Rider Health: Fitness and Healing
Rider health is just as important as horse health. The more we can develop our postural musculature and the suppleness of our joints to improve our own straightness, the more we are in a position to develop these aptitudes in a horse.
The Significance of Rider Fitness
Whether horse-riding is defined as a Sport or as an Art, the physical and psychological fitness of the rider is just as important as in any other physical activity. Fitness is an important aspect of rider health and is basically the ease at which your body can accommodate itself to the task in hand. It follows then that the best training you can undergo to improve your riding, is riding itself.
It is only when you are actually riding, after all, that you are using the precise combination of muscles which allow you to carry your posture and form your joints into the arrangement which allows you both to absorb and enhance the movement of the horse.
In terms of improving your cardiovascular fitness, the benefits of riding are limited in comparison with running or other pursuits which tend to favour the locomotive musculature. The postural fitness required for correct riding however, is considerable. Unfortunately it is not always possible for everyone to ride either often enough or in the optimum circumstances to bring their fitness up to the level where they can get the most out of the riding they can manage.
How to Increase Rider Fitness and Therefore Improve Rider Health
We believe that riding on the lunge (photo above) constitutes the 'optimum circumstances' possible both for improving rider fitness and rider health.
Some of the other alternatives which can help us to become fit to ride are Pilates, Swimming, Yoga, Alexander Technique, Cycling, Ski-ing and Physical Exercises.
Basically any activity which requires coordination, postural control and using the body evenly will help to improve riding ability - even sweeping the yard, especially if you change sides occasionally and concentrate on using the abdominal muscles and maintaining a good posture!
Go to Pilates for Riders: The Postural Advantage for an example of how fitness and strength can greatly assist your riding, and look at The Psoas Muscle And Its Importance in Riding to find out about this particularly significant postural muscle.
Rider Health: The Significance of Well-Being
Rider health in general is important because if you are feeling good, you can concentrate better and your patience will be improved, as well as optimizing your physical effectiveness and strength.
The importance of rider health goes much deeper than this however. Riding a horse is a little out of the ordinary in the sense that when it is done correctly, one being (the rider) is guiding and directing another being (the horse) uniquely as a result of an accomplished state of balance.
In order to achieve balance to this degree it is imperative to improve spatial awareness, as well as resolving any physical restrictions which cause deviations that make equal use of the rider's body difficult. Of course it is unlikely a rider will ever become ambidextrous as such, but most of us are significantly crooked in the pelvis and fairly stiff in our spinal column in one or several places and this has a significant influence on our ability to straighten and balance our horse. Resolving these rider health issues is a lifetimes challenge in the same way as resolving our horse's health issues is.
How to Heal Rider Health Problems
It is in the nature of most Alternative Therapies to address the healing of the whole organism, therefore seeking the sources of problems rather than simply attempting to eliminate the symptoms. It is more valuable to think of symptoms as signs which have arisen in the body as a result of a process of dis-ease which is itself the result of a lack or an imbalance in the healthy processes of the body. For example stomach problems may be a result of the overproduction of acid, which is the result of a spinal lesion i.e muscles in spasm which are pressing on the nerves which regulate the biochemical composition in the stomach.
In the case of Rider health, the concern is usually directly related to spinal or pelvic issues because riding is a postural exercise. The general Osteopathic concept is that healthy joints in the body will result in a healthy person. This includes vertebral joints. This concept makes sense because the musculo-skeletal system, which supports, protects and allows the body to function, is really the mechanism of our beings. The nervous system is more like the the control panel and the other organs can be seen as the battery which provides the energy. If the mechanism is performing well, this will generate health throughout the body.
Of course damage at any level will cause problems and reduce our functionality, but as most damage that is sustained by people as a result of birth trauma, accidents and overuse, influence primarily the mechanism. The most powerful treatment is to address the mechanism itself.
In fact Alternative Therapies which are working directly with the energy of our systems, will address whatever area needs to be addressed. Our own innate intelligence will resolve anything if we can support it with self-belief and recognition.
Our personal experience covers a relatively narrow range of such therapies, probably because healing is natural, and we don't have to search too far for a means to access and support our innate healing powers. It is a case of finding whichever therapy you feel comfortable and inspired by, and remember that you cannot expect to make a finished sculpture in one session.
Some of Our Experience of Therapies Which Improve Rider Health
Particularly powerful, because it connects the therapist directly with the central nervous system of the recipient. In our experience following the innate intelligence of the recipient and supporting whichever process it wishes to address is the most effective procedure. This is as opposed to imposing a regulation series of hand positions. The resolution of common rider health problems such as lower back stiffness and sacroiliac joint damage, can be remarkable.
The gentle approach is important when any kind of manipulations are involved. As osteopathy is a procedure which tends to impose changes on the body, it can be useful to combine it with a more energy based therapy to allow better integration of these changes. Also less tends to be more when manipulations are concerned, the body has to be able to recover sufficiently between sessions.
Emotional Freedom Technique:
Based on the use of positive affirmations combined with recognition of the 'problem' EFT is very effective because it is using the power of the mind to address both emotional and physical issues. In terms of rider health it is particularly useful for confidence problems.
Herbs and Natural Supplements:
Often the body can be deficient in certain nutrients or suffer from malfunction of metabolic processes. The more nutritional support you can give your body the better. Of course different supplements have different target centers in the body. Following your intuition and the guidance you will have from whichever health issues come up is the best way to find what is right for you. Common rider health problems which can respond well nutritionally are lack of stamina or concentration and low energy levels in general, also joint weakness or pain.
The skill, when it comes to homeopathy, is finding the right remedy and potency. For this reason it can be a good idea to seek out a professional for a more profound healing process. There are many simple remedies however which are ideal for more minor complaints, replacing the use of conventional drugs which are toxic to the system.
Relevant pages on Happy Horse Training that may interest you:
Pilates for Riders: The Postural Advantage
The Psoas Muscle And Its Importance in Riding
Life's Innate Healing Potential
Rider Biomechanics: the key to unlocking the horse
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