A few definitions for clarity...
Mechanics: a branch of physics that is concerned with the description of movement and how forces create movement.
Biomechanics: The study of structure and function of a living body; what it's made of and how muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments work together to produce movement. It also directly pertains to the internal and external forces acting on the human body and the effects these forces produce, such as
torque , motion, gravity, & momentum.
Sports Biomechanics: Biomechanics have been applied to all sports for decades. It incorporates a detailed analysis of sport movements in order to minimize the risk of injury and improve sports performance.
Rider Biomechanics - How a rider uses their posture and balance to ride in relation to the horse's movement.
Biomechanics is highly relevant to riding because we have 2 biomechanical systems, each with their own way of functioning, coming together to influence each other.
In order to bring about the right biomechanical dynamic of the 2 systems working together, we need to not only understand that of the horse, but crucially that of the rider. For it is the RIDER who changes the dynamic from something unbalanced to a harmonious unified body.
Biomechanics of the horse that allow him to carry a rider well are becoming more understood, as information is becoming more readily available. However, there is not a whole lot of information about rider biomechanics. Therefore, it rarely gets implemented in the rider’s training program.
Unfortunately, many riding instructors and trainers choose to ignore the role of the rider’s athletic use of their body, preferring to focus entirely on the horse.
The problem with this... correct horse biomechanics are ONLY brought about by the correct rider biomechanics.
Whenever a rider sits on a horse their body meets with powerful forces generated by the way the horse moves. Since the horse’s natural way of moving and balancing is not conducive to carrying a rider in balance and with optimal postural strength, the rider must train their body to be able to meet these unbalanced forces generated by the horse’s movement and channel them into something different.
Contrary to popular belief, rider biomechanics as an approach to riding is not just about sitting in a "correct" position. It is about understanding the forces put on your body by your horse’s movement and how to match those forces in the right directions at the right times.
It is important to understand that everyone comes to riding from a different starting point and with a different body, therefore generic language such as 'sit up', 'lift your chest', 'heels down' can have very negative effects on each individual, whereas the biomechanics approach peels through the layers of the onion to get to the real root of the issue.
Rider Biomechanics is not just about movement, but also about why things happen.
It's not just “look up and get your heels down,” but why did your heels come up in the first place?
It looks at your pelvis and spine and the rest of your anatomy to make sure you are sitting in a strong, safe position.
The way in which the rider sits has a negative or positive influence on the horse. So, biomechanics is not just about position and aids, but goes deeper into cause and effect – how your body works and interacts with the horse.
As a rider, we need to know exactly what the different elements of correct rider biomechanics are, and how they should function. This gives you so much more clarity, as it goes a long way to reducing the frustration that is very common when you don’t know which part of your body should be doing what, and why it’s often so difficult to do the right thing.
Looking at a picture with arrows on it is never going to enable you to know how to train your body for good riding. What you need is clear instructions on how you position your body, what it should feel like, and most importantly what response you should get from the horse – the only true validation of good riding.
Applying Rider Biomechanics, you will learn:
1. How to achieve a safe and secure riding position.
2. Gain a better understanding of what you are doing in your body, to become a more effective rider.
3. Exercises to help you break old negative patterns.
4. How to align your seat and posture with your horse, despite any physical issues that you might have, as well as how to assure you maintain a balanced and functional position.
When you integrate rider biomechanics to riding:
1. He finds it easier to carry you which promotes soundness, longevity, and a willing and happy partner.
2. You find it easier to ride and match the forces created by your horse.
3. Then you find it easier to influence the horse every stride.
Biomechanics is for EVERY rider – not just elite riders. Biomechanics can help improve performance and achieve the competitive edge for the more advanced rider. The beginner or novice rider will learn to sit in a stronger, safer position and find increased confidence from better balance.
To me, good biomechanics is an essential part to good horsemanship, and it is one of the missing pieces in most training programs, as it is very misunderstood.