Lessons learnt from Centaur Biomechanics

We had a great day with Russell Guire, who conducted a series of Rider Biomechanics sessions with myself, Hamish and a number of Your Horsemanship members.  He used video technology along with his Visualise training jackets to assess the rider’s position and saddle and how it is affecting the horse’s movement. For myself, it was confirmation that I have a tendency to sneak to the left slightly, and lean an inch too far forward; something that my dressage lessons have highlighted and that I am working hard to fix!

In the evening, we christened our new function room with an evening presentation with Russell, the first in what we have tentatively termed our “Fab 50” evenings! We are working on developing a series of presentations for which a limited number of 50 tickets will be sold per event.  Russell described the findings from some of the research projects undertaken by Centaur Biomechanics and how this can shape the training and equipment we use with our horses in order to improve their performance and welfare. 

Here are some of the interesting points I took away from the talk;

  • The use of technology over the human eye is changing what we know as “true”, for example, trot is rarely a “two beat” pace and it is physically impossible for a horse to do a canter pirouette as a “three beat”, which it is still described as.
  • The majority of horses favour one side to the other. Therefore, we need to improve our horse’s posture, just like we work on our own. Serpentines are an excellent exercise for this.
  • Horses use a lot more extension, range of muscles and movement in walk and canter than trot, so why do we do so much of our schooling work in trot?!
  • In the majority of horses, the left eye induces flight and the right eye is used for processing, which may also cause imbalances in their behavior on the ground and when ridden.
  • Grazing behavior (i.e. which foreleg the horse prefers to put forward to graze) changes the shoulder angles and causes lateral imbalances – only 5% of horses are seen to be ambidextrous.
  • 1cm of extra toe puts an additional 50kg’s force on the horse’s back; therefore don’t compete your horse at the end of their shoeing cycle.
  • Make sure your girths are long so that the buckle is high up, rather than behind the elbow.
  • Don’t overtighten the girth as horses expand by 1.5-2cm as they work
  • A 5’2” person mounting a 16hh horse puts the same pressure on the horse as it would jumping a 1m30cm fence.
  • A small mounting block makes no difference to the pressure you exert on a horse, so make sure you use as tall a mounting block as possible.
  • Saddle slip is common and causes pressure points on the horse’s back; you can adjust your saddle by increasing foam in the corresponding areas in pro-lite saddle risers.
  • Go for a wider “waist” on a saddle – the ones with a narrow waist that may more comfortable for the rider, can exert more pressure on the horse
  • If you use rollers on horses for lunging, make sure they fully clear your horse’s back, just like you would with a saddle.

So, with this new knowledge, what immediate action have we taken on the yard? We have checked all our rollers to make sure that they aren’t causing unnecessary pressure on the horse’s backs, and changing girths to make sure they are being done up in the correct place. We are buying more riser pads that we can adjust if we are getting saddle slip, and we’re using the tall mounting block wherever possible.  

I urge all of you reading this to go to http://www.centaurbiomechanics.co.ukand check out their work, it really is very interesting and highlights how amazing and tolerant our four legged friends are; and it’s up to us to make their ridden lives as comfortable as possible!

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