Many of us will pay for our horses to have the latest fashionable rug or item and for them to have regular shoes, saddle, teeth and back checks but how many people look after themselves as well as they do their horse?
At the end of the day it makes sense to look after yourself as who else is going to look after your horse if you have injured your back. If you can not lift those ghastly water buckets or muck out darling neddy won't be doing his own dirty work. More likely he will kick his stable door, tell you to hurry up and then stand on your foot when you can't move as quickly out of his way!
Anything equine, whether you are riding or caring for your horse, involves physical activity but how many of us warm up before starting work at the yard or mounting? This makes us more prone to injury ourselves. Minor muscle strains can create poor posture and this can lead to us sitting crookedly on our horse. This in turn can create tension and soreness in the horses back and will no doubt receive treatment. If the rider is not also treated though the problem will recur and money will be wasted.
Horses were not designed to carry a saddle and rider and so when we introduce both of these factors there is always a possibility of producing a musculoskeletal injury. Although we need to be aware of our weight in relation to the horses size and strength this is not the only important factor. Balance is hugely important as the more unbalanced the rider the more they will move around on top of the horse and the more strain the horses back will be under just trying to remain balanced himself. Each time the horse becomes unbalanced micro traumas can occur which in time can lead to more chronic problems in the joints and muscles.
A riders balance will be affected not only by their ability and experience but also by their own level of fitness. An unfit rider will tire more quickly and then is more likely to ride out of balance. Do not worry though it is not a case of having to run miles and miles to prevent this happening. Pilates is a fantastic form of exercise for strengthening core stability. This will help to prevent back problems as well as improve your riding ability. Also because Pilates is becoming more and more popular as people feel the benefit classes, DVDs and books are more readily available.
Just as horses that have pain in their back can compensate in their movement and become uncomfortable to ride a rider with back pain can be more difficult for a horse to carry. Riders who have a restricted range of motion in their sacroiliac joints will often stick their bottom out behind them when riding. This prevents the seat from moving with the horse, blocks the movement of the back muscles and encourages the horse to go in a hollow out line, encouraging poor posture.
If the riders pelvis is misaligned then they will sit crookedly with an uneven amount of weight on their seat bones. In turn the horse will have to compensate to stay balanced and in time this will lead to the horse needing treatment.
Tightness in the riders shoulders and neck can be just as problematic as not only will this affect balance but also how the reins are held. If the rider is overly dominant in one hand the horse will start to set his mouth on that side. This will then cause stiffness in the neck and sometimes right the way through the body causing a viscous circle.
It may seem like we are losing a never ending battle as nothing in nature is symmetrical. We start off by putting an asymmetrical rider onto an asymmetrical horse and expect to create symmetrical movement. At the end of the day all we can do is the best we can and by becoming more aware of our own bodies also help our horses.