Your horse as a Machine?

Sports biomechanists help people obtain optimal muscle recruitment and performance. A biomechanist also uses their knowledge to apply proper load barring techniques to preserve the body.

The statement above is simple but, offers a huge clue into high performance training and strategy,  human or equine. 

At ASR, biomechanical study and application is a huge part of our training program.

Horses are athletes and should be trained as such!

This week, I wanted to talk about how more riders need to think about exactly what they are trying to accomplish when training. 

Do we want shoulder in, for shoulder in sake?
No, we want more inside hindleg weight barring, mobility and the ability to connect the inside hip to outside shoulder control. 

Do we want counter canter? 
No, we want the horse to carry his weight more to the “outside” of his body and use his obliques to carry his ribs in a way that allows the non-driving hind leg to swing through and the shoulders to come up, so he can make turns with a leading shoulder and soft topline.

The point is, I would like to see more riders breaking down the needs of work or tasks, rather than focusing on the movements alone, even if they are performed correctly. 

If a horse is struggling,  it is almost always a biomechanical issue.

Just because the horse understands a task, doesn’t mean he is physically capable of that task. That is part of training. The body of the horse has to be schooled as much as the mind. 

I have heard riders say he can’t bring his shoulder up. Is it possible he doesn’t know how or currently needs rehabilitation to bring his hips down, so that his shoulders can come up?

Or we hear a lot… he doesn’t bend enough in the half-pass. Maybe it’s that the outside of his body is too tight, not that he isn’t soft enough on side.

I encourage you to examine your horse, his body type, his personality and what he finds easy or hard.

Take the answers and come up with a plan, to take his weakness, and help him work through with systematic changes. 

If he is struggling with something,  it probably isnt the obvious thing that is actually the issue. 

Everyday we are essentially asking the horse to come to rehab, and learn how to move differently and, in almost all cases, in a way that is harder than his natural instincts suggest. 

Be patient with him, understand that there will be great days and not so great days. But please, always keep asking yourself, what am I actually asking his body to do?

Provide a systematic program with steps and plans for each need along the training process. 

It will save you and your horse so much time and unnecessary stress.

Written by: Emily Abbate, Director of Programs

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