Eleanor Boden


The equine industry and within it, the competition rider community, is increasingly acknowledging that rider strength and fitness is vital in achieving the best results in competition. The sport of horse riding is described as unique in its posture and motion patterns and cannot be easily be compared to the actions of any other athletic endeavour. There are several factors that cause a horse to not move correctly, the most common being an unbalanced rider. Other sporting disciplines are more aware of the potential of the utilisation of additional methods to improve performance, for example Pilates is commonly used to develop optimal strength and balance in modern dance and ballet. In the absence of published work on the benefits of additional dismounted exercise on rider posture, this study aimed to determine a quantifiable measure to assess progress in the development of a novice mounted rider’s position using two different dismounted treatments to determine the key factors in promoting the benefits of a fitness programme. Students at Duchy College (n=16) were divided into two treatment groups, Rider Specific training (n=7) and Traditional Neuromuscular training (n=9) and completed the allocated training regime for 8 weeks and 5 weeks respectively between 26th January 2012 to 23rd March 2012. Measurements were taken whilst subjects were mounted on horseback before any additional training treatment was administered, riding in walk, sitting trot and rising trot as well as on a weekly basis until the fitness programmes had been completed. A final data collection session was filmed upon conclusion of the additional fitness treatments. In addition to the mounted measurements, fitness data were collected using the 20m shuttle run, resting heart rate and the sit and reach test before and after additional dismounted exercise. Each rider had 3D spherical markers attached at specific anatomical landmarks; top of hat, shoulder, hip and heel. Using Quintic Sports Biomechanics Video Analysis Software package a vertical line was drawn through the hip marker and the deviation of each marker from this line was recorded. Leg length data were collected by measuring the distance between the hip and heel marker before and after the treatment sessions. All data were collated using MS Excel software and tested for normality of distribution using an Anderson Darling test in the Minitab™ v16 statistical analysis package. If a normal distribution was present a paired t test was used to determine the extent of differences in all fitness tests and leg length pre- and post- fitness treatments. The deviations from the ear, shoulder, hip and heel (ESHH) alignment were not normally distributed. The deviation of the marker in relation to time, marker placement; gait and repeat stride were tested using a Friedman test. The comparison between rider (subject) and marker (factor) were analysed using a Kruskal Wallis test. For all statistical tests a probability of P<0.05 alpha was used. Engagement in additional dismounted exercise, either traditional neuromuscular training or rider specific training methods did not result in a significant difference in Resting Heart Rate (RHR) (t7=3.18; p>0.05) or Bleep Test (BT) (t1=2.0; p>0.05) in the rider specific training group in comparison to the traditional neuromuscular training group that showed significant difference in the (RHR) and (BT) (t5=6.15; p<0.001 and t4=11.83; p<0.05) respectively, in the traditional neuromuscular training treatment group. The Sit and Reach test showed there was a significant difference in rider specific training group (9.17 ± 3.05) (t4=10.55; p<0.05) in comparison to no significant changes (t2=2.55; p>0.05) in the traditional neuromuscular training (6.3 ± 1.5 (cm).Both Rider Specific training showed significant improvement in rider position (P<0.005) as well improvements in the Traditional Neuromuscular training treatment (P<0.005). Each gait had a significant effect on the deviation from the ESHH alignment (N=16, H2=221.53; P<0.001). Both treatment groups demonstrated a similar significant effect (n=7, H2=133.25; P<0.001, n=9, H2=101.75; P<0.001) respectively. The deviation of markers in the rider specific training (n=7, H2=351.38; P<0.001) displayed a significant difference of each markers deviation in line with the findings of the ball sports (n=9, H2=377.48; P<0.001). Both treatments had a significant impact on mounted leg length, treatment group one, rider specific training (t6= -7.91; p=0.001) and treatment group two (t2=3.77; p<0.05) traditional neuromuscular training. This study demonstrated that additional dismounted exercise significantly (p<0.05) improves mounted rider position. It is reasonable to assume that the relationship between the treatment and decrease in deviation from the ESHH alignment is due to the general implementation of an additional exercise regime. However, the traditional neuromuscular training treatment group showed improvements at a quicker rate over the rider specific training group. The impact of personal participation was identified as a major contributing factor in using dismounted exercise in improving novice rider position and therefore assists in our understanding the role of exercise that could be most beneficial to further education equine students. Even though this study was undertaken on a relatively small sample of Further Education students, these findings suggest a role for additional team exercises in promoting fitness and improvement of mounted rider position in novice equine athletes.

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