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Biomechanics of the Rider

"Mechanics is the paradise of all sciences."
—Leonardo da Vinci

All too commonly as riders, we are told, "use the leg," "brace the back," "do a half halt," "be more still or stable," "be more elastic," "use your seat," and "relax." All too often, we are not told how to do that—what is the mechanism we need to use? Riding instruction at Osierlea, in San Juan Bautista, California, addresses the biomechanics of the rider, as well as the effective use of the six main physical influences of the rider on their horse.

Biomechanics of the Rider Include

» Position: Posture in the saddle.
» Seat/Dynamic: Tone and function of the upper body per gait.
» Stability: Ability to avoid being displaced - must precede elasticity.
» Elasticity: Muscle tone and springy tension - not flaccid.

Six Physical Effects of the Rider

Some of the following effects on the horse are mechanical, and others are horse-learned responses to rider cues:

» Reins (Learned Responses) - Whoa, Raise Head/Thorax, Alignment of Neck to Body, Elasticize Connection, Simple Turn (Leading Rein), Flexion, Release ("Uberstreichen"), and Timed Effect on Moment of Lift of the Legs
» Legs (Learned Responses) - Go and Sideways (Either End or Whole Horse)
» Lateral Displacement of Weight (Mechanical Effect) - Engage Inner Hind (Relative to Direction of Flexion or Turn)
» Dynamic per Gait (Mechanical Effect) - Tempo (Trot and Canter, Not Walk)
» Frontal/Sagittal Plane Placement (Mechanical Effect) - Parallelism to Line of Travel or Reference; Tangential on Circle
» Direction of Pressure or Dynamic (Mechanical Effect) - Steering without Reins or Excessive Legs - with Lessening Use of Reins/Interference with Reins

da Vinci Man

*Understanding terms and concepts such as "abduction," "adduction," "flexion," "extension," "stable and unstable balance," "springy (or elastic) tension," and "co-contraction" is crucial to a better understanding of rider function and effect on the horse. Definitions of these can be found in the USDF Glossary of Judging Terms, which was written by Jeff.