the key to success.

In any style of riding, and in any equestrian discipline, there is a communication between rider and animal that, when consistent and clear, can produce fantastic results. Riders spend their practice time working on perfecting that physical conversation. A dressage rider and a trail rider, however different, share the same desire to have their horse perform the task they are being asked to do, and it is, of course, the struggle of developing that relationship that is the true beauty of any equestrian discipline.

How does the spine relate to riding?

The human spine and pelvis are the foundation for all of the functions of the body. The spine is responsible for protecting the spinal cord and spinal nerves, giving structure to the body, holding one’s posture, maintaining muscle tone and position, and allowing for the mobility of the entire body. It is the spine and its alignment that determine the tone, strength, position, and mobility of the major muscles in the body. This is the case because all the major muscles that contribute to posture and movement for a rider are connected to the spine and pelvis. These muscles include the abdominals, the lower back muscles, the quadriceps, the hamstrings, the gluteal muscles, and the inner thigh muscles. Of course, these muscles are the ones that allow a rider to achieve the postures and positions necessary to perform well.

How well your spine is aligned will literally determine how well your body performs. The alignment of the spine and pelvis determines how easily we move, how our muscles are positioned in posture, how much weight we bear on one side compared to the other, how long our legs are, and how our overall posture appears. When the vertebrae and pelvis are as they should be, the body can perform and function optimally.

How do I know if my alignment might be affecting my riding?

For the most part, it is difficult to know how or where we are out of alignment. Without a trained hand and eye, we cannot be sure what we may need to change. There are, however, some ways to get an idea if there are issues in the spine and pelvis.

  • When sitting in the saddle, have someone observe your positioning. Do you sit to one side? Do you lean to one side? Are you rotated slightly?

  • Look at the length of your stir-ups. Are they the same length? If not, is it because of a lean, or is it because one leg may be longer than the other?

  • Something to try at home is to lie on your stomach with your feet hanging just off the end of the bed. Have someone bring your heels together and see if your legs are the same length. If not, imagine how that might change your position on the horse.

  • Do you feel sore or fatigued in between your shoulder blades after a ride?

  • Do you sometimes feel that fantastic communication with your horse on one ride will somehow be lost on your next ride for no apparent reason?

Some or all of these clues tell you there may be some easily correctable issues in your spine and pelvis.

What happens when you have proper alignment?

When your pelvis is in its proper position, you’ll first notice that your legs will be the same length, and your stir-ups will be set to the same length. When in line, the pelvis will allow you to be centred and balanced in your saddle. With proper position in the saddle and equal weight in each stir-up, your horse will get consistent and clear commands. When your body achieves this alignment, the muscles will all be the right length, and therefore they will be most efficient. You will feel stronger and in better control of your own movements. As well, muscles will not fatigue as easily when sustaining challenging postures. Your riding will quickly improve as you will be able to consistently position yourself where you’re supposed to, and your horse will get the same signals every time you ride.

How can Chiropractic help me?

A Chiropractor is a musculoskeletal specialist working with joints and muscles to help the body function optimally. By putting motion and alignment back into a spine, a Chiropractor can support the function of nerves, joints and muscles. Athletes benefit from Chiropractic immensely as they constantly ask their bodies to perform at an elite level. Most elite athletes incorporate Chiropractic into their training because they understand that when the foundation/core of your body is functioning at its best, the rest of the body will follow. Ask your Chiropractor about the athletes and sports teams that use Chiropractic to give them a competitive edge. You can get that edge by trying Chiropractic for yourself. You might be amazed at how your riding will change for the better!

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