This week, we caught up with qualified Veterinary Physiotherapist and human sports massage therapist, Francesca Page to discuss the links between rider wellbeing and horse health. As riders, we often make considerable effort to ensure our horses are as happy and comfortable as can be. Many of us know the struggle of hours of googling the best and most cost efficient therapy boots, scrutinising over which feed supplement is going to work best and actually considering taking out a mortgage to buy a custom made saddle. But should we be spending more time looking after ourselves?
Human sports massage is a treatment for people that can help to reduce soreness and pain. Not to be confused with a spa treatment type massage, sports massage incorporates techniques from a few massage styles to manipulate soft tissue to prevent injury, alleviate muscle and tendon pain or relieve soft tissue of stresses.
Why have a sports massage?
Aside from having a well deserved break from mucking out and winter horse duties, sports massages bring multiple benefits to you and your horse. Muscular imbalances we have as riders can cause a huge impact on the imbalances we have in the saddle. This can then lead to your horse having imbalances and can cause sore spots. Veterinary Physiotherapist and human sports massage therapist, Francesca Page told us, "I've been to owners that have multiple horses who all had sore spots in the same area. The horses' sore spots were caused by muscular imbalance the rider had." It's really easy to forget about your own well being and comfort especially when you're busy working and looking after horses. So here are our top tips to look after yourself and in turn look after your horse this winter:
Most riders have lessons with instructors. Ask your instructor to watch you trot down the centre line and observe how straight (or wonky) you're sitting. Try to ride as naturally as possible when trying this. If you know someone is watching you, you might be tempted to sit a little straighter than usual. Try this exercise a couple of times so your coach gets a good view of your position. If you don't have a regular coach or instructor, you can ask a friend to watch, record yourself or use arena mirrors to help assess your position.
Talk to your horses therapist
As discussed above, if you are riding with imbalances, you may be contributing towards your horses imbalances and sore spots. Don't be afraid to talk to your horses therapist if you have concerns about your own imbalances. Some equine therapists may watch horses be ridden prior to or between treatments to help them gain a better understanding of your horses way of going, weaknesses and potential areas that require treatment. Not all therapists do this every time they visit a horse. Qualified professionals usually have the knowledge and experience to deliver treatments without watching the horse in ridden work but it's worth asking if your equine therapist offers this service if you want an opinion of yours and your horses strengths and weaknesses - be sure to check with your therapist first so you book a long enough appointment with them.
Warm yourself up
With most sports like running you'll often see participants doing various stretches and warm up exercises before they compete or train but riders tend to neglect any sort of stretching or warm up at all. When was the last time you saw a group of show jumpers jogging round the arena at your local competition ground? We can't promise that you wont get funny looks if you start doing a hamstring stretch or high knees before your next dressage test but there are more equestrian themed warm ups you can do. Sweeping the yard, filling a couple of haynets and giving your horse a good groom all count towards warming up before you ride.
Use the right equipment
Riding, mucking out and general horse care can be strenuous on our joints and muscles. That's why its so important to make sure you're using the right equipment to help you look after your horse. If you're a particularly tall person, why would you use short equipment that causes you to unnecessarily bend down and strain your back? Red Gorilla have designed a large range of products to suit a variety of needs, including six different types of shavings fork and ten different types of broom!
Friends of #TEAMRED are a group of equestrians who have shared their riding experiences, hints tricks and stories with Red Gorilla®. Check them out on the Friends of #TEAMRED page, or if you've got stable management tips send them in or post a photo with the hashtag #RedGorilla. You can get in touch via the Contact Us page.