Horse and Rider

Equestrian sports are unique in that the horse and rider have to function as a single unit. The best example of this is seen in high level dressage with rider and horse moving fluidly together in perfect harmony. However it can take years of practice, training and skill to reach this point of seemingly effortless partnership and there are many factors that can contribute to your success as an athletic pair.

Rider Biomechanics

It is reasonable to suggest that one half of this partnership will influence the other and vice versa. Your horse and his muscle balance or symmetry will have an impact on the way you sit in the saddle. Similarly your alignment will impact on your horse's movement. As a rider you may feel that your horse can't bend so easily to one rein or other performance issues. Trying to unpick if the origin of this issue is coming from you or the horse can be a challenge! This is where your physiotherapist can help. By carrying out a thorough assessment and considering multiple factors our service can help you get to the bottom of those stubborn performance issues that just don't seem to improve no matter how hard you train.

Bradford’s Physiotherapy has the unique advantage of combining skills from both our years of Human Physiotherapy practice with our Veterinary Physiotherapy practice and knowledge of the equine athlete.

There is a growing awareness within the Equestrian sport that we as riders need to take responsibility for our own physical health, so that we can better support our horse and have as little negative impact as possible. A horse rider is a seated athlete therefore the contact areas on the horse are primarily through the seat bones. To a lesser degree the pubic bone, pelvic floor musculature, inner leg, foot and hands via the reins. The pelvis is a large bone in our body that is available for large muscular attachments. These muscles are the primary movers of our legs but also influence our torso and subsequently impact upon our upper body and arms.

A riders' seat may be unbalanced due to poor alignment of the pelvis either through an anatomical anomaly or dysfunction. This imbalance may influence the strength and function of your muscles and therefore the aids you apply to your horse. Or your alignment may be asymmetrical in the saddle causing altered weight distribution causing your horse to attempt to shift your weight back to the centre.

We begin our 1 hour assessment by looking at your posture and alignment off the horse. We can then reflect on these points when in the saddle at a later stage. An assessment of your muscle strength, flexibility and range of movement is also relevant. We may also assess your core stability, balance and neuromotor control, which can be done both on and off the horse. We may feel that it is necessary to see you ride your horse, this is not an assessment of your ridden skills but more of how you move with your horse. Following on from our assessment we will then be able to formulate a plan together. We encourage you to discuss our sessions with your riding instructor so that he/she can help support any key points that we find.

Rider Injury

Physiotherapy for the rider can also address any issues you may be experiencing because of long hours in the saddle, mucking out all winter or as a result of an injury.

Common rider problems;

  • Sacroiliac Pain;

    The pelvis transmits considerable force from the lower limbs to the trunk. It is made up of two large innominate bones that articulate at the front of the body (pubic symphysis) and at the back of the body (Sacro-iliac joint). To transmit these forces the articulation needs to be stabilised so it is strong enough to withstand these forces. Stability occurs from tough tendons and ligaments and from the interplay of postural muscles. If there is an imbalance or altered alignment of this structure, either through anatomical anomaly or muscle dysfunction, then over time excessive or abnormal forces may cause pain.

  • Lower Back Pain;

    Spending time in a forward posture, bending over when mucking out or carrying heavy water buckets etc over time can all put strain on your back. A study estimated that the human spine can withstand up to 90N before buckling. However the normal functioning adult will experience loads up to 1500N. This alludes to the heavy reliance upon other structures such as muscle, tendon, ligament and fascia to provide stability. This highlights just how important it is to develop a strong global and local stabilising system to maintain a healthy spine.

  • Knee Pain;

    To achieve a soft and lengthened leg that ideally rests directly under the body you need a strong independent seat and the flexibility to allow the range of movement required. Your weight should then fall from your lower back in a direct line just behind your knee to the heel. Pain can arise due to poor lower leg positions, either in front or behind the horse's movement, a weak core or 'seat' resulting in gripping with the legs or simply through repetitive rotational forces that are exerted on the knee joint when we apply leg aids.

  • Neck Pain;

    The neck can often bear the brunt of considerable force when we ride, especially if we spend a long time in forward positions causing hinging at the neck to look up. We can carry a lot of tension in the neck and shoulder muscles that stabilise the arms on the body and create upper limb movement. Tension and muscle imbalance over time can create strong pain over shoulders, neck and can cause headaches.
  • Other issues include; repetitive strain injuries, sprains, strains etc

Evening Talks:

Keep an eye out for information on our talks and seminars; we cover various topics including horse and rider biomechanics. We are more than happy to come to your local club or yard and provide educational talks for small to large groups.

Please get in touch for further information via Email (, Facebook ( Bradfords Physiotherapy), Twitter (@BradfordsPhysio), Website Links ( or the good old fashioned telephone: 01432 890490.

Woman having physio done on her ankle


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Woman having physio done on her leg/hip

Movement Dysfunction

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Accupuncture being done on the knee


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