Improve Your Riding Position With Emma Malone
Riding position is a key factor in strength, balance and functionality during your horse's ridden performance. However, when on top of the horse, riders can find it hard to break old habits, leaving themselves and horse's unable to achieve their full potential, plus become more at risk to injury! So, how can you improve your riding position?
We were lucky enough to call on the expertise of Emma Malone, a locally-based Advanced Body Control Pilates Teacher, Equipilates™ Registered Trainer, Equitation Science Practitioner and Coach in training with Mary Wanless of Ride with Your Mind (RWYM). She told us all about her work, why she loves it so much, and helped us out with some simple, position-improving exercises, that you can do at home!
Hi, Emma! Firstly, for those who don't know you, can you give us a quick introduction of yourself and your business?
I’ve ridden since childhood and have always loved horses, spent many a Saturday helping out at the local riding school in Scotland. After 20 years working in the pharmaceutical industry I had a change of career and my business was born out of my hobbies, Pilates and horse-riding. I trained to be a Body Control Certified Pilates teacher (almost 10 years ago) and as a Equipilates™Registered Trainer. I always wanted to teach ridden lessons and offer something that was good for the horse and rider, so started training with Mary Wanless (RWYM Rider Biomechanics). I love my job, although it doesn’t feel like one, and I get a lot out of helping riders get the most from their horses, I can help riders find fixes to their riding problems either as dismounted or ridden lessons.
"I love my job, although it doesn’t feel like one, and I get a lot out of helping riders get the most from their horses".
Equestrian business can be hard! What sparked your desire to set up your own business?
I just love what I do and believe in it (can get a little obsessed). Through my training with Mary Wanless, I have seen how rider biomechanics influences the horse as well as how the horse can influence the rider. I didn’t really consider how hard it was going to be, I was just going to do it!
What three words best describe your business?
Effective – less is more.
Functional – creating healthy movement patterns for horse and rider.
Tailored solutions for horse and rider – one fix does not cure all!
What would you say are the biggest benefits of understanding rider biomechanics? How does your knowledge help your clients?
My Pilates training really helped me look at riders and see what they are doing with their bodies which could block the horse’s movement. Once you see this, together with the horses’ own asymmetries, you can work out tailored solutions for horse and rider to improve their movement and secure the wellness for both.
As a registered Equipilates™ trainer, how does regular movement and stretching, out of the saddle, benefit riders and their horses?
Riding in a balanced and controlled position in the saddle is hard work for the rider, and requires use of muscles you don’t use in every day life. Recent studies have shown that a horse is sounder if the rider is fit. Regular fitness routine which incorporates movement and stretching will help tightness in our bodies. For example, the pelvis is central to riding and tight hips mean that rider will block the movement of the horse. The horse may display resistant behaviour and the rider will resort to solutions which will ultimately not be good for horse or rider.
What is the most common fault you find in rider’s positions? How does this effect their horse’s way of going?
Most common rider positional faults are hollow backed or round backed.
A hollow backed rider stops the horse from going forward, as their seat bones are pointing towards the hind legs, blocking the movement coming from the hind legs over the top-line to the bit! The rider and horse are likely to have a sore lower back themselves. The horse will be described as lazy and non-responsive to the leg, he will have short back muscles, like the rider, and will not be willing to go ‘on the bit’. Should the horse be removed from underneath them, the rider would fall forwards.
A round backed rider rides behind the movement and look like a water-skier to the horses’ motorboat. This horse will be very forward going, the rider will resort to over-use of the reins, horse can be spooky and will have little or no brakes. The riders seat bones are pointing forwards – and are effectively asking the horse to ‘go’ all the time! Should the horse be removed from underneath them they would end up landing on their bottom.
The ideal balanced position would have the seat bones pointing downwards in a neutral pelvis and spine, rider sitting light in the saddle, thigh at 45 degrees to a neutral pelvis to be in a position of optimal biomechanical advantage. Should the horse be removed from underneath them they would end up standing on the arena floor.
"My Pilates training really helped me look at riders and see what they are doing with their bodies which could block the horse’s movement."
Between running from the yard, work, and completing general life admin, many riders can find themselves strapped for time. Are there any quick and easy exercises that we can all incorporate into our day-to-day life, to aid our riding positions?
A quick fix would be Piriformis release – address imbalances in the pelvis! Helps with sciatica and back pain.
Lie on your back, feet together, knees together. Take one spiky ball or tennis ball and place under right buttock. Roll both knees over to the right and squash spiky/tennis ball and release back to the start. Eight repetitions and remove ball and notice the difference from one side of your pelvis to another. Repeat exercise with spiky/tennis ball under left buttock.
Finally, how can riders get hold of you for enquiries or book a session?
HEADER IMAGE: Emma Malone [Image Credit; Spirit Equine Portraiture].