HomeExpert AdviceArticleThe everyday habits that affect your riding

The everyday habits that affect your riding

Posted in Management Mind Matters

Nikki Robinson, qualified physiotherapist, author of Pain-Free Horse Riding and Managing Director of Holisticare, a specialist Myofascial Release practice, shares her tips for reducing the effect everyday habits can have on your riding. 

Nikki Robinson Physiotherapist

Photo credits: Detheo Photography

1. Working at the computer

You are probably aware of how you should be sitting at their computer – you can easily look up the ideal position and your employer has a duty to provide you with any equipment you need to achieve that.

But the reality is that most people’s working posture is hunched over, especially if they are at home on a laptop. Once you are in that position, the tendency is to stay there for as long as it takes you to finish your task.

How it affects your riding This can result in rounded shoulders and a forward chin, due to tension building up across your chest. So when you are riding, it becomes very difficult to sit straight with your shoulders back.

What you can do about it…

  • check your posture at the computer
  • change position as soon as you feel tension building up
  • take regular breaks

2. Not drinking enough water

About 60% of your body is made out of water and a lot of that water is inside your cells. In fact two thirds of your cells’ volume is made up of water. It is really important to stay well hydrated because every system in your body needs water to work properly.

How it affects your riding Your joints and muscles become tighter and less flexible, which can lead to them feeling stiff and sore. Any problems that you have can feel worse, simply because you need to drink more.

Drink water bottle

What you can do about it…

  • The European Food Safety Authority recommends that each day, women should drink about 1.6 litres and men should drink about 2.0 litres of fluid.
  • sipping your drinks slowly throughout the day is better than drinking a lot in one go.
  • any liquids that you drink count towards the total, but the recommended amounts are on top of any water that you might be getting from the food that you eat.

3. Wearing high heels

If you wear high heels regularly, they can result in tight calf muscles and shortened and thickened Achilles tendons. Then wearing flat footwear can be very uncomfortable, it may lead to an abnormal gait and you also have a higher risk of injury.

How it affects your riding Tight calves and Achilles tendons make it very difficult to achieve the heel-down position when you are riding. It may also cause knee problems over time, as the joints are put under more strain when you are rising in the stirrups from tight, compromised starting position.

What you can do about it…

  • limit the amount of time that you walk in high heels; for example you could wear flats to and from work and nights out.
  • regularly stretch your calves – remember never stretch into pain though.
  • walk barefoot round the house if you can, to give your legs a chance to relax.
4. Staying in the same position all day

Whatever your job or hobbies, your body will react to the positions that you spend a lot of time in. My patients who teach young children and spend most of the day bent over, all have back pain. Surgeons, dentists and vets get pain and tension in their neck and across their shoulders from the position in which they stay when they are operating.

How it affects your riding Restrictions anywhere in your body will affect your balance when you are riding, and then your horse has to compensate to try and maintain their own balance.

What you can do about it…

  • as with the computer work, the way to look after your body is to change position as soon as you become aware of the tension increasing, and before the pain sets in.
  • only you will know how to get round the problem, but it is very important that you do find a solution so that your pain doesn’t stop you working – or riding.

Slouching while riding a horse

5. Going on your phone

We are increasingly dependent on having access to technology wherever we are. It has even become normal to see riders texting or messaging while on horseback. The main issue with this is the posture that your body is pulled into as soon as you look down and use both hands to type and hold the device. If you’re not sure what that is, try it now and focus on the changes in tension that you feel happening all over your body.

How it affects your riding If you are holding tension across your shoulders and into your arms and hands, it becomes harder to ride with soft hands and to be sensitive to your horse.

What you can do about it…

  • limit the time that you spend focussing on your phone or tablet
  • place it on a table in front of you (ideally tilted up)
  • sit in a chair that supports your back and arms so that you can hold it up comfortably in front of you.

For more information, visit holisticare.co.uk

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