Note: This is long but is very important info that I felt necessary and beneficial to all. But if you want to scroll down to the graphics first feel free to do so.
In my lifetime of working with horses I have never learned in detail about the importance of Biomechanics for the horse. I have more recently learned how very, very important the biomechanics and proper training and preparation of a horse's BODY is for them!! I am pleasantly surprised to learn after reviewing and updating my website that much of my past training although not detailed in instruction specific to the biomechanics it did accomplish the biomechanics pretty well on SOME horses. The Universe has presented me with several horses that desperately needed my help but regrettably, I simply did not have enough knowledge of the details of the biomechanics to help them. I'm not sure if it was just my not understanding, or my readiness to hear and learn about the biomechanics, or just the path of different training avenues that I chose to study. It seems at that time long ago, the teachings were focused more on the Classical exercises. Somewhere in the studies of mine and I think a lot of students of the horse we focused on the MOVEMENT (making legs do things) vs. the overall balance and correctness of the horse in using his body because it just simply was not really known or maybe not clearly explained--especially for some horses with more complicated compensations in their bodies. Unfortunately too students of the horse focused on the goal and not the horse so perhaps skipped or did not fully learn. That is not entirely true because I know--even though my goals were maybe not as driven--I absolutely wanted to do a good service to my horses but my knowledge was again simply limited in what I had been taught. Clearly now I understand how very, very important training a horse how to carry a rider is. I understand now, even more so, that the horse does not instinctively know how to adjust its own body to carrying the rider's additional weight. Because of this they develop injury in their attempts to compensate for the added weight. The rider must understand the biomechanics to understand what the horse needs from the rider to aid the horse in finding this posture to build proper muscles and balance. Unfortunately and sadly, the biomechanics are not well understood in many, many horse disciplines, even in very high levels of competition. This sad fact is the reason many horses are retired at a very early age is due to injury or mental burn out of attempting to deal with the contortions they engage in their bodies to perform. Even though I do not compete and my horses are backyard companions, I do want to ride and handle them in a way that does not hurt or injure them. The biomechanics and correct usage of the horse's body to carry a rider is key to helping prevent injuries and keeping the horse sound and healthy into a ripe old age. The biomechanics can also help rehab existing injuries by unraveling the compensations the horse may have developed in an effort to deal with its own natural body asymmetries and life happenings. Each horse has its own unique way of compensating so there is NOT a cookie cutter approach to sorting things out. My very, very special Andalusian cross horse Sonador has been my greatest teacher and he is what instigated my continued study into this important subject. It became clear to me in my gut that he physically could not do what I was asking. It had nothing to do with him not understanding or trying but he simply could not do what I was asking because his body was in a position that biomechanically it was not able to. That meant I had to dig very deep to try and find out why that was and how I could help. That also meant that I stop riding for as long as it took for me to figure this all out. It has been a multi-faceted, fascinating and at times frustrating journey but very well worth the effort to gain this invaluable knowledge.
To add a twist to this journey's continuing story. As I looked back while trying to sort all this out and as can be seen in the ridden pictures on this website under training, Sonador and I did pretty well and when I see the pictures and his poll high and I remember that there was a time when we pretty much had things working I began to question that in my mind. The Universe still in its vastness wanted me to learn more detail about biomechanics so my journey included a brand new expensive saddle. NOW when I look back at what I thought were gaps in my knowledge with training or problems with Sonador, I truly believe now it was my expensive new saddle that was causing him to be uncomfortable and NOT be able to lift his back. Ironically just recently another horse also told me his saddle needed to be moved to a better spot on his back for him to lift his back. Horses are so incredibly sensitive and complex and will tell us if we learn to listen to them. SO yet another variable to this journey which also needs to be considered. I do not regret my continued study nor my frustration when trying to figure all this out but am relieved to know too that most of my work was on the right track and the saddle was the culprit. Just to add the saddle thing was another lesson in listening to my gut. I had some pertinent questions about the saddle from my gut for the president of the company of my new saddle that fitted it for me. He assured me that it was perfect and seemed made for my horse so I thought I had covered all the bases. There was another visit by another fitter to check the saddle after I had had it for a brief while that also said it was fine. Partially because of these experts/professionals in saddle fitting, I simply refused or really it never crossed my mind that it had anything to do with my brand new EXPENSIVE saddle, therefore I thought there was another problem for Sonador when he started refusing to come to the mounting block and was being fussy when I tried to ride him. Sometimes I just wish horses could speak ENGLISH. Laughing out loud. I'm sure they wish they could too since we humans have such a hard time translating what they say.
Although too many to list individually, I would like to thank the multitude of educators, as it seems now this work is becoming more known and broadcast by numerous people in both books and online resources. The two that probably made the most influence for me in understanding the biomechanics specifically was participating in the courses of the In Hand Therapy Course by the Science of Motion and Jean Luc Cornille and Straightness Training Mastery by Marijke de Jong. I continue to study with both programs and continue to learn from them. It should be emphasized though that I do not follow either program/method exactly as they recommend, as is my habit over the years to use all the many, many experiences and tools that I have learned to work well for my horses over the years in combination vs. any single program/method. I continue to listen to my horses in the things that I try or add in training for them to tell me what makes more sense to them and is easiest for them to learn and understand with the least amount of stress to them both mentally and physically for our combined goal. The horses are indeed my VERY BEST TEACHERS!! Included in that, as I have mentioned before on this website, are methods that also mesh with my personality and physical abilities and that I find are also easily understandable to people that I work with. When I work with people I try to present things in an understandable fashion and am open to discussion and encourage questions.
What follows are some fairly simplified graphics and pictures that I have made to somewhat try to explain a rather complex subject of biomechanics for the horse to hopefully help everyone to see the importance of the correct biomechanics to the horse's body and want to learn more for their horses' benefit.
The next two graphics are 3 photos of me and a friend Lauren Kahn on her horse Josh that I have been working with and experimenting with for a good while mostly at her Eaglebear Farm (http://eaglebearfarm.com). Lauren and Josh are very willing to test things out and experiment which has been very helpful to me. Lauren and I are similar minded in our interest to listen to the horse so we are of the same mind set. We get together on a non defined schedule so the training was not that often and sometimes a lot of time passed in between work sessions. I only mention this because I too am a backyard warrior that sometimes feels like I do not put in enough time or effort with my work with my horses due to life's circumstances. I suspect there are many riders with the same problem so I thought it important to mention. The pictures clearly show that even with limited and sometimes sporadic time spent, but with good focus and understanding of the biomechanics for both horse and rider, there can be very significant and successful improvements made in both the horse and the rider. I have to say too that it took a while to develop my method and I am very appreciative of Lauren and Josh's efforts as well as those efforts of my own horses.
STAY TUNED FOR MORE BIOMECHANICS
ALSO BIOMECHANICS FOR THE RIDER
What I have found too is once the horse comes into better posture things are much easier for the rider to "be able" sit in a better posture without struggle or forcing, holding and blocking the horse trying to maintain the perfect rider position. Another very important factor as mentioned earlier is a saddle that ALLOWS both the horse and rider to use their bodies in the way that is needed for optimum balance, coordination and comfort. SOOOOO many saddles actually force the rider into a BAD POSTURE which effects the horse or vice versa the saddle hinders the horse's ability to use its body correctly which then adversly effects the rider. The saddle can be a very limiting part of the equation. One that we (I) continued fighting against not knowing that I was in a war. It is very, very frustrating to be lead astray by professionals. I'm sure it is equally frustrating for the horse trying hard to do what is being asked but simply physically cannot.