Her legges det ut eksternt faglig materiell. Alt materiell er av sterk faglig karrakter og alt vises etter de lovlige gjeldende regler.

Posture and postural training

Shumway-Cook (2007) describes how training programs can improve balance. For example, using one program the focus was on use of different sensory inputs and the integration of these inputs under conditions in which sensory inputs were reduced or altered. This group showed significant improvement in balance tests compared to the control group (Fiatarone et al., 1990).

The multifidus musculature which connects the vertebral segments and stabilises the spinal cord, is able to exert spinal control through vertical spinal compression with minimal extension, due to their proximity to the centre of rotation. If the multifidus is not active due to improper posture, back-pain or injuries, it quickly atrophies. This is accompanied by reduction of inter-segmental control and balance. In biomechanical research models, loss of even one segment of muscular control has been shown to significantly reduce the overall stability of the spine (Carlson 2009).

Multifidus activity can be targeted with exercises done on balance boards or mats, and performing exercises such as unilateral hip extension with knees bent. In controlling the movement at the spine, the nervous system prefers controlled motion over vertical spinal compression to maintain stability (Carlson 2009). Hodges describes a five-phase progression of motor learning. This sequence includes (1) skill learning, (2) precision training, (3) controlled activation in a variety of postures and positions, (4) integration of segmental stability exercise with tasks that activate the superficial trunk stabilizers, and (5) specific functional retraining in a sport-specific context (Hodges 2003).

One study that looked at intensive back extensor strength training showed a corresponding loss of postural control that could be avoided through concomitant balance training (Kollimitzer 2000). As proprioceptive capabilities improve, progressive sport-specific activities can be incorporated into the athlete’s training program (Carlson 2009). For many athletes the given sport, like riding, is too complex to accomplish development of the specific space control of spinal segments. In order for an efficient improvement the rider should likely perform training specifically targeting coordinative abilities without the horse in the beginning.

Rider motion

The basic movements of the rider in relation to the horse and saddle need to be taken into account. In trot rider movements can be explained from the vertical and horizontal de- and accelerations of the horse’s trunk during each diagonal stance. During the deceleration phase the rider is pressed against the saddle and stirrups, the rider’s lumbar back hollows, the leg joints flex and the head and feet move forward. During the propulsive phase the rider is pushed out of the saddle, the lumbar back straightens, the legs extend and the head and feet move backwards, likely an effect of the horse’s push-off transmitted to the rider through the saddle. The movements of the horse clearly seem to dictate the basic pattern of the rider’s movements, but the exact phase and perhaps amplitude may be ultimately determined by the rider’s active responses (Byström et al., 2009).

A number of studies describe aspects of basic rider movements (Schils et al., 1993; Terada 2000; Peham et al., 2001; Terada et al., 2004; Lagarde et al., 2005; Terada et al., 2006; Byström et al., 2009; Symes and Ellis 2009; Byström et al., 2010) mostly at trot and mostly focusing only on rider motion. To a lesser extent this is done also for at walk and canter.

Riding skill and body control in motion

The non-verbal direct communication between horse and rider arises through the seat, legs/stirrups and hands/reins. A symmetrical dialogue pattern means that there is equal pressure between the right and left buttocks, equal weight in the right and the left stirrup and equal tension in right and left rein, e. g. when the horse performs a halt (Swift 2003). A non-symmetrical dialogue pattern can be exemplified by an increased pressure on the right buttock compared to the left. Examples of this can be seen when the horse is doing half-pass, shoulder in, renvers and pirouettes (Swift 2003). The rider needs capability of changing between different patterns of dialogue in a functional way in order to stimulate and resolve the set of motions the horse and rider will perform.

Learning how to ride is in essence to develop the ability to follow the horse’s movements (Lagarde et al., 2005). However, the rider must also be able to transfer impulses to guide the horse into new movements. The rider must learn how to be proactive. To act proactively in an optimal way the rider needs postural control, balance and rhythm. Research and experience in other sports has shown that practicing good posture and body awareness creates the foundation for developing balance and rhythmical skills (Shumway-Cook 2007: 119-124). The basic coordinative skills can be developed through body awareness in very specific technical exercises and then implemented in the rider’s specific training on horseback. Riders with increased technical skills have regular caudal movements of the head and shoulders (Terada 2000; Lagarde et al., 2005; Peham et al., 2001), they maintain their shoulders closer to vertical at diagonal midstance, compared to riders with lesser technical skills who have their shoulders more tilted forward (Schils et al., 1993).With the rider’s improved technical skills the horse will be in a better position to exploit its full potential (Terada 2000).

Rider must develop postural control, defined as the ability to control the body in space, and ensure its stability and orientation (Brodal 2001, 2004: Shumway-Cook 1992). This means that the body’s non-verifiable nervous system (the tonic postural nervous system) has to transmit correct information about inter-segmental stability and balance. Good postural control is the prerequisite for good balance and rhythm (Shumway-Cook 1989). At the same time the rider must have good coping strategies for various balance disturbances, which he is exposed to while riding. If the riders signals are ambiguous due to poor balance or reduced body control, the response from the horse will not be as intended, and many riders will overreact and apply too extensive signals, i.e. more force with the hand, seat or legs (Symes et al., 2009). A highly educated rider is moving easier into a natural rhythm with the horse than a less educated rider (Terada 2000; Peham et al., 2001; Lagarde et al., 2005). Similar to rhythm in music and dance, riding consists of series of strokes with subdivisions of even and uneven pulses. By a perfect interaction between the rider and the horse, these pulses can be altered in a very nuanced way to obtain different goals.

Rider and horse health

Detailed knowledge about the impact of the rider is critical to give a correct diagnosis and treatment in the veterinary context (Witte et al., 2009), even though evidence-based veterinary medicine for this context is almost completely lacking. The majority of insurance claims related to horses in Sweden are mainly due to locomotion problems (Penell et al., 2005; Egenvall et al., 2006) and the fact that some trainers and some horses are repeatedly exposed to orthopaedic claims, while others preserve their low-usage of insurance indicates management factors (Egenvall et al., 2010) and one such factor may well be the riding technique. It is logical that if a horse is exposed to an asymmetrical load from the rider over time the horse may experience orthopaedic disorders. Specific injuries in dressage horses have been shown to affect the foot, the suspensory ligaments and the tarsus (Murray et al., 2009).

Note on complementary training in sports

Almost no scientific documentation on the effect of rider and the riders specific technique on the influence of the horse have been found (personal communication, Dep of sport science, 2009), except for the descriptions by Byström et al. (2009, 2010), Symes et al. (2009) and Peham et al., (2010). Experience from other sports tells us that it is important to develop specific balance strategies for that specific sport to be able to compete on international top level. As an example, in sports like kayaking and rowing, where the seat is the central balance area, it is essential to improve balance skills also without the kayak (Kjell Tore Solvang, National coach for the Norwegian olympic kayaking team 2002-2007, personal communication). We make the logical assumption that that the seat is the central balance organ for horse riders.