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Equitation Science – How to Improve Rider Position

July 22, 2019 | by Katrina Merkies, Associate Professor, University of Guelph

One of the most startling experiences is to be video-taped, and then to review our rider position

Our aim in riding is to achieve balance and harmony with our horse, and we judge this, especially in dressage, by being able to perform various movements with equal facility on the left and right rein. Our goal is to train the horse’s musculature symmetrically, but we have all experienced horses with marked stiffness to one side or the other. How can we overcome that? Recent research completed in my lab showed that horses are asymmetrical in their build, and the majority of horses have larger muscling on the left side. This may be due to a number of reasons such as genetics, training or management (we always handle horses on the left – right?!). While our data did not show an effect of rider age, gender, height, weight, or level of experience on this asymmetry, others have shown that better riders do ride their horses straighter.

We learn as beginning riders how important our rider position is to be able to give effective aids to the horse. We learn the golden rules of the shoulder-hip-heel line, heels down, and to sit evenly on our seatbones. We spend countless hours doing exercises on the lunge to be able to isolate specific muscles and movements of our body parts, all to be able to communicate better with our horse. One of the most startling experiences is to be video-taped, and then to review our rider position. We thought we were sitting straight on the horse, but the video shows clearly a tilt to the right!

67109526_3049700775101416_2045270062079672320_o.jpgTo help riders “visualize” and thereby improve their riding position, Russell Guire developed Visualise sportswear through his UK company Centaur Biomechanics. These customized jackets worn during a riding session feature fluorescent stripes that highlight specific anatomical landmarks. High speed video cameras and specialized software then capture how the highlighted landmarks align with or deviate from the correct riding position. This real-time feedback allows the rider to see their riding position and make immediate corrections.

Centaur Biomechanics research and performance-based evidence suggests that rider crookedness significantly affects a horse’s way of going (as evidenced in slow motion video rider analysis wearing Visualise Training Jackets) and while additional long term studies are needed with regards to helping improve performance, welfare and soundness, Visualise Training jackets allow riders to see for themselves how their horses improve when their position is straight.

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The Visualise jacket can be complemented by gait analysis. Markers are placed on the horse at strategic anatomical locations and viewed with high speed video and specialized software. Together, it is easy to see how rider position can affect the horse’s way of going and vice versa. The Objectivity app allows coaches and riders to evaluate riding position and the horse’s movement, leading to valid feedback to improve performance.

visualise-allisonAllison Pezzack, the Canadian supplier for Centaur Biomechanics, will be on hand to present Visualise in action at the 15th annual International Society for Equitation Science Conference hosted at the University of Guelph from August 19-21.


Don’t miss this demonstration along with an engaging lineup of high calibre presentations. Registration is now open for the 15th annual ISES conference. For all the details and links to registration and accommodations, visit the Equitation Science website or the Horse Portal.


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