When I got into the business of doing bodywork on horses, I had no formal education in working on human bodies. (That came later). Spending time watching riders on horses, and watching how they moved in and out of the saddle told me (almost) everything I needed to know. So did palpating the horse's tissue each time I was called out to work on him.
Your horse may weigh 6-8 times more than you do, but s/he is a very complex and sensitive animal and s/he feels absolutely everything going on in your body - even things you are not aware of. I saw all of this, I knew this was true, but I had a hard time convicing riders of their role in what was going on in their horses bodies. They didn't want to believe me. After all, they spend a fortune riding with the very best trainer, so obviously, their riding is perfectly correct, right...?
There are still people out there who want to blame everything else - it's the saddle, it's the bridle, it's the trainer, the footing, the saddle pad, the weather, its the horse being naughty, blah blah blah. I don't work with these folks anymore. They don't get it because they don't want to get it. They don't want to take any responsiblity for their bodies' asymetries, irregularities, stiffness, restrictions and resistance.
Actually, I think the resistence in their minds is probably the primary contributor to the resistance in their bodies, but we will save that topic for another day when we all have a cocktail in hand.
Sometimes riders think the horse has a problem and that's true. Only it's not always in the horse's body it's frequently in the rider's!
If a one thousand plus pound animal feels a fly sitting on the surface of his hair covered skin, he certainly feels a rider that holds tension in their body, or sits crooked, or can't bend their body into correct position to support (and get out of the way of) the horse. If you care about helping yourself be a better rider for your own and your horse's sake, please read on.
If you are already getting you own bodywork done, I commend you. It means that you are taking this stuff seriously and you are trying to be better for yourself and your horse. There are a lot of gifted manual therapists out there, many of whom work with althletes and do a great job.
There are also a lot of great equine therapists out there doing sports massage, Masterson method, and almost every modality we have in human therapy. There are great practitioners out there, and some really not so good therapists, so read my article on selecting the best practitioner you can find.
The thing that makes the equine massage profession so sketchy is that there is really no uniform standards of practice, no national education requirements, no background checks, no formal regulation in most states. This means the responsilblity to protect yourself and your horse is YOU. This is caveat emptor territory right here. You need to do your due diligence and research your providers!
But here's the thing, if your massage therapists or providers aren't working on you AND YOUR HORSE, they are working with incomplete information. The mutually interdependent natures of the rider's and horse's body means that you are constantly affecting one another. A single pracitioner who is skilled at not only observing this phenomena but also able to understand the biomechanical influences, and can address them effectively is a win-win-win for you and your horse.
You and your horse are both athletes. In order to feel and perform at your best, you both need to have bodies that are free of restictions, strains and asymetries.
I had a client who rode in a treeless saddle. When I worked on her horse, I could tell by palpating his tissues when she had changed her leg position in the saddle.
After psoas releases I have had riders sit more deeply, securely and comfortably in the saddle and at the same time allow the horse to be more forward and using their back more effectively because the rider's seat was not heavy and constricting to the horse.
I have helped horses release neck, jaw and skull restrictions that were causing them pain, and creating heaviness in the bridle which caused the riders to have to work inefficiently.
Your bodies are interdependent. Your horse's body affects how effectively, efficiently and comfortably you can ride him. The restrictions in your body determine how well your horse can function and move efficiently and respond to the aids effectively.
A manual therapist who can see, understand and address BOTH of your bodies is the therapist you want to have. There is synergy in getting both the horse and rider fully released, aligned and comfortable. The whole effect is much greater than the sum of the parts.
The Rider's Success System is a comprehensive program that addresses the rider's body and the horse's body with bodywork sessions, customized stretch exercise programs, tips and resources to help you be the rider your horse deserves.
Visit the Rider's Success System by clicking on this link.