The picture to to the left shows correct postural alignment followed by a variety of postural alignment issues seen in the general population. Many of these issues are caused by general inactivity but also by prolonged sitting at a desk and staring at our cell phones which is a large part of most North Americans' day. However, some issues can be seen in individuals considered very fit and are caused by over training their bodies in one way or by beginning an exercise program before addressing inherent alignment issues and asymmetries in their bodies.
What is Corrective Exercise?
Existing in a world where we must continually overcome the effects of gravity causes multiple issues with our bodies. This is no different for a horse. Combine this with months spent compensating for an injury like a sprained ankle (suspensory injury) and our bodies are left with other secondary issues.
Our bodies are also affected by things you may not think of....how you sleep, the shoes you wear and career choices to name a few.
"Horses don't lie. They don't separate how they feel and how they act."
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Corrective exercise is a gradual process of retraining and reshaping your/your horse's body back to where it should be using a simple 4-step process:
1. Inhibiting muscles which have become shortened and overactive through self myofascial release (SMR)
2. Lengthening those same muscles through stretching.
3. Strengthening muscles which have become weakened through isolated resistance training.
4. Integrating normal motion patterns in order to retrain neural pathways and muscle memory through controlled dynamic resistance training.
The benefits of taking the time to align your body are many:
Pain prevention and reduction - Knee, back and neck pain can often be attributed to malalignment in the joints of your spine due to muscular imbalances. Many people who work at a desk daily have alignment issues in their neck and shoulders which can lead to headaches and stress, horses develop "behavioral" issues like bucking.
Injury prevention - Better alignment and increases in an individual's strength, balance and agility results in fewer injuries.
Enhanced performance in sports - I don't think anyone would argue that increasing your strength, balance and agility could potentially improve performance in most sports.
Activities of daily living are easier and more enjoyable - As we age our bodies go through a natural loss of flexibility, balance and strength. All of our joints suffer wear and tear over time which is exacerbated when our joints are out of alignment. Corrective exercise can reduce these effects therefore making the daily activities we enjoy less painful and easier.
The concept that "The Rider Forms the Horse" is not new. It's been understood at least since the late 1930's when the book with that title was written by Burger and Zietzschmann. But before you can influence your horse you have to be in control of yourself.
Your horse will thank you!