Asymmetry in Equestrianism

Asymmetry In The Horse Saddle Rider Combination

There are many excellent resources on the separate elements of the horse, saddle and rider in terms of equitation and performance enhancement but none that considers all three together in detail for the purposes of physical resolution. This uniquely comprehensive project addresses evaluation and correction of all three elements so that directing and training a living animal to conform to the aspirations of the rider is as ethical as it can be. It has been created for the horses that too frequently endure in silence and for the well-meaning riders who have to figure out how to get the best from their horses without the luxury of audible language from them.

Equitation is as much art as it is physics although the art of riding as we know it cannot be achieved without first mastering the fundamentals of physics. At face value, equitation is the pursuit of movement and stability and all resultant oscillations and disturbances in between. The horse must propel itself forward in good form whilst resisting the ‘noisy’ downward pressure of the rider communicating largely via the hands, arms, seat and legs often resulting in vary degrees of acuity. In doing this, the rider must use their body to resist forward movement. Both must learn how to overcome the physical effects of gravity to remove the noise of visually aberrant movement. To do this, the rider requires to be seated as balanced as possible, the horse requires to be as free of restriction as possible. The saddle has the job of fulfilling and managing both sets of expectations.

Asymmetry both static and dynamic can occur anywhere in the chain of structures between the horse saddle and rider combination. Since everything in that combination is linked it is not straightforward to pinpoint and subsequently target for resolution. Rarely do musculoskeletal structures function in isolation. Compounding this is that individuals within combinations can be one sided in that they can have a weaker and a stronger side, not necessarily complementing. Thus as both stray further and further away from being organised around their respective centres of motion and gravity shifts as they ride and are ridden, both have to move more to return to neutral which will, in turn, create and perpetuate asymmetry.

In the past three decades there has been an increasing amount of research into equine anatomy and performance yet little addresses the highly complex horse-saddle-rider combination. Knowledge is thus fragmented into separate components and frequently left to the horse and rider training industry to come up with solutions for equitation success. Only in this decade has the scientific investigation of saddle fit, equine discomfort as indicated in fascial expressions, the effects of rider position on horse movement and the issue of clinical lameness vs sub-clinical compensatory movement, begun in earnest. The main aim of this project is to advance this body of work using my own two decades of professional capability to physically resolve horse, saddle and rider restrictions to achieve optimal performance. I have consistently found that asymmetry in all or any of those three elements has been the smoking gun of sub-optimal performance in my thousands of musculoskeletal crime scene investigations.

The degree of musculoskeletal fluency of movement flows from efficiency of joint movement. The degree of symmetry dictates efficiency and can thus moderate injury risk. The degree of fluency and efficiency of the horse-saddle-rider combination impacts on balance of both horse and rider as they interact. Mediating between the two is the inanimate saddle. Creating and maintaining symmetrical movement of all three elements is therefore the key to equitation success.

Caroline Lindsay BSc(Hons) MSFC PGCert. AdvCertVPhys. CertEdVPT MMSFCSoc. MIRVAP MRAMP